Ninety-three percent of marketers will be maintaining or increasing how much they are spending on social media advertising in 2014, according to a new report from eMarketer. But where should healthcare marketers be focusing their attentions to get the most bang for their buck, not to mention their valuable time?
Social media strategy in 2014 will shift focus away from increasing the number of likes/followers your brand has to engaging your target audience through organic interactions. Marketers will need to adapt quickly across many social media channels in order to incorporate micro-video, image-centric content and native advertising into the mix. And finally, if you haven’t built out your brand’s Google+ profile yet you are already behind.
Healthcare marketers aim to leverage social media to build authentic connections with members of their healthcare organization’s community. For many, that means working on the tangibles such as gaining Facebook Likes or Twitter followers. The focus is growing the audience then posting content on the social media channels to bring traffic to the hospital’s website. But that completely undermines the “social” in social media. It’s a one-way conversation. As a marketer, focusing on obtaining those Likes without any kind of organic interaction strategy is a wasted effort.
Not to mention social media sites like Facebook and Twitter sort posts on their feeds to show the content they think will be the most relevant to their users. The same logic works for them as it does Google search: if users find things relevant to them they are much more likely to engage with the content and return to use that service/network again. Facebook’s algorithm for sorting Top Stories (default setting on everyone’s current Facebook feed) only shows 16% of posts from pages or organizations they have Liked.
Organic interactions are the intangibles of social media (although you can measure reach and influence to a certain degree on some channels, but not all). They come into play when users talk about or interact with content related to your organization on social media. When this happens, marketers have a small window of time to turn that user into a brand advocate by positively interacting with them. More often than marketers realize, this content is actually user-created (an Instagram selfie of them bored in your waiting room, for example) as opposed to marketing-generated (a diabetic-friendly recipe posted for Thanksgiving). That’s why it’s so important for marketers to have a presence on a range of channels. By becoming a multi-channel marketer, you are able to monitor your brand’s reputation and influence the organic conversations taking place on those channels.
Back in February I first introduced healthcare marketers to Twitter-owned Vine on the GeoVoices blog. When Facebook-owned Instagram added video capabilities to their application back in June, micro-video became a full-fledged social media trend to watch. By October 2013, Vine had over 40 million active monthly users while Instagram boasts over 150 million.
It seemed marketers were struggling to justify the value in micro-video platforms. Struggling, that is, until earlier this month when Snapchat turned heads their direction by rejecting Facebook’s $3 billion offer to acquire it. Facebook was likely after Snapchat due to the app’s popularity with the demographic they are currently losing popularity with: teens. Did I mention Snapchat has over 350 million monthly active users as of September 2013? To put that into perspective, Twitter has 232 million monthly active users.
According to Ed Bennett and Mayo Clinic’s Healthcare Social Media List, about 65% of healthcare organizations in the US have Twitter accounts. Micro-video is still new so it’s unknown how many are using Vine, Instagram, Snapchat or lesser-knowns like Keek or Tout. But I’m guessing very few… for now. Some healthcare organizations have found creative ways to leverage micro-video, but overall there is still a lot of room for the clever and bold marketer to make an impact. The key is to tell a compelling story in order to elicit a response from your target audience in 15 seconds or less. As Snapchat brought to everyone’s attention, micro-video consumption is becoming a fast-growing part of consumer’s lives. That’s why it will be critical for healthcare marketers to incorporate these new social media channels into their content strategy in 2014.
The brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text and most people (between 65% and 85%) consider themselves visual learners. Which could partially account for the rapid rise of image-centric social media sites such as Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr in the past few years. Another influential factor would be the high ownership rate of cell phones (91% according to Pew Internet). About 43% of global Internet users have shared a photo in the past month alone.
Utilizing the right image on social media channels solicits stronger emotional reactions than text-only posts. When users emotionally connect with content they find online it translates into a higher engagement rate and an increased shareability factor. This is when marketing-generated content turns into user-curated content and is spread on and across social media channels.
Content posted on social media should also provide value to the end user and be findable. Properly tagging posts with common hashtags and properly categorizing the content will help influential users on those channels find it. By focusing on relevant, shareable visual content you set yourself up for opportunities to expand your target audience. When healthcare marketers become publishers of engaging content, everyone wins. It is more important than ever for marketers to create a social media strategy that communicates their brand in the most visually impactful way possible.
As we discussed on GeoVoices back in September, now is the time to dust off your Google+ account and do some work. As Google strives to make the Web a personalized experience from social to search, Google+ will continue to rapidly grow in usage and influence. With 300 million active Google+ users and 540 million users engaging with some form of Google product monthly, Google+ has quickly outpaced Twitter to become the second biggest social network behind Facebook.
The main reason for this growth is that Google continues to integrate their services with features that require businesses and individuals to have Google+ accounts in order to use them. Google Authorship and Google Publisher were just the beginning. Recently Google changed YouTube’s commenting policy to require that comments be connected to a Google+ profile or page.
This move reveals Google’s increasing focus on social signals as an influence on search rankings. Google will always be a bit tight-lipped with how its search algorithm really works, but these moves are big indicators for what could be coming. A brand’s Google+ page may not directly impact search ranking right now, but it won’t be long until it could be a major factor in the equation. Healthcare marketers need to stop viewing Google+ as a ghost town and start building out their healthcare organization’s Google+ business profile. Start by updating your organization’s profile, posting original content, then networking through circles as soon as possible.
Business Insider defines native advertising as, “Ads that are seamlessly integrated into a user’s feed and are nearly indistinguishable from organic content.” They also project that native advertising will be at least 40% or more of over $10 billion in social media ad spend by 2017. It’s no surprise that social media channels and marketers are working together to create a highly visual and non-disruptive ad format like native advertising. It was the next logical step after Internet users became desensitized (and annoyed) by traditional Web banners and pop-up windows.
Best practices for native advertising are quite simple and effective:
- Be Transparent: Identify that your ad is sponsored so the audience doesn’t feel tricked into seeing your branded content as opposed to organic content they visited the site for originally. This way the consumer doesn’t bounce from the website feeling duped or confused.
- Be Compelling: Make sure the advertisement is not only highly visual, but is also highly engaging. Native advertisements are so successful because the content is on par with the quality of the organic content.
- Be Discoverable: Native advertising should also be easily found through proper tagging and placements on social networks your target audience visits. The advertisements and any landing pages they lead visitors to should always be mobile-ready.
At the end of the day, all the social media trends gaining steam heading into 2014 are all about personalization. I’m not talking about the creepy kind of personalization. I’m talking about tailoring your social media efforts to your target audience in order to provide them real value. Take the time to do more than just copying and pasting links from your website over to your social media channels and calling it a strategy. Interact with your consumers to discover what they really want and deliver it to them. No one can do the social media networking for you. It’s about being well rounded in your digital marketing approach and being where your audience is already.