Social media marketing in healthcare: opportunity or obstacle?

We all know relationships are crucial to foster customer loyalty, interaction and long-term engagement. Healthcare is no different. In fact, one could argue that healthcare is even more intense when it comes to trusted relationships. Social media marketing in healthcare is all about constant communication, building and expression of that trust, which can contribute to building those long lasting relationships.

In healthcare, if you have good relationships and are able to communicate well with your doctors and healthcare providers, you generally benefit from better care. When you trust someone, you are more likely to follow their advice. In good relationships, both sides need to listen more and tell more. Recently, I was at a healthcare 2.0 conference where I saw how applications of social media, mobile technology and the internet could build better relationships between patients and healthcare professionals.

As a healthcare IT provider, the question I’m asking myself is, why are some suppliers in the same healthcare IT industry hesitating to embrace social media so much when our customers, (patients and healthcare professionals) are actively using it to build better relationships?

There are some major trends around us that are influencing the way we communicate with our customers. I see these trends as opportunities but they also bring some interesting challenges; left unaddressed they can become obstacles to build that trust. The trends are:

Always connected
Our customers and ourselves are becoming continuously connected to the internet. There are a multiplicity of devices and tools connected to the world-wide-web, and very little friction for us to communicate. But are we tracking where our customers are going and what they are saying? Do we have the right tools and strategies in place to engage with our customers?

Data everywhere
Now that we are always connected, our data is everywhere. Not only are we always connected but we have an online profile we need to maintain and manage. The question is, do we have the right kind of data about us in that public domain? Do we have enough quality content available to us to have a two-way dialogue with our customers?

The Semantic Web: Web 3.0
In this emerging world of being always connected and having our data everywhere, the internet is re-organising itself in a meaningful way, so that information about us and the information we seek can be found easily, by not only analysing relevant key words but also taking the context into consideration. Basically, enabling our digital presence to be ‘noticed’ for the right reasons in the right context. How ready are we to take advantage of this trend?

In addition to these trends, research shows that:

  • Customers are increasingly looking to social media for reviews about products and solutions by other customers in the public domain.
  • Customers are increasingly willing to share information and comment on their experiences about products and solutions in the social media, to other customers and prospects in a trusted manner.
  • Social media information is influencing decision making in healthcare.

Healthcare is fundamentally driven by trust and I think social media, as a new medium, is quickly establishing itself as a channel for the expression of that trust and communication and a tool for that trusted communication in healthcare.

What do you think? Why not share your thoughts with me on Twitter @rkumar or @highlandmarktng.

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