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What to do about social media

Editor’s note: This article was written by guest blogger Anthony Cirillo, FACHE, ABC, a healthcare marketing and experience management expert and expert guide in assisted living for about.com. For more information about the author, please see our About page.

A sister website to MDSCentral, Health Leaders Media, recently completed an annual survey of hospital leaders. One group reported on was marketing, and when it comes to social media, some healthcare marketers have a long way to go.

According to the survey, about 61% of respondents said less than 10% of their marketing efforts include a social media element. However, 87% of respondents said they view consumers’ use of social media as very positive or positive.

The knee-jerk reaction is that “we ought to be involved” and so people launch a presence on Twitter and Facebook. Then comes the “now what?” piece, because often times a healthcare organization’s presence is nothing more than another outlet for its press releases. And social media is about much more than that.

In a Marketing Professors article, “Five Important B2B Marketing Trends in 2011,” author Chris Charlton notes the following:

  • Most business-to-business (B2B) marketers have yet to truly embrace the full social toolset for their business. A mere 12% of business executives say their companies are using social media effectively.
  • Marketers believe that their role in social media includes producing great content. But often marketers fall flat in producing what Charlton says should be content that “is honestly empathetic and seeded with utility for your customers; content that reflects your business’ core values and is inspired by your unique perspective and authentic voice.”
    His answer: “Be that expert who can help them with their problems and offer solutions. Be a voice of trusted reason in your industry.”
  • Support not selling is the new marketing. His distinction – help people make the most of their daily lives as opposed to “selling them a lifestyle.”
  • Content is not just words on a page and video, in particular, is more important as a source of business information and a driver of work-related buying decisions.
  • Marketers need to recognize that it might be interesting and satisfying to indulge in their own stats, but what really matters is the biggest picture and that means connecting socially with your customers in a meaningful way that actually makes them do business with you.

So for long-term care professionals, I have a few words of advice:

  • Break away from social media as just another static solution and embrace the interactivity. I love, for example, how Emeritus has used their Facebook page as a conversation starter. For example, during Valentines they invite readers to submit stories of their romance.
  • I love the notion of “don’t sell them a lifestyle.” Because, in the end, isn’t that what we are trying to do? Tell people that their lifestyle should include assisted living, etc. Instead provide information to make their life better in the here and now.

I contend that when you do the above, you’ll start to create a community that trusts you. Lack of trust is the biggest obstacle to sales. Over time you build trust and create tipping points for people so that when they need a service like what you offer, you will be the first organization they turn to for that service. After all, in healthcare we are often marketing something that people don’t want. So give them something they do want instead.