Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Follow your brand strategy, especially while on the road of social media.

Lots of terrific feedback and post-posting comments about social networking from the last blog entry ("Is your social networking strategy a portal or a porta-potty").  In fact, several requests for a follow-up on how hospitals can differentiate their social networking strategies, much like they do their brands.

Raises a very interesting point.  Your social networking strategy using tactics such as Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and others, should stay the course of your brand strategy and become yet another demonstration of your brand promise in the marketplace.  Not veer off, exit, or take a sudden turn from your brand pathway.

At the time of this writing, as researched by Ed Bennett (ebennett.org) , 277 hospitals are involved in social networking.  Here's a breakdown of how many are using what:    

  • 135 YouTube Channels
  • 101 Facebook pages
  • 201 Twitter Accounts
  • 25 Blogs
The list is growing fast and, predictably, so is the "vanilla flavor" (aka undifferentiated) of most hospital social networking initiatives.  Take the list above, double it in six months and most likely you will lose your "first in" position in your marketplace and become another "me too."

Since Henry Ford Hospital in Michigan was the first to "tweet" a surgery, many others have followed suit or are considering such a move.  Here's the point:  If your brand strategy positions your hospital or health network as a leader in technology/surgery, then yes, this is the type of social networking you should employ.  It supports your brand promise!

Why would a hospital, positioned as "family friendly,"  put surgery on YouTube?  Doesn't quite make the same sense.  Instead, this organization should be seeking ways to use social media to reach out to family members and update them on the condition of a loved one.  They could start "fan" pages for their patients so family members can follow their progress.  They should be blogging about family health risks and providing links to family "health" trees.  All these types of activities support the brand promise and unique position in the market.

That's the point.   Your brand strategy needs to stay the course and be supported by ALL your marketing and media initiatives, including social networking.  Don't rush in with a "me too" Twitter strategy or Facebook entry.  Make it unique to your brand and organization.  It will work harder and serve to differentiate your brand - which is the ultimate purpose of a brand strategy.

So, here's a half-dozen steps to take to help maintain the course of your brand strategy in the social networking arena:

1.  Re-familiarize yourself with your brand promise - that succinct promise and handshake you make to each of your customers.
2.  Discuss with your new "best friends" (IT, web masters, etc.) your organization's brand promise and how it needs to shine through in your social networking strategies.
3.  Develop specific goals you want to measure your social networking efforts against, start there - with goals, not the tactics and tools.   
4.  Then, create social networking strategies and tactics that support your goals and brand promise.  Complete this statement:  "We can best showcase our brand in social networking by________________, because it will _____________________, and it will differentiate our hospital in these ways; ________________________.
5.  Serial execution.  Unlike other marketing communications initiatives, this one doesn't go away once it hits the streets.  Nope, this execution requires constant (constant!) attention. Assign responsibilities, timelines, and a schedule of tactics and messaging.
6.  Measure.   Remember that with social networking strategies you can  build "Fans" and "Followers" into your marketing plans as legitimate metrics.  How cool it is to launch a social networking program and within days,  view the number of people who are opting  to follow you!

Just like brand management, customer service, product development, and advertising are all designed to support your brand story, social networking and media should do the same thing. Use these new channels to work hard and differentiate your brand, not just compete, twit for tat.



Mosquitoman said...

Social media, like all other media, are merely the conduits for a message. Certainly, a hospital's message needs to reflect its brand strategy. But what's especially important when using social media is NOT focusing on what you want to say. Rather, what's critical is focusing on what audience members (internal and external) need to hear. After all, you want your readers to come back again and again. You want them to dialogue with you. To that point, the best audiences for any hospital to target are those with chronic conditions. By definition, they are the people who will come back again and again IF your hospital's social media offers them real value. Obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, Alzheimers Disease, psychological disorders and other conditions are all ideal topics to attract and capture participants for a hospital's social media efforts.

Rob Rosenberg, President, Springboard Brand & Creative Strategy said...

Thanks, Mosquitoman, for a thoughtful addition to this post.