I recently read a story announcing a new social network for women with breast cancer. I thought, “What a wonderful idea.” My reasoning was based on the fact that the audience is a set demographic, and therefore, easier to reach. Also, it’s a shared bond that draws these women together to meet, draw strength from others, and share their own experiences.
That got me to thinking about health care and social media in general. When hospitals are using social media, it’s for a wide demographic audience. Hospitals are using social media channels to build brand awareness and loyalty. They also are positioning themselves as experts in their key specialty areas. That made me think that maybe we’re trying to do too much.
Let me give an example. One of the accounts I manage in my role is a large, urban teaching hospital, with many specialty areas as well as a research component. Our goal with social media is to encourage our local community to make our hospital their hospital of choice. In addition, we want to position ourselves as leaders in each of our high priority specialties as defined in the marketing plan. Finally, we want to continue to build and expand our national reputation as an academic medical center and a leader in research.
But do we need to rethink the way we approach social media for hospitals? Are we losing certain audiences because we’re trying to be everything to everyone? Let me explain what I mean a little more clearly. For a company that just deals in, say, parachutes for people skydiving from crazy heights, they’ve got a very specific audience and they can talk to them all day long about parachutes and velocity and landing on your feet when you break all records. (As an aside, this video of Baumgartner’s jump still amazes me!)
Now hopefully your social media plan supports your marketing plan. That’s all well and good when it’s one product, one service line. When we’re dealing with a marketing plan that has maybe 20 areas to promote, however, are we shooting ourselves in the proverbial foot in the social media world? Are we trying to be everything to everyone and in the process, are we not being very effective in any of them? These are thoughts that are now plaguing me.
Despite that, I firmly believe that it’s important to continue to promote your brand as a whole. If different social media accounts are developed for different specialties, then you lose that overall image of your brand. The power of social media is that it affords us the opportunity to build brand loyalty, develop relationships with people who will advocate for your brand, and continue to increase awareness. If you’re not doing that as an overarching message, you’re wasting that power, in my humble opinion.
So how do we work around this and support everyone’s needs? One way to address this is by using groups on Facebook. Groups are closed to the public and you must be invited by the administrator of the group. Our first experiment was for a group who had bariatric surgery for weight loss. The administrator was a highly dedicated nurse who oversaw the support group and was very active on Facebook. She approached me about starting a Facebook page, but I pointed her in the direction of the Facebook group and it’s been a great success in terms of engagement with this targeted audience. The administrator posts updates, information, events, and encourages others to share their own experiences and successes through the group. It’s a huge success, and it is only visible to those within the group, which creates a sense of security for them.
On Twitter, develop fun ways to support specialties that are looking to further their visibility on social media. Promote a special day of the week with your audience to do a Twitter chat with a specific hashtag (like recipes for vegans on #MeatlessMonday). Develop content on those days that will also support the specialty you’re trying to promote. Work with the folks in that specialty area to give you content they know their patients are looking for to encourage more engagement. And be sure to use use hashtags. If someone is looking for information on heart health, then just using the hashtag #health will be too general and the person might miss your very important tweet!
If you’re using Google+, then the circles are a natural way to create communities and just share information that’s specific to those in the designated “circles.”
On YouTube, you can create playlists within each of your specialty areas so that for someone looking for information on heart health, all of your videos will be included in that playlist.
Those are some ways I can think of to combat the “trying to be all things to all people” in health care social media without straying from promoting your brand as a whole. Do you think it’s a problem, and how do you tackle it? What’s your approach to social and reaching many audiences with many interests?
This post was originally written as a guest column for The Buzz Bin, where it appeared in an edited form. It’s a great blog to follow!