PRSA Health Academy: Groundswell Author Speaks on Social Media

I’m currently attending the 20th Annual PRSA Health Academy meeting in Washington DC.  The opening speaker is Josh Bernoff, Forrester analyst and Groundswell author.

Bernoff mentioned that in times of trouble, word of mouth is the most important factor in decision making.  So, how do you put together a strategy for applying social media technology to our healthcare communications challenges?

Chasing the technology is a losing proposition.  Successful social media strategy begins with clear objectives.  This seems like a no-brainer – without objectives, you rarely accomplish anything meaningful.  That said, the current infatuation with much of social media is driven by a general “cool factor” and some fear of missing the boat on the next big thing.

The Groundswell book lays out tools and an approach to getting started:

POST – People/Objectives/Strategy/Technology

  • People – Assess where you customers are.  Groundswell has a methodology for identifying your audience in terms of social media participation – it’s called the social technographics ladder.  It also offers tools for assigning audiences to roles.  An example of this for healthcare can be seen in this recent article.
  • Objectives
    • Research –> Listening
    • Marketing –> Talking
    • Sales –> Energizing
    • Support –> Supporting
    • Development –> Embracing
  • Strategy – Some examples:
    • Tampons: You can’t just create a community for tampons.  P&G created BeingGirl.com, sponsored by their products.  It includes some “ask the expert” functions.
    • Alli (GSK): They are doing some good community work.  They offer a pre-moderated community and check every comment before posting.
    • Reyataz – HIV: They created an online social network to change their perception to be seen as supportive of the HIV community.
    • Gardasil – Merck vaccine for HPV: Some controversy around this, so they created a Facebook page.  50,000 friends.  They feel it creates a perception of market support for their efforts.
    • Inspire – Support with a unique model: Inspire.com is free to organizations – it allows them to set up communities.  Financial model: Pharma companies pay to recruit members into clinical trials.
  • Technology – It should be your last consideration.  Find which solutions match your strategy.

Most of this is not revolutionary, but Bernoff provides a good research-based framework around which to build your strategy for engagement.  It begins with where your audience is communicating and the roles they play in their communities.  There’s no better place to begin than that.  Great kickoff for the conference.

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Ben Dillon

About Ben Dillon

Ben’s a big picture type of guy. He loves sharing new ideas in digital marketing, keeping a watchful eye on healthcare industry trends and seeing how it all intersects. A sought-after speaker, writer, blogger and current SHSMD board member, Ben’s an influential voice in healthcare marketing, helping organizations across the country embrace online strategies to engage health consumers. Combine his industry savvy with his background in software development and you can see why he’s also an important member of Geonetric’s software team, ensuring our content management system stays a step ahead of market needs. Ben holds a master’s degree in eBusiness and strategic management from the University of Iowa and a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the University of Michigan. When he’s not traveling and evangelizing, Ben enjoys cooking with his family and playing the Big House with the University of Michigan Alumni marching band.

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