Six Steps To Becoming A Social Brand

We recently published "Evolve: Outlook Report 2010," our annual report on major trends and opportunities in marketing. It covers everything from looking backwards (media spends and trends from 2009) to how we see using agile development as a way to drive critical innovation. Considering all of the attention in the health and wellness space around social, I thought I'd share some thoughts we have around how to become a social brand.

As we say in Evolve, "What's the biggest unknown for marketers today? The state of the economy? Not quite. The biggest question mark we at Razorfish see can be summed up in two words: social media.

I think that's a very apt statement to make around healthcare as, at every turn, clients are trying to figure out how to play appropriately in a social world. I believe we are all in agreement that the question isn't whether to participate socially, but how. We see that one of the largest barriers to determining the right answer is that clients simply are not organized in a way that puts social at the core of how they make marketing decisions.



This is somewhat ironic when considering that, ultimately, social media has real parallels to what good marketing teams already do: understand their consumers and market to them accordingly. In a highly regulated industry like healthcare, this challenge becomes even more acute because without developing a marketing team structure that really understands the social space, brands will too quickly fall into the defeatist posture that social is simply too fraught with challenges to work.

Never fear ... we have six suggestions that healthcare marketers (and any marketer for that matter) can employ to better align their companies and brands with the social consumer:

1) Behaviorally focused account planning. The absolute critical first step -- deeply understanding your audience in order to craft the right solutions and communications. It's safe to say that most brands have copious amounts of data about their patients and HCP targets. This planning is different, though; it needs to be focused on behaviors and not just attitudes and mindsets to deliver the right social experience.

2) Content strategy and creation. Without content, there is no social strategy. This may make some legal and regulatory teams happy but it sure disappoints your audiences. In some respects, this is the most challenging part of a good healthcare social strategy, and organizations are largely not staffed with the right folks to create the transparent, meaningful and engaging content required for this space. Clients, arm thyselves ... either internally or through an agency with a real social healthcare understanding.

3) User-experience design driven by customer insight. This means really knowing your audience's needs, desires and actions and then creating experiences that deliver against those in a way that is better, deeper and more useful. This type of engagement is as important as "The Big Idea" in driving truly engaging experiences. When we think about how important and personal most healthcare issues are for people, the ability to develop engaging and honest experiences that deliver against someone's needs becomes the differentiator between simply having a presence in social and really enabling a social experience with your brand.

4) Deep technological expertise. Ultimately, social media is delivered through a variety of technological platforms. To get the most out of them you need to really understand what they can do and evolve your efforts as they evolve, because they most surely will. In other words, whether to be on Facebook now and, if so, how will surely be answered very differently 12 months from now.

5) Interactive media design. The media team's role has gotten more complex with the advent of social. It's not enough to just find the right place to put an ad; now media folks need to determine how people are behaving on different platforms and create the right experiences for them as a result. That means that the traditional notion of media planning -- i.e., where the ad will run and how much the client will pay -- is really not the main point in the social space. Instead, great media folks are looking at how to enable social experiences in the right way on the right platform. As a result, clients need to focus less on compensating agencies for placing paid media and more around compensating them to come up with great social strategies that enable deeper relationships.

6) Real-time data analytics. In the social world there are two main types of data: the conversation and the behaviors that result from it. Loads of data exist on both fronts and the real challenge is being able to decipher it and uncover insights that drive future opportunity. And that opportunity has implications beyond the social space -- it is a rich treasure trove of insights that can change your mass media communications, compliance programs and uncover gaps in the conversations happening between patients and HCPs. If you want to get a sense of just how much conversation is happening at any given time, check out our health conversation.

One of the best outcomes of employing the above is that it gets marketers away from being obsessed with social platforms ("I need a Facebook page!") and back to really understanding the audience and creating compelling, engaging and meaningful programs for them as a result.

So there you have it ... six simple suggestions on how to get the most out of social. Of course, I say that somewhat in jest because asking well-established marketing departments to think differently and change course with how they make decisions is no easy task.

But I do believe this industry is talking so much about social because we all recognize what a powerful role it can play in educating patients and HCPs and enabling better patient outcomes, and deep down we all know that there are enormous missed opportunities by playing on the sidelines.

To that end, I believe that healthcare marketers should be at the center of the social revolution and using the above as a framework, we can all begin to deliver against its promise.

6 comments about "Six Steps To Becoming A Social Brand ".
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  1. Tyler Pennock from Burson-Marsteller, June 25, 2010 at 1:23 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing these great pointers Katy. The only piece I'd add is the need for pharma marketers to work with med/reg/legal to establish clear guidance on what will be required for social media engagement. This includes both branded and unbranded communications, globally and regionally. I believe that a lack of clear policies and protocols for social media is often a stumbling block. Certainly each social platform will have its own unique requirements from a functionality and content perspective, but I believe that there are some common issues around AE reporting, on-label messaging, etc. that should be addressed as clearly as possible prior to engagement.

  2. Jerry Johnson from Brodeur, June 25, 2010 at 8:50 p.m.

    A good plan. Encouraging that you set #2 as the most challenging. Most of the other challenges are technical. Folks with a modicum of development expertise can accomplish them. It is the experience, the connection, the content of the environment and engagement that is the real elixir. The rest is engineering.

  3. Katy Thorbahn from Razorfish Health, June 28, 2010 at 9:20 a.m.

    Tyler, you make a great point about the need for med/reg/legal to offer guidance. I'm encouraged by the progress we're making on that front, and particularly with some companies (like J&J) recognizing that conversations are different and testing approaches such as approving after information is posted. Clearly we need to keep working on this front though!

  4. Katy Thorbahn from Razorfish Health, June 28, 2010 at 9:21 a.m.

    Jerry, thanks for the feedback. And agreed - ultimately none of this will be effective if the thinking beyond the engagement is not front and center.

  5. Connor Bringas, June 28, 2010 at 11:44 a.m.

    This is definitely a good article. Content I think is the most important and difficult way to become a good social brand. Communication is key also.

  6. Chris O'callahan from BeSeen Communications, August 16, 2010 at 11:16 p.m.

    I like your thinking. Working at an ad agency, we need to always be avoiding the "I need a Facebook page" mentality as we are campaign planning for our clients. A Facebook page isn't just something you "get," but it should be a way to engage our customers and encourage them to communicate with the brand. No two Facebook pages should be alike, as each page should be a unique representation of the brand, and can be catered to the needs of those customers.

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