This is the third in a series of articles on “Engagement: Charting a Course for Healthcare Electronic Marketing Success.” See the first article here and the second article here.

Our study of engagement—as referenced in our white paper, Are Your Fans Customers and Your Customers Fans?, and on our Facebook Engagement Quotient (EQ) Chart—focuses on engagement with the goal of increasing a return on investment (ROI) and achieving business, as well as care, objectives. Clearly, there could be other goals for HEM, even other definitions of engagement. But, for us, it’s about enhancing and streamlining how hospitals connect with and care for their patients. This has evolved from our 10 years’ experience helping hospitals and healthcare systems create relevant connections with their patients. Quality content was our base, but we quickly discovered that, for superior engagement, more than superior content is required. Content is only one ingredient in HEM success.

At the same time, content must be of the highest quality. It should be well understood by anyone who has ever searched for health information on the Internet that reliable sources are few and far between. Therefore, hospitals have an opportunity to offer a different class of content—and they must.

In addition, the delivery mechanism of that content should be easy and automatic. It cannot require undue effort by hospital staff or patients (who, you’ll recall, are not just the recipients of your messages but your partners in marketing). No one today can afford these costs of time and effort. But for the content and delivery mechanism to effectively connect your patients with your services, you must have the ability to customize and control your messages. This may seem obvious for social media, yet how often do you address your patients’ top health needs and connect those to your resources? And how do you tailor traditional electronic communication, such as email, to those needs?

Chris Boyer, the director of digital marketing and communications for INOVA Health System in the Washington, D.C. metro area, addressed this in a recent interview for Healthcare Strategy Alert[1]:

“People don’t want to hear about technologies or service line growth initiatives. They want information that can help them improve or manage their health. We have over 1,000 fans on Facebook—not because we are selling them da Vinci robots, but because we are using Facebook as a way to discuss health-related information that might be relevant to them. Every day we put up three to five links that readers might find valuable … information that people tend to like, tend to follow, and tend to promote. So now what you have is that ever-elusive word-of-mouth marketing.”

Boyer is right; the next active ingredient—like the yeast that helps the bread rise—is links of high value to your customers. The ability to include relevant links or other hospital-specific information is critical. This is true regardless of channel or the nature of the communication. (A good benchmark to aim for is to have 30%–50% of your posts pertain to your patients’ health, not just to promoting your institution.)
Engaging your patients is far more valuable when content relates directly to their needs and links them to your resources for the support and referrals they are seeking. Therefore, links can be key contributors to your engagement success. The value of links is substantiated by research: 34% of Internet users, or 25% of adults, have read someone else’s commentary or experience about health on an online news group, website or blog.

If you look at our Facebook EQ Chart, links are included as a key ingredient in engagement success, even though the most important aspect of those links, the clicks, is not publicly available. Links, then, are included as a proxy for clicks, the true engagement ingredient. Think of it this way: While it’s easy to “like” a post (seven times more so compared to comments or clicks, based on the Facebook pages we evaluate weekly), it takes more effort to write a comment.

Next time, we’ll examine why tracking is so important and how there’s more to it than you might think.

Footnote:
1 “Putting Social Networks to Work: How to Strategically Apply Social Media,” by Debbie Reczynski, Healthcare Strategy Alert, 2011 Issue 1, Forum for Healthcare Strategists, produced in cooperation with Coffey Communications Inc.

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