Getting mired in the complexities of social media is becoming something of a sport in healthcare. There’s all the FDA guidance and understanding what medical/regulatory teams do and don’t know. For some teams, the prospect of effectively taking a brand to social is nothing short of an existential crisis.
Luckily, keeping things simple and appreciating the value a brand can deliver is actually easier than anyone makes it out to be. Here are a few guideposts to help clients out of the trees and into the woods:
1. Speak in the First Person
Starting with the oddest tip here but it’s also the most effective. Most brands speak to their network in the third person of the brand. But no one will use social content to represent themselves when it’s in the third-person brand voice.
Think about developing content that acts as a badge. Content that says “I feel great today” or “Every day is an opportunity to ask the right questions about your condition.” Even patient testimonials should be told in the status update from the point of view of the patient, in the first person.
Remember: people want to show off content that represents them, or connects them to another person.
2. Talk About How
So many marketing dollars are spent on the why and what of the brand. Why you need this medicine. What this medicine does.
The problem with applying these ideas to social is that quite often, you’re talking to people who already know the why and the what. This kind of content isn’t what they need.
When we think about the patient journey, successful outcomes are a result of having the right conversation, at the right time, with the right people.
What people desperately need in social is to know how to have those conversations. Take a condition like ulcerative colitis, for example. A patient in their late teens or early 20s most likely has been researching their condition online already. They know what they have. So how do they have a conversation with their mom to explain what they have, and that they need to see a doctor? How do they have the right conversation with their doctor? How do they ask mom to leave the room so that they can have this conversation with their doctor without getting her upset? How do they tell their friends about their condition? As a group while hanging out? One-on-one before they get into a social setting?
In the preceding paragraph alone is a good month or two of posts. First, ask people for their “how” stories — and then give selected, on-label stories back to the community as polished content, told in the first person, and you’ll be making a real difference in the level of care your patients receive.
3. Give Your Network Credit
A mistake we see over and over again is one that feels right in the meeting room, but falls flat in social: “Did you know…?”
No one wants to be told what they don’t know, even when it’s true, and especially when it’s about health. This is a small but important change for content. Instead of telling people what they don’t know, share facts and tips with followers in a way that congratulates them for what they do know. For example, “Smart patients know that X medication improves outcomes long term.” Doing this encourages people to comment and share.
4. Ask for the Engagement You Want
There’s a recent scenario in which a brand was concerned because they’ve amassed a surprisingly large community of patients on Facebook. Surprising because the condition is highly stigmatized, and yet the community numbers are in the hundreds of thousands.
The problem was, even though comment threads went 50-deep, no one shared a single status update. We were asked why such a large, engaged community couldn’t be activated to share?
After looking through all of the posts, charting all of the post types and styles, it was clear. They never asked.
Do yourself and your brand a favor today: help people help each other with the simple things they need to improve their health. Social media is reciprocal media. What you’ll get back is exponential returns and reach you simply can’t afford, and can’t afford to live without.
I see your good intentions here, Mike, but "Smart patients know..." is Good dog! in a longer sentence. And patients -- that is to say, people -- know it. Ditto "Every day is an opportunity..."
There is indeed an opportunity to help people optimize their own best health outcomes, conversationally, in flexible, technology-assisted, self-directed, self-pathed, peer-assisted, self-evaluated ways, as we help each other in the physical world. But those who have failed that opportunity should leave it to the patients and caregivers who actually need it. There is better ROI to be had where biopharma is competent to offer win/win exchanges.
And now for the part that really drives me crazy. "Ask for the engagement you want." Um, you? What happened to them? If you leave sufficient, unobstrusive white space, and have a platform worth using, insight will emerge. If not, the revelations you prompt have as little meaning as focus group friendlies, mouthing what they think you want, against the next check, the bit of action, somewhere to go.