If A 'Social Media' Program Is Launched And No One Participates, Is It A 'Program'?

We've seen ambitious programs launched that invite audience activity -- "Post your video," for example -- and the invitation is summarily declined.

These are not the efforts of fly-by-night agencies or cavalier clients. Quite the contrary.

Our observation is that these are programs in which social media is seen as a box to be "checked off" -- not a strategic component of a larger plan intended to cause a positive business outcome.

Since the only goal is audience participation, the audience sees little value in the invitation and opts not to get involved.

We understand the seduction. We have clients saying, "We've got to do something in social media!" It probably isn't the second coming, but it is a phenomenon that is game changing in all kinds of respects. More importantly to them, it's cheaper than paid media.

But if an organization wants social media success, it must integrate it into a larger context. Social media have more richness if they interlock with complementary marketing and media strategies -- and if the messages in each are insightful and synchronous.



It can be complicated for companies that feel the imperative to jump into social media up to their ankles. But it's better to think it through so you don't find yourself having to explain to the CEO or the CFO how the social media experiment turned into another marketing expense that failed to generate any return.

Social Media and The Rise of Healthcare Consumerism

When it comes to healthcare, making social media part of an overall strategy can have significant benefits to reach a new kind of active and aware healthcare consumer.

Escalating health premiums -- a barometric reading of increasing healthcare cost pressure -- are no longer sustainable. Cost increases are created by factors that include: amortizing the expenses of treating those without insurance; lack of coordination of healthcare services that often leads to redundancies and inefficiencies; and inconsistent quality.

All of these factors are making us more active healthcare consumers. We are more active than our parents: we are 78% more likely to research information on physicians and 75% more likely to evaluate treatment options. Only 24% of us trust our doctor completely to make the right decisions for us in terms of where we should go to get our care. When choosing a hospital, only 5% of us feel that hospitals are doing an excellent job educating us on why their facility is better than others.

Healthcare consumerism is growing and requires consistent nourishment -- that is where the profound opportunity lies for health organizations. The more options patients have to deepen their engagement, make informed decisions and manage expenses, the better. Hospitals regularly generate data that show patient satisfaction has direct bottom-line consequences. Health plans encourage members to use the system appropriately and manage their own health more actively to avoid the system as much as possible.

Hence, social media are vital, necessary components to integrate into all communications. They are strategic tools in the arsenal just like public relations, advertising, search, community outreach.

Healthcare consumers want -- and are getting used to -- freedom of choice. They are taking a more active role in making decisions about selecting who will provide their care and where they will receive it. Reform-minded providers understand that the patient experience, and patient satisfaction, can have profound consequences.

So go build something that educates and adds value, something that integrates with other programs and includes measurable online media in conjunction with traditional media. We know the majority of patients are online looking for health information and they're discussing it.

Rather than avoiding social media, join the party. Get the brainstorms going. Think about new ideas. Start conversations in new ways with patients and doctors. Let them tell us what they want.

And then you will engage consumers on a more organic level. And they will see value. And participate.

5 comments about "If A 'Social Media' Program Is Launched And No One Participates, Is It A 'Program'?".
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  1. Casey Quinlan from Mighty Casey Media LLC, March 26, 2010 at 1:40 p.m.

    Real health care reform is doctors and patients actually communicating with each other.

    Every one of Tom's points is spot on..."adopting a program" has little impact, while weaving the engagement available thru social media into your communication strategy can drive consumer (patient) satisfaction, reveal new market opportunities...heck, it might even increase revenue.

    Yep, even in health care. Engagement=patient/provider communication.

  2. Johanna Skilling from NYU-SCPS, March 26, 2010 at 2:25 p.m.

    Tom, thanks for the common sense - for marketers to get their message to stand out, it's key to be consistent in all relevant media -- and I appreciate your uusing the word "interlock" v. "integrate" -- nicely put.

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, March 26, 2010 at 7:18 p.m.

    AH HA! Health care reform - 1. giving people the opportunity to be patients....

  4. Tom Simons from PARTNERS+simons, March 29, 2010 at 9:48 a.m.

    Thank you for your kind words. I'm relieved that there is reader engagement and socialization of the content -- a perfect metaphor for the point I'm trying to get across. Let's keep up our good work in nourishing the information appetite of the healthcare consumer. I think of it as a public service.

  5. Sandy Miller from Success Communications, March 29, 2010 at 7:14 p.m.

    Healthcare and all businesses need to recognize that many users of social media are reading but not commenting.

    It's a little like if a tree falls in a forest and no one hears....does it make a noise. Just because you aren't hit with a ton of comments doesn't mean no one heard you.

    So you still need to put to engaging information for those want to read and for those that want to comment.

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