Social media can be powerful…if used properly

Phil Baumann is one of the healthcare industry’s top social media voices. A nurse by training, Baumann runs the website Health Is Social and was writing about the ways Twitter could be used in healthcare before many healthcare organizations knew Twitter existed. And in a recent blog post, he raised the question of whether or not  healthcare marketers are ruining Twitter by overusing hashtags, sending out spam and other lame tweets simply to shout their message and otherwise abusing what can and should be a very powerful communications tool.

The same lesson applies to other industries.

Social Media is not only another tool your business can leverage to improve its product/service offering, it’s something that businesses should use if it adds value to your business. But as with any tool, you need to use Social Media correctly or it could backfire. Just as a construction worker shouldn’t use a jackhammer without knowing how to use it and what to use it for, nor should a communications professional use Social Media.

The key to using Social Media properly is the ability to listen to what your customers are saying about your product and/or its market. Social Media allows even Ordinary Joes and Janes to become, in essence, Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs in marketing venacular) if they’re followed by enough people interested in the subject. A tweet or blog post is not just another means of shouting your message the way you would with a television advertisement.

Loading your tweets up with hashtags just to maximize your tweet’s exposure won’t turn that exposure into a return on your investment. If anything, it will come across as just another cheap play for their interest. Same for sending out an automatic tweet to someone whenever they follow you. The most annoying ones are the automatic tweets that you receive whenever you mention a product in a tweet, regardless of the context. I randomly mentioned the iPad in a tweet one Sunday night during my weekly participation in the Healthcare Social Media tweet chat and promptly received two autotweets from people offering to sell me an iPad. Oh joy.

Don’t use Social Media unless you’ve thought through what you want to get out of it, you know how to use it and you and your organization are ready to make the commitment necessary to do it. When you are ready to jump in, be ready to do a whole lot of listening and reacting. Save the one-way shouting for your paid advertising and media outreach.

Do it, but do it right.

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