A few years ago, psychologist Aric Sigman went out on a limb when he stated that the use of Facebook could lead to increased health problems. His theory was that the increased isolationism created by digital media could affect the immune system, possibly leading to heart disease, stroke and even cancer. What he didn't take into account was the fact that many people are using Facebook as a cathartic outlet to help alleviate their own stress as sufferers or friends and family of sufferers.
I'm not about to make any claims that Facebook has health benefits. But, it has become extremely fascinating to me to watch people overcome all of their reservations about sharing the intimate details of their own or their loved ones' struggles with health issues. I encourage you to visit The Komen Foundation's Facebook page to see how people are talking, sharing their stories and supporting one another.
We hear a lot about privacy concerns, but according to eMarketer, half of all Internet users are "not very concerned" or "not concerned at all" when it comes to their privacy online. While message boards, private groups and blogs have been fostering communities and sharing for years, they operate with varying degrees of consumer anonymity.
Facebook has given people a forum to put their thoughts and feelings right out there for everyone to see, and there is no limit to the raw fear, pain and even graphic detail that can be found on the site. Even stigmatized health conditions like cold sores have found their place. Just visit www.Facebook/Abreva to see how consumers are openly talking about battling the cold sore virus.
EMarketer predicts that by 2012, 60% of the U.S. Internet population will check Facebook at least once a month. If your healthcare brand is absent from the pages of Facebook, then now is the time to change that.
Here are five tips for establishing an effective Facebook presence for your healthcare brand:
1) Choose an experienced moderator to generate your original post content, as well as your responses to consumers, so that you can create the right tonality and inspire followers to share their thoughts and feelings within your pages.
2) Take the stance of an authority on the issue or condition, including hiring outside experts to help with sharing information and keeping your content fresh and supportive.
3) Be a resource that links to other useful health resources on the Web.
4) Use engagement tools like polls, games and apps. These tools are not only fun, but they also help to build dialogue, educate and even enhance compliance (where applicable.)
5) Lastly, be committed to a robust presence. This means investing money to bring fans into your community. Drive consumers to your Facebook page by leveraging your other digital assets and advertising. Even ads placed within Facebook will help to create momentum.
Consumers are already having conversations about their health and well-being on Facebook. It's definitely time to get into or, better yet, start the conversation.