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3 Keys to Marketing Healthcare Online

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Healthcare marketers are on notice: the internet is driving healthcare decisions, forcing healthcare marketers to strengthen their online marketing platforms.

Here are the highlights:

#1: DECISION MAKERS ARE ONLINE

Females across the board, including baby boomers, are using the internet for healthcare information.

Research shows that the healthcare decision makers’ primary resource for information comes from online sources. Women are the lead consumers of healthcare information with 84% of adult females conducting online health research.

As for hospital marketing, the majority of people cite that a hospital’s online presence influences their perception of a hospital being “cutting-edge.”

#2: SPECIFIC CONTENT MATTERS

What content matters to your decision maker? As with any type of service, consumers require content that is meaningful, understandable, and ultimately actionable.

The challenge for a hospital or clinic is to produce content that is specific enough to be meaningful yet still presented in laymen’s terms. Health care providers that produce easy-to-understand content offering tightly focused information will capture patient interest.  Highly focused content will also boost search engine rankings for relevant terms.

#3: SHAREABILITY

The final key is crafting the content to be shareable and consistent with your social media content plan.  57% of consumers say that a hospital’s social media connections would strongly affect their decision to receive treatment at that facility.

This is why innovators are live tweeting their surgeries. But, the opportunity is so much greater. Once hospital marketers understand how social media influences consumer treatment decisions, the marketing toolbox will expand exponentially.

Learn more about how you can receive a free digital assessment of your organization’s online presence.

Our healthcare clients have found the digital assessment to be extremely valuable for shaping the strategy and the success of their online programs.

Jump Start Your Social Media Marketing: More Than Facebook

There’s only one constant in social media – it’s always changing. At this time last year, we weren’t talking about Pinterest or how Instagram could be a powerful social media tool.

That’s no longer the case.

Our team had the pleasure of speaking at the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitor’s Bureau’s Social Media Educational event at the MotorCity Casino and enjoyed helping DMCVB members take their social campaigns to the next level.

The presentation was aptly titled “Jump Start Your Social Media Marketing: More Than Facebook“. Our Social Media Director, Richard Retyi, and I dove into the best practices for Facebook, Pinterest, Foursquare, Google+, Twitter, and blogging. The focus was placed squarely on social media tactics designed to deliver quantifiable results in 2012.

You can view the entire presentation below. We welcome your comments and feedback.

6 Strategic Social Media Takeaways from Social Slam

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the 2nd Annual Social Slam Conference put on by the Knoxville Social Media Club. The conference was 36 hours of meeting incredible people and whip-smart insight into the use of social media.

Even though I had the honor of speaking at the conference and moderating a panel, I wished that I could have done more. Right now, the biggest challenge I face is boiling down all of the insights into a concise post!

I could write a book on what was shared, but here are 6 strategic takeaways that I gleaned from the roster of stellar social thinkers.

#1: LinkedIn Is Becoming a “Must Have”

I think that Business-to-Business (B2B) companies are being overlooked in the social media conversation. It’s easy to wax strategic about the impact of Facebook, Twitter, and blogging on consumer-facing companies. The conversation cools, however, when we mention LinkedIn.

The problem has been that LinkedIn’s advocates aren’t flashy, omnipresent, or armed with gee-whiz presentations. LinkedIn fans are steady, professional, and persistently pragmatic users who expect their virtual rolodex to turn into real-world results. Surprisingly, out of all the social platforms, LinkedIn seems to have pulled off the extremely difficult – making social pay.

Jon Moss did a fabulous job convincing Social Slam participants that there are specific benefits that can be gained with surprisingly little work on LinkedIn. While watching his 10-minute presentation, I was struck by how under-represented LinkedIn is and how critical it is for many B2B and even B2C companies.

#2: Find Your “Tip”

Marcus Sheridan’s swimming pool installation company almost went bankrupt in 2008. The recession had drained homeowner equity down to dangerous levels, the same equity used to finance new backyard pools. Desperate, Marcus turned to his company’s analytics and discovered his “tip”. He learned that new customers read 30 pages of website information.

Most people would store this factoid away as an interesting bit of trivia for the local chamber get-together. Not Marcus. His next move was as unorthodox as it was brilliantly simple – Marcus began writing more articles about swimming pools. Next, he insisted that his sales team not talk to anyone who hadn’t agreed to read a packet of information that had—you guessed it—30 pages of relevant information.

His strategy paid off. He didn’t go bankrupt. He sells a swimming pool to 84% of his prospects, which contributed to his company being recognized as the #1 independent swimming pool installation company in the United States.

Every business has a similar “tip” buried in their digital analytics. Marcus’s story convinced me that it pays to focus on finding that critical piece of information before it’s too late.

#3: Use Social to Ask Better Questions

We love data at Fluency Media. We can spend hours discussing the fine points of statistical significance, correlation versus causation, and predictive modeling. So I looked forward to Tom Webster’s with giddy excitement.

He didn’t disappoint.

His presentation was filled with fascinating data takeaways; the best was “Use Social to Ask Better Questions.” While business professionals wrestle with social media’s ROI bona fides, social’s qualitative utility is unrivaled. The ability to watch a brand’s fans engage and share information is an incredible tool for providing context about an audience.

But are you digging through your social data to formulate questions and hypotheses to optimize your marketing? For example, why do people reference a brand in Twitter during a specific TV show and on Facebook during another TV show? Social supplies a great question that could yield valuable brand awareness tests and insights.

#4: Social Media Is a Team Activity

Gini Dietrich kicked off the Social Slam conference with an insightful and practical session on leveraging an organization’s assets to power its social strategy.

Her insight on “breaking down silos” was spot-on and thankfully taken to heart by many of the attendees. Sequestering your social team in a corner and pursuing marketing as usual is a sure way to cripple your social program. Gini encouraged attendees to actively solicit opinions, resources, and content from departments throughout the organization.

We encourage our clients to do the same. We’ve seen the power of “All Department” social updates and collaboration meetings and believe that it’s the secret sauce for delivering a successful social program.

#5: E-mail Marketing Is a Force Multiplier

Digital pundits are crowing that e-mail is dead, but DJ Waldow made a convincing case that e-mail isn’t dead. In fact, e-mail is the key to multiplying the power of social media.

DJ showed how social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, and even Pinterest require an e-mail for sign-up. These players rely on e-mail to increase retention and encourage repeat engagement. While it’s fashionable to bury e-mail, it still retains its ROI advantage and ubiquitous utility.

2012 might be the year when savvy businesses use e-mail to create deeper engagement with their social audiences. For example, what would happen if you sent an e-mail to your list offering them a reason to follow you on Twitter or Facebook? You might find that this effort delivers a better return on investment than buying Facebook ads.

#6: Pay Attention to Your Influencers

Mark Schaefer wrapped up the conference with an insightful examination of the power of influence in modern marketing. His thoughtful examination of Klout and the utility of influence scoring provided an excellent perspective into the science of influencer marketing.

I enjoyed Mark’s effective use of case studies to demonstrate influencer marketing’s power. For example, he showed how Audi and Jay-Z adroitly used Calvin Lee, a Twitter mega-influencer, to attract attention and jumpstart their marketing campaigns. His final case study featured a 20-something student who faced down Bank of America and convinced them to stop charging minimum fees.

Even though I was a contributor to Mark’s new book, Return on Influence, I was struck by how quickly influencer marketing is evolving as a marketing strategy. I look forward to applying its power to Fluency’s clients in 2012.

7 Deadly Digital Marketing Strategy Mistakes

Your Digital Marketing Path

Your Digital Marketing Path

 We’ve talked a great deal about the central role that a smart digital marketing strategy plays in building a successful marketing strategy. We’ve explored the roles digital marketing and social media participate in the sales process.

Now it’s time for a reality check.

Just 3 years ago, digital marketers just needed to create a strategy around email, pay-per-click, and SEO.  Today, the marketing options and tools available to you have expanded exponentially, and with them, the chances of making a misstep. (more…)

What Businesses Need to Know About The New Facebook Timeline for Brands

Facebook is changing the game again.  The anticipated Timeline for Brands has arrived along with Facebook’s vision of how brands should market online.  While everyone is digesting the new Brand Page features, a  few strategic considerations come to mind:

One: Marketing on Facebook will become more subtle and visual.  Facebook will disallow any page that uses profile photos and timelines for typical call to actions like “40% off” and “Click here to…”

Two: Action speak louder than words.  Facebook wants businesses to tell their story through relevant content and posting history.  Social Media managers will need to pay attention to how and when their company shares content online.

Three: Customer Service comes to Facebook.  Facebook will allow anyone to ask send questions to brands OFFLINE.  We’ll talk more about this in a moment, but for now, get prepared for a much busier customer service department.

On a day-to-day tactical level get prepared to adjust to several key interface changes.

They include:

Profile Photos: Timeline takes the old thumbnail image and photo strip and updates it to a cover photo and a square thumbnail. The cover image dominates the top of the page and can be creatively incorporated with the thumbnail to create stunning visuals.

Hiding and Highlighting Content: Timeline automatically adds every Facebook post a brand has ever made to the new Timeline wall. Because there is more content than ever before on a single screen, a content review is highly recommended to hide out of date or irrelevant content while highlighting popular posts. Brands can go through each post and click “hide” or “highlight” to create a streamlined experience for fans.

Build Your Brand Story Through Milestones: Brands can add milestones to Timeline, calling out notable dates in a company’s history and adding rich media to tell the brand story. The day a company was founded, product releases, awards – all of this information can be added to Timeline to build a compelling brand story like a rich media Wikipedia page.

Pin Your Important Posts: Brands will have the ability to pin their featured post at the top of the page where it will remain static for seven days, staying on top of any content added after it’s anchored. This feature is helpful for campaigns that brands want to draw attention to as well as highlighting particularly compelling content that brands want to ensure gets as many views as it deserves.

Private Messaging: The only way fans could communicate with brands in the old layout was to write on the wall. Now, anyone on Facebook – fan or otherwise – can privately message a brand to ask questions offline. How this new option will alter the customer service dynamic on Facebook remains unclear, but it’s a step forward for brands who’d rather handle customer service matters discreetly rather than publicly on the brand’s wall.

Brands can work in preview mode from now until March 30 and launch the new Timeline at any time.

We recommend that brands address their profile photos first.  Next sit down with your team and evaluate your content strategy with Facebook’s changes in mind.

The clock is ticking on these changes.  We recommend immediately addressing your Timeline and taking the necessary steps to go live before the March 30 deadline. As more and more pages jump to Timeline, brands who lag may gain a perception of being behind the curve.

Timeline for Brands gives organizations a chance to highlight themselves with larger photos, richer content and more engaging brand stories. Brands with photo and video assets can create an incredibly compelling experience on Facebook, while using the platform to create a rich-media Wikipedia experience telling the story through the years. It’s a brave and beautiful new world on Facebook where content and story are more important than ever.

What Do You Think?

Do you think the Timeline for Brand changes will help or hurt your branding and engagement efforts?  Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Where Does Pinterest Fit in Your Digital Strategy?

Pinterest is rocking the digital strategy boat. Across the world, CMOs are asking their teams to consider adding Pinterest to their social line-up. “Pin” buttons are popping up faster than dandelions in spring.

It would be easy to dismiss Pinterest as another “shiny” social object that will flare up then fade away. But, this assessment would be wrong, maybe even crippling to your digital strategy.

Let’s explore some reasons why Pinterest and the other “content hubs” are critical to your digital strategy.

Websites are trailing badly in the polls

The good ‘ole static HTML websites doesn’t have the luster they once enjoyed. They are too unwieldy, too hard to update, and often ignored in favor of CMS-based sites like blogs. Parking all of your digital brand assets on your website is the best way to bury them. While your website is still an excellent ecommerce platform, it is a poor home for brand assets meant to attract and enchant your prospects and customers.

On the other hand, content hubs are specifically designed to host and promote brand assets. For example, Pinterest’s pin boards are a brilliant way for businesses to categorize and promote specific brand images and experiences. Other content hubs provide equally effective platforms for audio, presentation, and video content.

Blogs Still Need Traffic

Blogs are rightfully becoming the online hub for many brands. However, blogs still need a steady flow of enthusiastic readers. This is where many blogs stumble. Simply posting content doesn’t guarantee traffic.

Savvy social media planners still need to find pockets of targeted traffic and invite them back to the blog. While buying traffic makes sense for revenue generating websites, it’s difficult to justify for indirect revenue platforms like blogs.

Content Hubs with their self-sustaining audiences are perfect platforms for attracting future customers to your blog. While participation requires a well-thought out content strategy traffic from content hubs could outpace the performance of traditional online media buys. Another benefit is that traffic from Content Hubs are already pre-sold on your brand and arrive at your blog ready to engage with other content.

Social Advertising Works (for now)

Veteran media planners know that any ad unit’s performance falters over time. Simply look to the banner ad for proof of this eventuality. Customers are efficient “ad ignoring” machines and will quickly adapt to the newest innovation. While Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter ads will pull in visitors for a time, their performance will decline without significant testing and optimization.

The time is approaching where content like photos, short videos, audio podcasts presentations, and even powerpoint presentations will become the dominant forms of advertising. Testing Pinterest and content hubs now is a pragmatic strategy for gaining the expertise required to leverage these platforms.

The Disciplined Approach

The best approach is to systematically audit your brand assets and determine which ones are best suited for migration to a content hub. Simply posting product photos won’t cut it. The best strategies focus on creating a seamless experience that starts on the content hub, transitions to a blog, and ends with a compelling call to action.

Work with your team to determine the best engagement measurements for your content hub assets and integrate these metrics into your performance dashboards. The winning companies will be the ones who can identify and respond to platform performance in real-time.

Make sense? Are you repurposing your brand assets for Pinterest and other content hubs?

Why Social Media Reputation Management is Critical for Your Business

Once, all you needed to monitor your brand’s reputation was a newspaper subscription, a TV remote control, and an eager intern.

The web complicated the process, but a simple search would still unearth any nasty comments tucked in a dark corner of the Internet. Before social media, any disparaging remarks would sit, mostly ignored, until they were pushed off the page by other content or removed.

No longer.

Twitter and Facebook have given customers and competitors a stage and a megaphone to wreak havoc on any brand. They don’t need your permission and you can’t opt-out of social media. Someone, somewhere is talking about your brand and you can’t control what they will say.

Reputation management used to be a luxury reserved for large brands with massive agency resources. PR would swoop in and “handle” any crisis. Now a comment on Twitter can grow from a spark, to a brush fire, to an inferno in under 24 hours.

Here’s the rub, submitting a rebuttal press release with the facts will do nothing to douse the flames. The influencers who are spreading the message will most likely not see the press release. Worse, these folks are “spin-proof”. Clumsy attempts to manage the crisis will only spray gasoline on the problem.

Conscientious brands require a new socially-powered process for protecting and building their brands image.

Ignoring the Social Web is A Business Killer

A poor online reputation attacks every aspect your business like a cancer:

Marketing: Generating demand for a product is difficult if poor reviews, mentions, and Facebook posts stand in the way. An unattended reputation reinforces the notion that your brand is unresponsive, a critical flaw in a fluid marketplace.

Sales: Your prospects will go online to do their product research. Google will dutifully serve up brand news, the good and the bad. A search on LinkedIn will reveal any negative remarks circulating among LinkedIn’s 200 million professional members. The professional media, tipped off by Twitter retweets may mention or write a post about the latest juicy rumor. Without reputation management, your sales team will be walking into an ambush totally unprepared.

HR: The battle for top-notch talent is getting tougher every day. Candidates are doing their research and making a decision based on your company’s culture. Any negative comments left unanswered will factor into your candidate’s decision-making process.

Investor Relations: Savvy investors use RSS feeds and news gathering apps to keep them informed about companies on their radar. These tools are configured to scour the web and social media networks for any news. Simply ignoring these networks allows the media to shape the news without your input. We believe that IR Social Monitoring will grow in importance.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. We’ve seen poor reputation management impact customer service, point-of-sale, and internal communications too.

The Social Web is talking about you. Even if you don’t have the capacity to respond, your brand needs to be aware of the conversation.

First Steps

Set-up Monitoring Immediately
It’s important to have your finger on the pulse of your brand. At Fluency, We use a blend of 3rd party monitoring tools and good ole’ fashion elbow grease to stay abreast of our client’s brand online.

Your brand should focus on finding where your brand is being discussed and which players are influential in that space. Update this information weekly and be prepared to respond if something threatens to spin out of control.

Create a Pro-Active Reputation Strategy
Reputation Management is difficult to do in the middle of a crisis. Like most things, it’s important to be prepared with a comprehensive plan from the beginning. Our client’s start with identifying advocates, establishing a response process, and proactively building relationships with key influencers before a crisis hits.

Involve Your Entire Team
Ask your employees to keep their eyes open and report anything they see on the networks they participate in. Walk your employees through the process of reporting any news to the right stakeholders in your organization. Go one step further and reward anyone who uncovers and correctly reports any negative news.

Good News

According to a recent Harris Survey, of the customers that received a response from a company after posting negative feedback, 33% turned around and posted a positive review, and 34% deleted the original negative review. Customers are empowered and gracious. The key is finding the negative comment in enough time to make a difference.

What are your reputation management challenges? Do you have a strategy in place?

7 Digital Strategy Essentials for Your 2012 Plan

The holiday season ushers in gifts, caroling, great food, and a less well-received corporate tradition – annual planning. Your digital marketing planning doesn’t have to be painful, it can actually be an opportunity to reboot your program and build momentum heading into the New Year.

The key to successful digital strategic planning is to be organized and focused on the right questions.

Often marketing teams consider too many planning factors, exponentially complicating their strategies. Constraining your team’s planning to a concise list of success drivers will your strengthen your strategy and insure that you’ve considered the most critical elements.

We suggest starting with these 7 Digital Strategy Essentials:

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Why It’s Critical to Start Your Social Media Program – Now

Most of us lived through the dot-com boom and bust. Like grizzled veterans we are instinctually skeptical about the next new thing. For many, social media marketing falls into the category of potentially dangerous distractions. However, jumping to this conclusion is more dangerous than giving social media a second look.

Why?

Social is popular for a good reason. With over 800 million people regularly using Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, business marketers know have access to the largest audience since the heyday of network TV.

Reaching this audience is getting easier by the moment. Every social network including the precocious upstart, Google+ is scrambling to package its audience into targeted media opportunities. Even more important though is that the cost of reaching this audience is still relatively cheap.

While there are valid reasons to be cautious when developing a social media marketing program, it’s becoming ludicrous to sit on the sidelines.

Why the Philistines will Get Crushed

As more businesses seek a competitive advantage with B2C social media marketing, social contrarians are finding it hard to adopt a wait and see attitude.

The problem is while you wait:

1. Your competitors are establishing brand leadership
2. Your competitor’s customers are recommending products and services to their friends.
3. Your current advertising is steadily eroding in value as it get’s trumped by high-trust social communications
4. Your are missing the window to test and gain valuable expertise while social is still cheap

Let’s dig in a little deeper:

Brand Leadership:
Social brands are using Facebook to reinforce why they are market leaders. Think about how Coke has aggressively leveraged its brand on Facebook and Twitter to kick Pepsi out of the #2 spot.

Other fast moving companies are marrying robust thought leadership programs with blogs, twitter promotion, and Facebook discussions to position themselves as industry leaders.

Your Competitor’s Customers are Killing You:
Every time your competitor interacts with their customers on Facebook, these communications ripple outward into the customer’s social network. This is free advertising for the price of a single post. Sitting on the sidelines cripples your customer’s ability to spread the word about your brand forcing you to use more expensive tools to solicit their support.

Your Current Advertising is Eroding in Value:

Just like a new car driving off the dealer lot, your traditional advertising dollars are eroding in value. We already know about the fragmenting of TV viewer audiences and how DVRs are making commercials extinct. But, something more profound is happening, prospects have lost trust in traditional advertising. According to Nielsen, only 14% of consumers trust advertising. Ouch.

On the other hand, 78% of consumers trust recommendations from their peers and family. Increasingly these recommendations are coming from a message on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Social Media Learning is Cheap (for now):

Profiles are still free on all of the social networks.

You don’t have to pay to tweet, Facebook, or make updates to LinkedIn. Even though the best social media monitoring tools like Sysomos cost a bundle, you can still cobble together a decent view of your social activity with free tools. This means that you can start listening to your customers, analyzing your competitor’s efforts, and engage with your prospects at low risk.

On the other hand, playing catch-up against a well-entrenched social brand is getting more expensive everyday. Worse, playing catch-up often leads to embarrassing mistakes as a team tries to understand the complexity of social media marketing. Rapidly developing expertise or getting help with your social media program – now is the best way to sidestep these problems

What’s Holding You Back?

Tell us, what’s holding your organization back from deploying your social media marketing strategy?

What You, Steve Jobs, Hillary Clinton and Karl Rove have in Common

Why are people like Steve Jobs, Karl Rove, Hillary Clinton, Malcolm Gladwell, and Jon Stewart so compelling?

Steve Jobs, A Thought Leadership Rock Star

Steve Jobs, A Thought Leadership Rock Star

Recently Newsweek crowned these people (and a few others) as “Thought Leaders.”

In social media, Thought Leadership is a holy grail, a quest to achieve a competitive standing that promises revenue and differentiation. However, Thought Leadership is easier to extol than it is to achieve.

Why?

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