Social media is fast becoming one of the chief means for business-to-consumer marketers to promote their brands and solutions, address the needs of consumers, and engage new and existing customers in conversations about their products. Particularly, when it comes to health-based information and health-oriented equipment or services, many online users make purchasing decisions or take specific health-related actions directly from the information they find on the Internet. The consumerization of healthcare is happening and patients expect to be treated like a customer.
Hoping to capitalize on this growing trend, health care brands and suppliers of home medical equipment (HME) are using the Internet in increasing numbers. Social media channels – including health blogs and social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other SMM tools—are being utilized to generate brand-enhancing dialogues and educate consumers about health-related products. But, all is not golden in this brave new world.
Social media marketing must be fully integrated within a company’s overall marketing strategy to gain sales and increase leads – including search.
For businesses looking to build upon long-term customer relationships and increase lead generation for sales conversion, social media involvement tends to be more cost-effective and successful, in the long run, than traditional short-term-oriented marketing methods.
Social media’s return on investment is best measured over time in customer loyalty, customer relationship management, and an improved corporate perception in the general marketplace.Photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash
Constantly Updated Content Boosts Search Engine Rankings
Research proves that companies can gain new customers, achieve a higher search engine ranking, and increase online visibility by providing constantly updated content. Online marketing methods that include search-optimized content can also boost a company’s SERP position.
SERP stands for search engine results pages. Search engines like Google index social media content, keyword-rich posts, and relevant online comments within social networks have developed into viable marketing tactics.
A regularly updated stream of new content on a blog, in online forums, or within social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and on professional networks like LinkedIn can build customer engagement and boost search engine rankings.
Social Media Presence Strengthens Online Reputation
Engaging potential consumers – in social networks – can bolster a company’s reputation and strengthen its ability to improve customer service. A business that engages its customers online and participates in the dialogue is better positioned to respond to customer inquiries and complaints. Negative comments can act as an early warning system, empowering a brand to quickly adapt its message, reinforce its product’s value, and positively nurture relationships with customers, influencers, and brand advocates.
Whether negative word of mouth buzz comes in the form of a comment in a user forum, as a disparaging online video, or from an adverse online product review, companies with a solid and active social media presence can repair their reputation by responding in real-time.
Measuring Social Media Effectiveness
Companies concerned with analytics and other metrics for measuring social media effectiveness can employ several simple methods for gauging the success of social marketing campaigns. Some ways to measure and track social media marketing include:
- Track the number of website referrals from social networks
- Keep count of social bookmarks and brand mentions on blogs and in forums
- Maintain records of website comments and user-submitted product reviews
- Track the number of inbound site links from complementary web pages
- Take note of the number of replies to content questions posted on social networks and fan pages
Health Industry Manufacturers View Social Media with Caution
Not everyone in the direct-to-consumer market is leaping into the social media space. Marketers, in general, have very little control over user-generated content. Health industry manufacturers, in particular, view social media with caution. Health-related product marketers are concerned about regulatory issues and pay close attention to the possibility of legal ramifications that could ensue from negative online comments.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for example, requires that all health-related product complaints be reported. If any of these “adverse events” appear online in health forums or within general content social network sites, they could be used in litigation suits against pharmaceutical or medical equipment suppliers.
Medical Marketers Slow to Embrace Social Marketing
Apprehension over what might happen if proprietary medical data was released online or someone representing a medical provider or product manufacturer offered faulty medical advice gives many companies a reason to think twice about social media marketing. Medical-related companies must also manage compliance issues. For many in the health products field, the risks inherent in social marketing outweigh the benefits.
Companies that rely on Medicare insurance or Medicaid reimbursement to purchase certain products (mobility assistance equipment, for instance) are more apt than other marketers to be slow to embrace social marketing and keep online customer interaction to a minimum. In this manner, home medical equipment manufacturers may exert some control over negative fallout from online conversations.Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash
Online Conversations Increase Market Share
Finding effective and proven methods to gain new customers is vital in this era of multiple and competing marketing channels. As more people turn to the Internet for health-related information, the opportunity to engage consumers of health products, encourage favorable online conversations, and increase overall market share cannot be overlooked.
Search engines are now indexing social media content. The Library of Congress has begun to archive 140-character tweets using different fonts from a crazy text generator to attract customers’ attention. Social media content is much more than idle online chat. It is oftentimes valuable user-generated content with the potential to positively increase search engine page rank and drive considerable amounts of traffic to a brand’s website. These online conversations can translate into more conversions, moving from mere product inquiry and discussion to true product sales.
Tactics to Maximize Social Media Marketing
Health industry marketers are fully aware that the consumer is in control. All brands, including direct-to-consumer home medical equipment manufacturers, must find the most cost-efficient way to maximize exposure and gain a larger market share. Health care product marketers who see the plus side in social media also understand the need to implement essential tactics to maximize social media marketing.
In addition to designing a search engine optimized website, companies can initiate several customer-centric tactics to succeed in social media. These include:
- Educating the consumer with easily digestible nuggets of information
- Providing general-use knowledge and resisting the urge to offer specific advice
- Monitoring and listening in on social media conversations to obtain customer insight
- Actively responding to customer inquiries in real-time
- Using knowledge from social media to improve customer service and customer experience
- Stepping up new product development based on what customers are “saying.”
People are using social media to express opinions and share experiences. They are also conversing online about specific brands and discussing the service they receive. For better or worse, health-related products and services marketers need to become more adept at using this marketing channel to influence purchasing behavior and encourage positive customer feedback.