It’s 11 p.m. on a Sunday night and your child is complaining of an earache.
Your dreams of a restful night’s sleep? They’re headed out the window.
Do you call your doctor’s after-hours line and leave a voicemail?
You most likely turn to the 24/7 medical advice service that’s always happy to make house calls: The internet.
Technology has revolutionized how consumers access information, with answers to everyone’s burning questions a simple search query away.
Where past generations relied on counsel from trusted doctors and other health professionals, many individuals today simply hop on WebMD or shout out their symptoms in social media forums.
This transformation has certainly improved access to vital health data, but it’s also resulted in the sharing of misinformation, diminishing authority for healthcare professionals and a rash of consumers convinced that pesky mole on their forearms is something more insidious.
Yet the online landscape also presents opportunities, especially for healthcare organizations looking to proactively engage modern consumers.
Approximately one-third of internet users go online to find information related to hospitals, health insurance and pharmaceuticals, and social media is increasingly the center of this activity.
Forty-one percent of people said social media would affect their choice of doctor, hospital or medical facility. And more than 40% of consumers said information uncovered on social media impacts the way they deal with their health.
Our digital reality opens the door to greater knowledge regarding health-related issues, but it often sidesteps healthcare professionals altogether. The men and women whose expertise should be shaping online discussions – the arbiters of your healthcare brand – are often absent from the conversation.
Combating this trend is about more than reasserting your organization as a trusted authority—it relates to a core concept of health care: “first, to do no harm.”
Your healthcare organization owes it to the public to understand the information people are seeking and present accurate, helpful content to counterbalance the web’s digital detritus.
Let’s face it: Health care is scary to the average person. Much of the general population views it as costly, confusing and complicated. This breeds mistrust, as well as the tendency to view health care as an intimidating, monolithic system.
It’s time for healthcare organizations to rethink their positioning, refine their reputations and humanize their brands. All this can be accomplished using the same platform driving the current transformation: social media.
Social listening allows your healthcare organization to collect and collate unbiased, unfiltered social media conversations to better understand the collective conscious of today’s healthcare consumers.
In short, social listening shows what questions people are asking and where they’re asking them, all without forcing you to traverse the risky terrain of HIPAA. Your organization isn’t divulging consumers’ personal information or accessing private files—it’s simply learning from publicly stated questions and concerns.
Approximately one-quarter of brands engage in social listening, and of those that do, 86% are able to use it to track customer requests, questions and concerns, as well as competitors (77%), industry terms and trends (61%) and industry influencers (60%).
By empowering your team to monitor social media for keywords and themes surrounding specific healthcare topics, you can identify the information the general public is asking for.
Armed with today’s widely available social listening tools, members of your marketing, customer service, communications and public relations teams will be able to zero in on the social networks and websites consumers engage with, indicating where and how to publish content to maximize reach.
Establishing your brand as a thought leader in the healthcare industry comes much easier when you’re adding to the online conversations consumers care about, as well as tracking changes in consumer health trends.
Even better, allowing health specialists on your staff to educate social users will provide a human face that inspires connection and builds long-standing relationships.
Doing so may also be a key differentiator for your healthcare brand. Only 31% of healthcare organizations have bothered to put their social media guidelines in writing, showing a serious lack of investment in consumers’ communication channel of choice. And of the healthcare brands that actively leverage social, many are solely focused on promoting their products, service lines and providers.
Healthcare organizations should be on the front line of conversations surrounding health care as a whole, and social listening indicates just where that line is. You should own your online messaging and inform healthcare consumers on the important topics they care about.
There’s no going back to our pre-digital world. A third of planet Earth’s population is expected to be active on social by 2021, and that number will only continue to grow.
What healthcare organizations must do now is take control of their digital destinies and put current trends to work on their behalf. That starts by ensuring patients have access to meaningful and accurate information that inspires trust and loyalty in your expert opinions, products and services.
So if your digital strategy could use a check-up, stop reacting to today’s trends and start pursuing a proactive solution to enhance relationships with your target audiences.