Guest Column: Effective social media use in healthcare marketing

With patients going online for their healthcare solutions, it becomes imperative for healthcare organisations to create a social media strategy to listen, engage & measure

e4m by Windchimes Communications
Updated: Feb 7, 2014 3:24 PM
Guest Column: Effective social media use in healthcare marketing

When it comes to use of social media in healthcare marketing, the first stumble happens when they take an attempt to engage with their fans or audience without identifying their content needs. This further leads to the foundation of an inappropriate conversation. Therefore, there is no substitute for valuable content. When it comes to the consumer base, they want in-depth information. What needs to be understood by this segment is that there is an ocean of information out there, and when people get sick nowadays, they want information right away. Interaction with patients and consumers is important, but great and right content is the key.

The Healthcare Segment
Apart from all the challenges and limitations, the healthcare segment can be amplified in a great way as it includes a lot of processes from patient relations to content shared to managing health records, etc. Many doctors can already be seen wearing Google Glass, patients equipped with latest technology support systems and nurses with iPads.

Social Media and Healthcare
This still remains unexplored. Social media for healthcare can garner increased communication, treatment efficacy and provider efficacy; which in turn will portray the organisational transparency.

Already a good amount of doctors, family members, patients and healthcare specialists are using social media to result in more impactful treatment. Consumers are also found to use social media platforms to find and later share information about health plans, medical treatments and doctors.

What does social media have in store for the healthcare industry?

Social media is strongly transforming how doctors and patients operate and interact with each other. Although the matters related to the security concerns, confidentiality, misinformation and data review come along with anything related to healthcare, social media can modify the complete experience for everyone linked with it.

With patients, consumers and everyone stepping into the online space to discuss their health, medical experiences, seek opinions, research and share their symptoms or ailments; it becomes all the more important for healthcare professionals to tap into this wonderful resource and connect with them on social platforms in order to add their expert voice to these conversations.

Social media will change the way health related communications happen.
An effective social media strategy for a healthcare brand should aim towards accomplishing goals in few categories, namely:
• Communications
• Information Sharing
• Clinical Outcomes and,
• Speed of Innovation

A few things you need to regularly keep a tab of:

Patients that share their views or opinions freely online followed by people who comment on everything, or update a status even about their cold to health related articles. There are cases when patients end up getting basic advice from medical professionals that happen to be in their network. This can help a brand get qualitative feedback or report about their services too.

Doctors are also engaging proactively and believe that social media presence improves the quality of care through constant line of communication.

Blogs written by healthcare professionals can be integrated with social media accounts too. A systematic content management system can further influence people to post content to blogs or websites.

Hosting Google Hangouts with previous patients or those undergoing treatments is a very innovative way where technology helps healthcare segments. Doctors contribute to a patient-centric model of healthcare with such technological innovations. Loyalty and satisfaction is built in the process too.

A successful social media strategy would help a healthcare brand in revamping their communication, service and feedback.

Prescription of a Strong Social Media Strategy for Healthcare Industry
Healthcare organisations should develop a social media strategy that leverages social media in healthcare marketing to help influence the customers & at the same time accomplish strategic healthcare goals.

Keep in mind that just as your patients have their own individual wants, characters and a voice; similarly your social media strategy should be unique to your organisation. Healthcare professionals are empathetic and caring individuals. It’s time to demonstrate that strength to a larger, online community.

What should healthcare brands do to leverage social media?
• Follow your customers and engage with potential patients
• Provide value to consumer’s perspective. Providing value here means providing useful information
• Be active on social media and leverage its potential
• Be a resource to those looking out for information related to healthcare
• Enable doctor searches, online scheduling, and relevant information
• Connect with loved ones of patients as it is not only the patients always, but there are those who care for them too, active online
• Connect with patients or consumers through online communities
• Build discussion forums
• The content you create, make it share worthy. Ensure that it can be forwarded, printed or posted to patients
• Network with those potential healthcare employees with your social media presence. Basically, you can bring your brand to life for potential employees.
• Follow relevant hashtags and handles
• Twitter chats help you listen to perspectives on key topics & also offer a chance to raise awareness about what you as a healthcare brand offer
• Listen: know what your patients are doing by diving into some of the user generated content
• Regulations: yes, you need to take care of the content that goes up there.  Don’t forget to review it by your legal, regulatory and medical teams
• Be open-minded and creative, plan and test your ideas

In the long arc of people’s journey to better health, healthcare segments strive to become more supportive and relevant through social media. In this case, what healthcare segments will win is their respect and loyalty followed by their behaviors that will change to improve their overall health with the strengthening of healthcare brands.

There is no pre-defined rule as to how we should engage with patients on social media, but we cannot deny the fact that there still lie barriers in the pharmaceutical industry as to what one can talk about online.

The elements of engagement that healthcare brands need to know in order to understand the content needs of their audiences are:

Value can be provided by creating content that solves consumer problems. Listening to their complaints or suggestions and adding a personal touch to conversations generates value for your brand.

Efficiency of a healthcare brand depends on their ability to respond to customer inquiries, comments and questions both off and online without any delay followed by designing mobile friendly content that can be accessed by patients on the go.

Trust is built through the expectation of complete honesty from a healthcare brand by consumers. Delivering accurate advice, displaying successful customer recovery stories, testimonials, nutrition advice, health-tips, fitness routines, etc. is a part of it.

Consistency includes the fact that whatever you communicate through offline and online platforms should at no point collide with the real customer/ patient experiences.

Relevance is injecting a highly targeted content to patients or consumers which goes a long way in building an emotional connection and consequent click to action.

Three things you need to know

A tweet or a post is not a diagnosis
Always remember that any information that your post on social media should not be considered as a medical advice by your followers or consumers. It is not a replacement for a consultation with a doctor as one on one consultation with health care professionals is still primary and legible.

Schedule the communication
For a better level of patient privacy, a healthcare brand should ensure that comments made on any of their social platform should not appear online before it is reviewed or approved by internal team of professionals.

Set the limits; be clear with your stand
As a healthcare brand, clearly establish where your organisation stands in regards to social media engagement by patients or consumers. Designing a strategy to improve your capability to leverage the enormous reach of social media platforms to connect and learn from the online community is vital.

With patients going online for their healthcare solutions etc., it becomes very essential for your healthcare organisation to create a social media strategy where you prepare your staff to listen, engage and measure social media. Are you ready to join your patients in the social media world?

It is very important for the healthcare brands to identify and understand the consumer behaviour before they make any attempts for social media engagement. Does your healthcare brand have a clear social media policy established?

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