The 5 Shades of Grey for SMM

Facebook recently went through a rough patch.  Their fumbled IPO cast doubt as to business model behind the social network (is the social media bubble really about to burst?). When you add to this GM’s  news that they were removing Facebook advertising from their overall digital marketing spend, we’re left not only feeling sorry for Mark Zuckerberg but also question whether social media marketing (SMM) – Facebook advertising and the like – actually works.

Facebook and other major brands have been quick to defend Facebook’s advertising model. The AllFacebook blog even published a recent post indicating a high return on investment (yes, actual dollars!) that companies saw from Facebook sponsored-story ad campaigns. But many of these examples are retail organizations – what about us hospital marketers? Should we continue to invest in SMM, or are we just abusing our digital marketing campaigns by doing so?

Social Media Marketing does indeed work, but it has to be used the right way. Here are five ways to prevent SMM from flagellating your marketing strategies:

1. Make it part of an integrated marketing strategy – SMM doesn’t work alone, and I would never recommend that it be the sole part of anyone’s marketing strategy. Use Facebook or YouTube advertising as a way to supplement your other marketing efforts (online or offline). SMM is a great way to get people to like your Facebook page or go to a website where you can get them to opt-in to an enewsletter, seminar, etc.. In my experience, SMM ads are best used in the early part of the healthcare decision process – when people are just casually interested in your hospital or services.

2. Remember to be relevant. This includes using the right language and call-to-actions. SMM ads are very different from Google ads. People on social media are less likely to use social networks to seek out the “top doctors” or “best-in-class medical technologies.” Instead they might interact with ads that lead them to information or resources that are related to wellness or weight-loss options. Social media, in general, is used by people that are in the process of discovery (as opposed to those on Google or your website that are actively researching).

3. Weigh your expectations – response rates from SMM are far less than Google advertising or other forms of advertising. Again, it makes sense – people aren’t using social networks to find advertisements. With Facebook advertising, I’ve seen a click-through-rate (CTRs) of good Facebook ads at around .05-.07. While this is far less than average CTRs for Google ads, I would argue that they rival (if not outperform) CTR’s of TV and radio spots. Besides, you only have to pay for the ad when they click on it (unlike traditional advertising).

4. Remember: social media makes sense for hospitals. As I said before, I believe social media is a great medium for hospitals to communicate and connect with patients. Online social networks allow audiences to interact with us, ask questions, and get support from others like them. It’s natural for hospitals to be part of social media, not only by creating pages and facilitating groups, but also to promote (through SMM).

5. Measure for success. Measurement has started to become a standard discipline for marketers. The great news is that just like other online marketing programs, SMM is absolutely measurable. Not only can you use it to measure actual performance, you can use your results to begin to hone and improve your campaign (and measure again to see if it’s working).

If you follow the above five tips, I think you’ll be able to whip your hospital’s SMM efforts into shape.

2 Comments

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2 Comments to The 5 Shades of Grey for SMM

  1. by Barb Boyer Buck

    On June 25, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Check out Leo Burnett Worlwide’s extremely effective use of social media – campaigns that combine grassroots issues with successful marketing efforts. If it’s something people CARE about personally, social media, used properly, is a formidable force to be reckoned with!

  2. by Dan Hinmon

    On June 27, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    All great points, Chris. One more reminder is that social media is where our patients are. In this new world of educating and informing — rather than shouting — at our patients, we need initiatives that are attractive to patients as they search the web for healthcare information. Social media helps fill the bill.

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