Building a community around your blog: Part 1

If you want your company to be known as an expert online you need to earn attention and credibility among the folks you want to engage with. The best way to do that is to start a blog – packed with relevant, compelling information that demonstrates passion and a unique point of view about your chosen subject.

OK, check. Now what. How do you actually get someone to notice what you have to say? Answer: by using a mix of social media tools that help you let them know that you’re out there.

The tools you use will depend on the nature of your subject matter and the people you want to engage with. Plus remember, social is exactly that. Succeeding in social media isn’t about a one-way broadcast of your stuff, it’s about participating in an on-going conversation that’s already occurring.

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Hospitals + Social Media = Better Care

The Rise of the E-patient

According to the Pew Research Center, in 2000, 46% of American adults had access to the internet, 5% of U.S. households had broadband connections and 25% of American adults looked online for health information. Now, 74% of American adults go online, 57% of American households have broadband connections and 61% of adults look online for health information. Those are big numbers.

As with many other aspects of daily living, digital has changed how we get stuff done.  Today a patient experiences a set of symptoms or learns of a possible condition and it’s off to “Dr. Google.”  This of course isn’t limited to the patients themselves.  A growing number of people say the Internet has played a crucial or important role in helping another person cope with a major illness.

Thought leaders in the space are using a number of labels to signal the digital-healthcare trend.  Health 2.0, Participatory Medicine, e-health, e-patients, all of these speak to the underlying reality that patients supported with digital technologies are seeking information and exercising control over their health choices.  Given the ubiquity of digital media and the essential nature of health, it’s no surprise that we’re witnessing something of an e-patient movement.  Consider these figures from the same Pew Research Study on e-patients, featured in a landmark whitepaper published in 2007 by the e-Patient Scholars Working Group.
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The Power of Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Many companies underestimate the power of word-of-mouth marketing. Word-of-mouth marketing campaigns can be the most effective and efficient tools in building and sustaining a customer base. Think about it: When you want a good pizza or need a cheap dry cleaner, whom do you ask? If your first instinct is to ask a trusted friend or neighbor, then you can understand where I’m headed. If the most trusted source for good pizza and cheap dry cleaning is a friend or neighbor, then why wouldn’t it be for good health insurance or a trustworthy bank? According to a recent New York Times poll, a “recommendation from a friend” is the most credible source of information.

A company’s best critic is not a magazine journalist, but rather its existing customers. The value comes in a company’s relationship with its customers. Think about the last time you rewarded a top customer with something more than the services you charge for? If you cannot recall, or it’s been more than a couple of months, then you need to step it up.  When customers are celebrated or rewarded, it’s probable that they’ll spread the news. Sharing news, and even bragging, is part of human nature, and we all do it.  

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Twitter, Your Personal Newsfeed

Admit it — you’re reluctant to sign on to Twitter because it sounds like a colossal waste of time. Would it help to describe Twitter as your own news feed, allowing you to quickly scan headlines from sources and people you respect on topics you’re interested in? The sources and people are who you follow (@BusinessName, @ThoughtLeader/Columnist/Blogger), and the topics are identified by hashtag (#): #tsunami, #healthcare, #vancouver. Hashtag use makes it  easy to pick up the 140-character essence of conferences and events. Learn more applications here.

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Social Media for Healthcare & Financial Clients

Jumping on Twitter or setting up a Facebook page is not so easy for highly regulated industries like healthcare and financial services. To avoid running afoul of federal disclosure guidelines, such companies need to plan their social media strategies carefully. Among key considerations:

  • Learn and understand the laws of your industry’s regulatory agencies, and learn them well. Make sure you’re aware of updated guidelines. Develop an environment of compliance.
  • Follow best practices and institute written social media policies. Make sure employees involved in social media are aware of copyright and trademark infringements, confidentiality issues, and guidelines for discussions about competitors, to name a few examples.
  • Educate your staff. Train them constantly on social media regulation. Use real world case studies to show how to handle what to do on Twitter, forums and message boards, and blogs.

Find more detail in this detailed how-to from The Firm Voice of the Council of Public Relations Firms.

- Gretchen Schmidt

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