Healthcare is personal. And since patients’ individual healthcare needs can vary drastically, healthcare is not a “one-size-fits-all” industry. But all too often, healthcare is a real source of frustration for people with several factors at play that create an overall feeling of ambiguity. The digital world, increasingly led by social media, is helping to change the system for the better. And everyone from healthcare and wellness marketers to the entire healthcare system and people stand to benefit, if they embrace it.
I was at WebMD in the late ’90s, back when the company created the first real platform that gave people access to healthcare resources and knowledge. WebMD literally transformed healthcare communications by connecting individuals with peers and industry experts to create a platform that empowered individuals to better understand their health and wellness. Today, I see how social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ present even more opportunities for individuals to reintroduce the personal touch to their healthcare experience.
We now understand that there are methods of gathering intelligence on health-related information, and that consumer power is fully exercised, with 80% of people heading online for health-related information, according to a recent Pew study. And the social Web is a big part of that with 1 in 5 tapping social media for healthcare information – a whopping 94% citing Facebook as their primary platform (according to this National Research Corporation study). Those numbers are expected to drastically increase as social continues its dominance as a mainstream communications platform. And it’s really no surprise why: social is incredibly personal.
With social providing an avenue for consumers’ voices to be heard and answered, smart brand marketers are turning to the social Web to respond, engage and educate people. Who is succeeding? The brands, organizations and individuals that understand how to leverage social to build personal relationships and establish trust. This is no easy feat – it takes patience and time, but the investment can have extremely valuable returns.
Become a Resource
Use social to extend your expertise to online audiences. We trust doctors to provide relevant and factual information because they have graduated from medical school and have gone through rigorous testing and training to earn the white coat they sport in the office. But if you don’t have certain credentials, there are still opportunities to build trust in your expertise. We trust that we will read today’s headlines when we open the newspaper (or, rather, power up our devices) because we trust sources that offer accurate information that matters, on a consistent basis.
For example, Listerine India’s Facebook Page offers really helpful facts and tips related to oral hygiene, such as reasons why you should close your toilet before you brush your teeth (the airborne
particles from the flush can travel up to a distance of six feet) and this handy tip that “munching on a green unripe apple or a moderately hard citrus food can be an effective and natural mouth
What’s amazing about social media is the ability to engage with individuals, one-on-one. There are opportunities to engage with patients outside of the walls of a doctor’s office or pharmacy. And just like these in-person instances involve two-way conversations, the other part of the digital equation is listening and engaging with individuals. As with any relationship, building rapport takes time. What can be daunting for some patients is the idea of discussing personal information via social.
Even though Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other platforms can be personal, that doesn’t mean that individuals want their health-related thoughts broadcast across them. What’s specifically great about Twitter is that it offers a method of private messaging via Direct Messages or DMs. And clearly we’re seeing an increased presence on this specific medium: more than 1,300 doctors are registered with TwitterDoctors, an online database of influential professionals engaging with patients.
Take Off Your Marketing Hat
Nothing is worse than a constant stream of biased information and advertorial under the guise of a social Web presence. Not only is it uninteresting, it’s an easy way to lose trust almost immediately. If a cold remedy responded to any and all individuals that complained about a cough, it’s unlikely they would see a return from what is essentially “social spam,” encouraging the masses to console any cough-related symptom with their product.
Bottom line: traditional healthcare services don’t seem “personal” for a majority of individuals, and this is exactly why people are turning to social instead. They’re using it not just as a means to demand change, but as a way to find information that makes their healthcare more personal and help cut through a system that has traditionally kept people at bay. And for every organization, brand, product and individual out there, the social Web offers a medium to engage with these individuals and not only offer trust in your presence, but in the healthcare system as a whole.