Hospitals and practices are slowly recognizing that social presence is not only important, but necessary, to cater to healthcare consumers who are shopping. While the older generation of past tended to trust physician referrals and recommendations without question, younger generations are turning to the Internet to research a provider’s reputation and impression (Smith & Jones Healthcare Consumers: The New Reality White Paper). This trend is not likely to change course, so healthcare providers need to proactively build a trail of breadcrumbs that lead to THEM. Here are some first steps.
1. Ask happy patients to tell their friends.
Point people to a place where they can express their appreciation for others to find. Make it easy for them. This is an example of a sign that includes QR codes that launch the HealthGrades survey page for each physician. Facebook is another place where people may prefer posting, but directing patients to Facebook is only smart if that is where they are most comfortable. (NOTE: Young parents and the elderly tend to use Facebook for medical referrals more than young adults or working professionals). Facebook doesn’t get the attention of search engines like major review sites like Google Local and HealthGrades do.
2. Offer those small conveniences that make a difference.
Making an online appointment may not seem that important, but to a person who works a late shift and sleeps when your office are open, this is a welcomed convenience. The same holds true for downloadable forms and the ability to print one off without having to show up early just to fill it out before an appointment.
3. Create quality content that is worthy of sharing.
You don’t have to own a production company to put out something patients can appreciate. Identify a topic that might be useful to address and then record one of your staff addressing it. Keep it short, upbeat, and simple to understand. For example, a two-minute video on heart attack symptoms for women (and another for men) might be a wonderful video to release around Valentines Day to share with elderly loved ones… especially if you include a checklist to refer back to.
4. Engage with the public regularly and don’t neglect your social pages.
Too many healthcare entities set up Facebook or Google+ pages and then expect the pages to run themselves. The point of a social presence is to have two-way communication. Be generous with thank-yous when someone expresses appreciation, congratulate friends and community members when they are recognized, and don’t be afraid to address a negative comment with sincerity then it is deserved. Medical facilities are only as good as the people who work inside, so celebrate and recognize each one as you would a member of your family. Share those celebrations with your local community.
I love the start of a new year because it is a time to throw my social predictions into the hat for later reflection. This year, I’m going against the grain of most predictions. I’m also looking a bit further into the future with predictions #6 and #7. Agree or disagree?
“Return on Investment” will be measured in much looser terms.
Digital marketing isn’t the mystery it was a couple of years ago. There is no doubt that companies, brands, and even hospitals have to be social in order to compete in today’s market. As 2013 rolls out, CEOs will begin to accept that some benefits of social presence aren’t immediately realized and that attempting to measure ROI wastes time and money. Marketing professionals will finally be able to get down to business. Don’t get me wrong. Marketing companies will develop measurement tools that do just about everything in an attempt to hold onto the market, but CEOs will be tired of pretending they see the emperor’s coat.
Social be incorporated into many departments and roles.
We will see a big surge in job descriptions calling for knowledge of social platforms. Why? Many more companies will choose to manage social presence in-house in an effort to cut costs and integrate social into multiple areas of a company. Social strategy will no longer be a Lone Ranger housed in the marketing department. Incorporating social into all facets of a company will be a growing trend as we start breaking down the silos and realizing all that is at ou fingertips.
Text-only interaction will seem naked and slowly fade away.
Just take a few seconds to fly through your Google+ stream, Facebook page or Pinterest page. What catches your eyes and interest? A picture is worth a thousand words, so companies will start to focus on communicating concepts through photos and video. The accompanying text will become secondary, focusing on search engine optimization as much as content.
Mobile sites and phone apps will no longer be an afterthought.
Smartphones are the wave of the PRESENT. Last year, smartphone use in China grew 150% (Pew/Nielsen research). The US is on the same trend, reporting that in mid 2011 there were already more mobile phone accounts than people! Half of these accounts were smartphones. Since then, there has been a steady upward trend of dumb phones being traded in for smart phones. The writing is on the wall (or should I say mobile wallpaper), so companies that want to stay visible will need to accommodate the mobile customer.
Hospitals and practices will start using social technology.
As healthcare providers are forced to care for more patients with less money (especially where ACOs form), they will turn to social technologies. They will start to use these tools to educate and inform patients, and to communicate better in hopes of improving patient satisfaction scores.
We are just starting to realize all the knowledge that can be gained from tracking people online. Google impressively predicted the flu outbreak and now everyone is imagining the possibilities. Businesses that lose social marketing business will turn to data collection and analysis as a new service. Information will be tracked and sold at a premium to predict all kinds of trends and responses.*
Privacy will have to be bought.
It’s no secret that our privacy is for sale, as sites like Facebook and Google track our moves and sell our data to the highest bidders. Built-in private browsing and permission prompts won’t be enough. We will have to purchase apps and gadgets to assure our privacy is safe. We will have to pay to block our whereabouts and encrypt our activity to lock down our personal information much like we subscribe to antivirus software today.*
* may be 2014 before we see anything fully baked.