Thursday, April 23, 2009

Social Media for Healthcare: Are You Ready?

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, blogs—marketing is changing at breakneck speed, with social media poised to eclipse more traditional forms of advertising. Social media has already overtaken email, and therefore email marketing, in popularity. According to a report from Nielsen Online, “member communities” such as Facebook and MySpace are now more popular than email, and are visited by 67% of the world's online population. Brand Republic reported finding that one in 11 minutes spent online is on a blog or social network. That means that more people are communicating via social media outlets than on email!

A lot of discussion is going on out there, and it is important for health care businesses and organizations to enter the dialog in order to keep track of and influence public perceptions, to educate key audiences and to market themselves comprehensively. While traditional advertising tends to be intrusive, social media marketing is collaborative and consumer driven and is therefore often seen as more genuine. The absence of your voice could be to your detriment, but be careful. Jumping into this world unprepared can damage your brand, leaving a cybertrail of less-than-desired conversations circulating around the blogosphere. Additionally, throwing time and money at social media without careful planning your strategy is just as bad as—well—throwing your money at any advertising medium without due diligence.

Sublime recommends the following steps to prepare your organization for the leap into cyberspace:

First, sit down with your marketing agency and assess your current marketing plan. How well is it working? Would a social media campaign fit well with the rest of your plan and potentially reach your target audience in new and effective ways?

Second, if you decide to enter the social realm, you need to have your agency conduct a social media audit (or find an agency that can). Your audit will start with an inventory of tools you have in place, such as blogs, FaceBook pages, Twitter accounts and so on. The audit then looks at ways to leverage what you do have, as well as recommending the addition of tools you need, culminating in a social media plan for your business.

Third, once your channels for communication are decided, it's time to build their content, and this comes back to good old fashioned copywriting and design...emphasis on GOOD! Technology will not make up for poorly written blog posts, or FaceBook profiles that read like a second grade primer. An outdated logo or one that is not clearly consistent with your brand will fail to engage, just as it will fail to engage in print advertising and other traditional media. The “rules” of good design and copywriting are eternal and apply no matter the technology.

The realm of social media holds a lot of promise and opportunity for the health care industry, but it is not a place to venture if you are not prepared. You can get ready by assessing your current marketing plan, getting a social media audit and plan, and then building solid blogs, profiles, etc. One thing seems certain, social media marketing is not just a trend; it is here to stay. Learn how to wisely harness its potential and you will be too!

Kelly Walker, Sublime Design Group

No comments: