Tardy for the Party: Medical Marketing and Social Media

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Is it HIPAA-noia? A fear of lack of control? Whatever the reason, most medical marketers have been late to the social media party. All that, however, seems to changing according to a recent article on Portfolio.com: “This is new territory for medical marketing. Ten years ago, it was innovative if hospitals had websites. Now, medical institutions area tweeting, creating Facebook pages, making videos for YouTube and posting photos on Flickr.”

While we cheer this growing acknowledgement of social media as a marketing tool, we wonder about the effectiveness of most hospitals’ efforts as they “dip their toes into the water.” Are they building engagement? Are they forming communities? Are they advancing their brand and differentiating?

Social media without a social media marketing strategy may help us develop Facebook “likers” or Twitter followers, but we’ll never get the kind of engagement that will build an engaged audience and meet our objectives.

So what do we do? Let’s look at what Media Logic is doing for one of its medical clients, a large multi-site radiology practice in New Jersey, Altantic Medical Imaging or AMI. Radiology is a highly competitive field with private specialty practices jousting for patients with large medical institutions and multi-specialty physician groups.

To position AMI as a technological forerunner and thought leader, Media Logic focused their social media efforts on building awareness of one of the hottest issues in radiology — potentially excessive exposure to radiation. Dr. David Dow, an AMI radiologist and an ardent spokesperson for low dose radiologic techniques, became a spokesperson for the practice through topical blog posts, supported by Twitter and Facebook submissions.  Through a carefully planned content marketing strategy, link-building and traffic generation, AMI now appears at the top of the list for local Google searches and has developed a growing community of loyal and engaged followers.

So what does this mean for larger, more diverse institutions? Most importantly, this is your opportunity to shine – but you’ll likely never find the spotlight with an all encompassing hospital effort. It will be too broad and, frankly, too “institutional.” Focus on one of your “centers of excellence” as a beginning. Then, while it may be politically difficult, you’re going to need to have a “voice” or “voices” — real, live people to spearhead the conversation and create engagement. Finally, you’re going to need to develop an ongoing source of fresh and relevant content. For AMI, Media Logic’s Zeitgeist & CoffeeSM process has helped scour the landscape for up-to-the minute topics, trends and commentary. On the backend, precise tracking and analysis will help you determine which topics and discussion items are doing the “heavy lifting.”

It’s taken medical marketers 10 years to realize the promise of the Web. The smart ones won’t wait so long this time around.