Engaging communities of interest

Social media marketers often spend a lot of time selecting the right social media tool to use – Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare, etc. Instead, they should be focusing on ways to engage online “communities of interest.”

What are “communities of interest?”
Social media and social networks provide the ways people can connect online. “Communities of interest” are why we connect. The very concept of social media is in allowing online groups to form around a particular topic or idea, and connect with others that have a similar interest. These are communities of interest.

Health is the biggest online community of interest
According to a recent Pew Internet study, in 2011 80% of all internet users gather and share health information online (another Pew study shows that regardless of the age, all age groups consistently use social media for health-related information).

It’s clear: “health” is the most significant area for which “communities of interest” seek online information today. And hospital marketers should recognize the importance of participating and engaging in these communities.

How can we do this?
There are many ways to engage online communities of interest. Here are three simple things to help you get started:

  • Identify if the community already exists. If it does, begin to participate in it. If it does not, determine if the need for a community exists. If there is a need (it fills an online niche your patients could benefit from), create one.
  • Don’t market – build trust. Instead of broadcasting your marketing messages, find ways the community can interact and engage with you. Ask questions and participate in conversations.
  • Remember: size doesn’t matter but interactivity does. Building a community online takes time – don’t expect it to grow overnight. Be patient and persistent and not only will your community size grow, but so will the trust they have in you.

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