OK— I consider myself a good listener. But if I heard people talking about me – good or bad – I think I’d want to jump in. And here at the end of 2009, well into the age of social media, you can hear people talking about your brand all the time. But maybe you haven’t taken the plunge. Maybe you don’t have more than a few Facebook fans and haven’t tweeted a word. Not to worry. Just take this one piece of advice from the social media gurus and put it at the top of that New Year’s resolution list: Listen before you leap.
Healthcare marketers know about listening. What other industry is required to continuously collect customer satisfaction data and make it publicly available? (HCAHPS) But social media gives us a chance to hear more than survey results. Now we can hear conversations.
While there are sophisticated social media monitoring tools like BuzzStream, I’d suggest that a healthy dose of curiosity and a few free tools like Google Alerts and Google Blogsearch combined with searches on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook can be a great start.
Listening is a favorite topic of social media gurus like Brian Chappel. Writing on Jim Tobin’s Ignite Social Media blog, he says there are four things to listen for. I’ve added a comment here and there for healthcare marketers.
• Listen to and about your competition and their marketing. You’ll hear them talking. You’ll hear their patients. It’s even HIPPA-compliant to listen!
• Listen for your fans—and do respond. It’s never too early to ask a friend or fan to link to you and ask if you can link them. Grow a relationship. Sooner or later everyone cares about healthcare.
• Listen to what’s on people’s minds—are more people talking about having babies or getting hip replacements? Take note of where you could contribute. Listen for ideas, too. Eventually you’ll want to collaborate with consumers on solving problems or improving services.
• Listen to what people are saying about you. I’m listing this one last because, for many healthcare marketers, it’s the hardest. So practice first. Take notes. Consider the different ways you could respond. Individually or publicly? In words or in actions? At the marketing/PR level, the leadership level or departmental level?
Social media puts a community of healthcare consumers on your desktop—where you can (and should) listen before you leap. Wishing you a happy (and healthful) new year!