Martin’s Hug For HealthcareSince this post shares lessons from an evolving Internet marketing world without pulling punches; I want to do what a boss taught me. “Martin,” this great boss taught, “Hug more than you smack”.
I can write about The Social Patient because exceptional people dedicate their lives to saving lives like mine. Doctors, nurses and administrators have saved my life more than once. I am a cancer survivor.
I’ve come to know. Dr. Hank van Deventer, my UNC Lineberger Cancer Center oncologist. Dr. Hank is about my age. He is more than my doctor. Hammering Hank is a special man, one of the people who’ve saved my life.
Dr. Hank works in a special place. The more I climb behind the scenes at UNC’s Lineberger Cancer Center the more impressed with their entrepreneurial spirit, openness to change and desire to help becomes.
This ScentTrail Marketing piece on how social media marketing is changing healthcare is not about a place. The Social Patient is about an attitude, a dangerous attitude. It is NOT an attitude healthcare providers don't know about. What most healthcare providers are unaware of is the size and speed of The Social Patient tsunami that is hitting now.
After 12 years in Internet marketing and 20 years as a consumer packaged goods brand marketer I’m familiar with the size and speed of the wave. The wave, no matter how big, can be surfed. Surfing the social media marketing wave in healthcare, surfing The Social Patient, will take a dedicated effort by special heroes to break a healthcare mold generations in the making.
My hope is this post provides HOW healthcare providers can use social media marketing to achieve their goals. How can healthcare providers wax up their boards and surf something I love like life itself – social media marketing.
How Social Media Is Changing HealthcareMy friend and one of the best bosses ever Mary Kay O’Connor created a company called Starting Point. Her company has been working with healthcare providers for years. Mary Kay, one of the best quantitative and qualitative researchers I know, explains how survey based and slow moving the healthcare industry has become.
She explains how surveys were/are created to play for government ratings. It was the way the healthcare game was/is played. Most healthcare providers survey, summarize, analyze and respond with 2% change every five years. This post is about how global completion and social media marketing and the era of The Social Patient is creating a new healthcare.
The Social Patient: Patient StoriesHad a person thank me for sharing my “Patient story” recently. After my diagnosis with cancer I made a decision to share my journey. I’m an Internet marketer and so I am more gregarious online than in person (lol). The first wave that hit after hearing, “Martin you have cancer,” was powerlessness.
I felt like one of Martin Seligman’s subjects. Seligman studied what he named “learned helplessness”, the tendency for subjects in his studies to give up. After reaching a breaking point his subjects, usually dogs, would STOP. No matter what Seligman did helplessness was complete and systematic. He could shock the subject almost to death and no movement.
Kubler-Ross On Death And Dying:
One of the reasons I decided to SHARE anything and everything about having cancer in a "damned the torpedoes full speed ahead" way is sharing creates POWER. I chronicle, share and create plans and so am not helpless in the face of the Big C.
I’ve never had any patience either, so “patient” is a double insult (lol). There is no POWER in “patient” and the word doesn’t describe me. I may have cancer and MS, but I’m HERE and NOW. I get to collaborate and participate in my treatment.
Like many people, I don’t passively consume anything anymore. I watch TV with Twitter running. I take pictures or video with my iPhone to support one of 4 blogs, 5 Twitter accounts, Pinterest, Scoop.it and Facebook. I mash, combine, link, share and move content all day, every day (Thanksgiving and Christmas too :).
I’m still junior in social media marketing, but even I can touch 10,000 people in an instant. My friends can touch a million. Do a six degrees of separation calculation on these numbers and I have the ability to reach more than 5 million people with the right Tweet, blog post or story, and I am still somewhat new to social media marketing. My following is developing. Expect that number to roughly double every year. There are social gurus with much larger tribes of followers and, at some point, each of them will need healthcare services.
Welcome to the world of The Social Patient.
- Death of Doctor Knows best.
- Collaboration Rules.
- Healthcare happens in REAL TIME.
- Marketing only as good as Online Reputation Management (ORM).
- Only as strong as weakest piece of social tapestry.
- Platforms not websites.
- Match WALK and TALK or a dissonant rain will fall.
- Speed is always FASTER.
We live NOW not then. Marcus Welby was an actor named Robert Young who died in 1998. A lot of things were dying in 1998 because the web was cooking Moore’s law (power of transistors doubles even as costs decrease). I launched FoundObjects.com (now RIP) in 1999, bought my first URL in 1993, so the Internet marketing change meme was in town and about to take over the world.
Patronize patients, talk over their heads, make them feel small and they will do two things to level the field. First they will reach for the most immediate empowering tool – social media. God help the healthcare provider who ignores an angry tweet. Ignoring @yourname anything is beyond crazy since it is sure to escalate the “complainer”.
People who use social media to complain aren’t trying to hurt a service provider, they are trying to help the provider and empower themselves. Sure there are exceptions to this rule, trolls who just want to cause harm, but trolls are exceptions. Most people just want recognition and a sense of power.
If, as is usually the case, their negative experience is not isolated then the web forms a tribe helping the complainer and hurting the service provider. Once the complaint is published a tribe forms, a self-reinforcing tribe. One person’s negative experience is now being multiplied by a network effect. OUCH!
The healthcare provider on the wrong end of this social storm is in trouble. A hard rain is about to fall. Collaborate NOW or the storm will rage out of control and cause much more damage. Here are ways a healthcare provider can collaborate to quell the brewing storm:
- Follow the complainer (or Friend them).
- Respond with appreciation.
- Be empathetic.
- Don’t have to agree to be empathetic.
- Listen carefully; mirror some of the language back.
- Recognize the forming tribe.
- Move the conversation to a less damaging place (your blog, or the phone).
The tricky part is “listening” online is different.
Listening in a social world means healthcare providers do “listening” actions such as FOLLOWING. Ever notice how few nonprofits follow many people? I’m a capitalist. I have to worry about my brand looking weak if we follow too many people. When we follow too many, more than are following us, it can feel like we aren’t an authority.
When a powerful nonprofit decides to not follow they miss an opportunity.
Nonprofits who don't follow look like they don’t understand the magical social marketing exemption nonprofits and healthcare providers get – they can follow more people than follow them and it sends a, “They care,” signal. Following is also the first type of online “listening” capable of cutting off a storm before a drop of rain. Healthcare providers should FOLLOW and FRIEND EVERYONE.
My whole life is online. My connectedness may be an exception (not for long), but 90% of the people a healthcare provider treats have LinkedIn profiles. The first healthcare provider that looks at my LI profile visits ScentTrail Marketing, my marketing blog, and asks a question about this or any other post wins advocacy and loyalty forever.
“We don’t have the time to know and treat patients,” I can hear the objection now. To treat me a healthcare provider MUST know me. The fact healthcare providers think medical knowledge is more important than their patients’ lives keeps "customers" in the straight jacket of “patient” instead of the relation sought - collaborative partner in our care.
This doesn’t mean there is a gun to healthcare providers’ heads. It does mean if healthcare providers have someone in their system that shouldn’t be dealing with people the potential brand damage of a consistently BAD node (employee or team) can’t be calculated (but it is easily in the millions of dollars).
In our brave new social world surveys don’t cut it. I don’t fill out surveys. I tweet, blog and pin. Increasingly the only people who will fill out a healthcare survey will say nice things because the sample has shrunk to people who are willing to answer surveys.
The most powerful side of ORM is to use what can be learned to go on offense. Learn the language and sentiment customers use to describe your marketing and the top of the healthcare marketing funnel meets the conversion points at the bottom.
Healthcare providers don’t need an expensive tool such as Radian6 either. Topsy or Google alerts can be great ORM tools. If any healthcare provider doesn’t understand how to set up an early warning ORM I will help free of charge (Martin.Smith(at)Atlanticbt.com). In the age of The Social Patient ORM is critical. Healthcare providers must know what is being said, the context or sentiment of what is being said and the language being used (especially the keywords).
Facebook, Twitter, Scoop.it, Hunch.com, Pinterest and several blogs is the current cost of healthcare provider social poker.
The social tapestry any healthcare provider builds is only as strong as their weakest link. No marketing team can be equally adroit at all social platforms nor should they. Healthcare marketing teams need to be strategic about selection of their main social tool. Pick the open one, the social tool competitors don’t like.
Watch social analytics like hawks on wires looking for dinner. Move emphasis when a tribe of supporters moves. If a practice is 90% breast cancer then Pinterest with its 70% women is a must. If a healthcare practice is more evenly divided and Facebook is an open field then select it as the primary social media weapon.
Don’t be fooled by social media marketing’s smiley faces. Social media is a loaded gun firing SEO bullets. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) controls traffic and traffic is a proxy for people and money. Treat social media like the loaded gun it is and healthcare providers may fend off wolves and not blow off their toe :).
Platforms vs. Websites was about the death of the closed loop, nonsocial website. Healthcare providers are in the platform business now. Platforms are different than website in these ways:
- More social.
- Generate more User Generated content.
- Store and solicit OPC (Other People’s Content).
- Incorporates feeds.
- Curate 90% more content than is being created.
- Be mobile friendly.
Word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing, the way a doctor’s practice has always been built, is still important but social media amps WOM. Social media amplifies the good and the bad. Only platforms have the muscle needed to keep good and bad in check. Only platforms can win enough space in the largest content network ever created (the web) to do the job of helping a practice find the next generation of patients.
Healthcare is different. Healthcare is about saving people’s lives and that is both the good and bad news. If healthcare providers make a mistake and create harm the least of their worries will be the lawsuit. The lawsuit will feel small and feeble compared to the hard rain that can be come after even an honest mistake in social media.
A healthcare provider’s best defense is when brand advocates stand up for them, yet another reason healthcare providers should create PLATFORMS and FOLLOW EVERYONE. Healthcare providers want brand advocates to step in and correct the social record. Brand advocates can more easily point out yes the provider may have made a mistake but today’s mistake is the exception.
I recognize, as I write this, the idea that THEY (customers and patients) are in control will be a TOUGH concept for healthcare providers to get hands around. All brand marketers are getting our hands around how social means less marketing "control". Any healthcare provider's online presence and properties are AT LEAST AS IMPORTANT in a social, global world as the care they provide.
If a healthcare provider’s great care doesn't translate online patients are up for grabs and the healthcare provider will not survive a negative PR storm because there won’t be an army of brand advocates to fight for the provider. Healthcare providers ignore Internet marketing at their peril.
They will be right up to the moment their crosstown competitor hires an Internet marketing consultant. At a lunch last week with two of my Internet marketing friends I realized we only think one way – ATTACK. We've been trained to think this way by years of Internet marketing.
When I managed a $6M website we looked at $2M websites much like a hawk looks at a field mouse. Any innovative thing they did we could steal, solidify and gain from. We had to fight a two front war because the $20M site above us looked down on us with hungry hawk eyes too (lol).
We learned to steal from the small and attack the large. There is no effective online defense against a scaled website. They have the high ground, so smaller websites must, must, must disrupt and attack. There will be miserable defeats, carnage of ideas like never seen, but even defeat is good in the unique ecosystem of Internet marketing.
This is NOT to say we didn't have our own great ideas. We did. You know how we knew the GREAT ideas from the less great ideas? Great ideas were stolen instantly. We could post an idea on Monday and see it on competitive sites by Tuesday.
Everything is in constant motion all the time now. After a healthcare provider joins the battle they become smarter. Healthcare providers should exploit any crack immediately and ATTACK because defense and attack require the same resources but attack pays better :). Healthcare providers might attack and then immediately need to defend, but that is to be expected. Don’t get discouraged or lose focus before attacking again.
The only choice a tuned Internet marketing team has is to ATTACK and then ATTACK some more. In fact, Internet marketers learn to attack more, faster and better while building a platform capable of generating content at rates only dreamed of now. Healthcare providers must tear down and reassemble every preconceived brand notion and business process more, faster and better.
Even as I write this I recognize few health care providers will believe or care about The Social Patient. I know a group who will. Between 200 and 500 people read ScentTrail Marketing daily and between 50 and 100 are from India.
As I write smart fast techies in India are taking notes. By tomorrow they will have the first pieces of a platform built. By next year that platform will have scale and three years from now something that is currently a blip on the US Healthcare Radar, healthcare tourism, will be a flood.
Why? Because the innovative, hungry, smart and FAST techs reading this post in India have nothing to lose. They create or they die. They create or they never were. I hope this post helps US healthcare providers understand how to up their Internet marketing game.
Stay In Touch, Share Your IdeasHope The Social Patient can become a movement (of sorts). If you have ideas and want to help develop The Social Patient into something larger (book or a website) leave a comment or do one of these:
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