Capture Your Zombie Brand: 6 Essential Steps for Building Your Online Healthcare Brand
[ Be sure to check out my chat with Janet Kennedy, over at Get Social Health; or at Health Works Collective]
Your Brand Already Exists
“I don’t have a brand,” or “I don’t need a brand.” That’s what I hear from my peers – physicians and hospital execs who are boomers like me.
Let’s be very clear: In the Digital World, your BRAND already exists. With or without you. Like it or not.
Don’t believe me? Let’s do an exercise: Right now, go to your favorite search engine and type in your name, or the name of your practice (this is called a “vanity search”). What do you find? Right – many hits, most of which you were not even aware of, did not “put out there,” did not participate in. Your brand is already out there, even without your participation. Your brand exists, with or without you. Better with you than without you! Unless you created it, unless you developed it … your brand is a Zombie, wondering the digital world with a life of its own.
Unless you PARTICIPATE in that digital world…
YOUR BRAND IS A ZOMBIE!
( Be sure to read to the end to download your FREE 12-Step Guide for Getting Started on Social Media )
Your Zombie Brand: Your Reputation, and the e-Patient
So What? What does that mean, “Your brand is a zombie”? It means that by not participating online, OTHERS are defining your brand. It means that by not participating in developing your own brand, your brand is out there, with a life of its own: it’s a zombie! By choosing not to engage you have NO INPUT into your reputation. So What? What does that have to do with medicine? The e-Patient of today is finding their healthcare information in the digital world. According to Google (they know a couple things about what patients are searching for), patients are selecting their physician, and their hospital, based on your BRAND in the digital world. In fact, reputation – your brand – has greater influence on that decision than what family or friends say. That means that your brand will decide whether the e-Patient selects YOUR practice or hospital for their care.
Again – So What? How many e-Patients could there be, anyway? I mean, are we talking about a couple hundred, or a couple thousand? So? And besides, most patients are not technically savvy enough to check the digital world for their healthcare information, right?
Well, the Pew Research Center reports that, of patients with access to the internet, 80% of obtain their healthcare information online. (Pew Internet: The Rise of the e-Patient, 2012) In fact, the majority went to the internet BEFORE they called their friends or family, before they called their doctor, before they visited the urgent care or doctor’s clinic! Before any other source of information, the majority of patients check online to find healthcare information. And, Google tells us that the brand of a hospital was the most important consideration for patients searching online! (The Digital Journey to Wellness: Hospital Selection)
It is estimated that between 100 – 150 Million people are now “e-Patients,” finding their healthcare information, finding their doctors, in the digital world. In order to connect with YOUR e-Patients, you must connect in their world. Their world … The Digital World.
How have we been connecting?
Most of us have been connecting through traditional marketing. Through our Marketing and PR Departments.
Traditional marketing is PUSH Marketing. It is broadcasting. We “send it out”. Radio, television ads, brochures, flyers. The downside? It’s easy to discard, easy to ignore. When I receive yet another piece of direct-mail marketing and it goes straight to the waste-can. Worse, from the sender’s perspective: we have no idea whether someone actually paid any attention to it before throwing it away. With traditional marketing, it is difficult to know whether we connect with our target audience. What about in the Digital World?
The Digital World
For our purposes, the Digital World is comprised of Social Networks. Social Media. Let’s define that: “Social Media” is the combination of technology and social interaction with media (pictures, videos, words, audio) and a community – a group of people with a common interest or problem. In the digital world, we connect through the social networks and media. Twitter. Facebook. LinkedIn. YouTube. And many others. The difference is that you can no longer “broadcast” a message like you would through traditional channels. If you do, people will ignore you. Or worse, they will “diss” you, attack you, ridicule your brand. Think that doesn’t matter? Do a search for “Dell sucks” sometime to read the story about how a single irate Dell customer nearly brought down the computer giant by using the social networks to tell about his bad experience.
Pull Marketing. Inbound Marketing. Content Marketing.
Instead of broadcasting your marketing message, in the digital world, you want to be the go-to, trusted source of accurate healthcare information. Provide what they are looking for. Enter a conversation. You want to use “pull” marketing. You want to attract your communities to come to you. Attract them to your brand. Think Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, Henry Ford Hospital, as examples for best practices. They are all trusted, go-to brands that provide accurate, useful healthcare information. They use information: Content. You will too, if you want to connect in a positive way with your community. Whether your community is comprised of patients, or referring physicians, or nurses and physicians that you are trying to recruit to your system.
Content Marketing in Healthcare
So … how do you become the trusted, go-to source of accurate healthcare information in your market? Glad you asked …
Here are 6 Basic – yet Essential – Steps for Building Your Online Healthcare Brand:
- Define Your Goals Define your business goals. Are you trying to recruit patients to your practice? Are you trying to establish a better connection to your referring-physician community? Are you trying to develop a hospital culture that is more enticing to nurses and physicians looking for jobs? Decide who you want to connect with.
- Define Your Strategy. Find out where they spend time in the Digital World, and establish a presence there. Use your website as your base of operations, establish a satellite wherever your community “lives” in the digital world, and attract them back to your website, where you provide accurate healthcare information.
- Define Your Team. Include personnel from all levels of your organization – from CEO to nurses and physicians to receptionist, front-office and back-office folks. This will maximize buy-in and ownership to optimize the chances of success for your Social Media Program. Including personnel from throughout your organization will help them understand your mission, and the goals of your marketing, branding, and social media program. Because your staff probably spends more time interacting with your referring physician and patient communities that you do, their understanding and ownership of your mission and brand are crucial for your success.
- Define Your Baseline. Find your Zombie Brand. Do a “vanity search” to see where your brand in the digital world stands now. Find your Zombie, and take possession! How? By breathing life into that Zombie – by filling that Zombie brand with content of your choosing. Once you actually participate and actively develop that brand, it will cease to exist as a Zombie! Congratulations. The cure for Zombie brand!
- Define Your Content. In order to convert your Zombie brand, fill it with great content. The specific content will be determined by your goals and your audience, your community. For example, let’s say that you are a Med-Peds physician, specializing in Diabetes. Fill your website with valuable, accurate information for your Diabetic Community. Information about diet; information about support groups; information about control; information about testing; information about new technology. Links to other resources that you think may be valuable for your community. In a word, Content. Feed links to those articles and resources to your Facebook page. Distribute this information as updates in an email newsletter. Make that newsletter available on your website, and through a link on your Facebook page. Etc. You get the idea. All of this valuable information – content – will help elevate your rank in search results, increasing the likelihood of your practice being “found” by e-Patients! Increasing the likelihood of you being recognized as an authority in your field, and of connecting with your community.
- Develop a Formal Social Media Policy. The above steps are not enough. You must clarify expectations and set limits for your everyone in your organization. If you don’t want the receptionist to be texting during work, it is your prerogative to establish those limits. We have helped develop Social Media Policies for healthcare organizations, and would be delighted to help you develop yours. For help, email me for your FREE guide.
Once you have mastered these essential 6 steps, begin streamlining your social media program. The following 3 areas will simply amplify your digital footprint, and in so doing, will amp your brand, and benefit your practice, and your patients:
- optimize the inter-connection between your pieces of content. That will optimize your SEO – how search engines rank your practice, how your e-Patients find your practice.
- consider adding a video channel. It is estimated that in 2014, 80% of web content was consumed by mobile devices (smart phones and tablets) – in the form of video.
- add pieces that will improve operational efficiency – help reduce use of call lines, nurse triage lines; improve clinic through efficiency; reduce marketing spend; increase revenue. All of these, and more, are possible with a well-implemented social media program. There is huge potential ROI in simply educating your patient (and prospective patient) community.
Still have questions or want to suggest other topics you’d like me to cover, let me know:
(rf AT russellfaust.com)