Since the fall of 2011, more than ten percent of the world’s population is on Facebook, where users share images, stories, and conversations about their lives. A quarter-billion tweets are posted every day on Twitter. Google’s gotten into the game with Google+. Blogs, microblogs, online video channels and online photo albums are multiplying fast.
New platforms for content distribution are being created and more and more people are using and sharing them, as well. Pinterest’s popularity skyrocketed after launch, and it became one of the top 3 social networks in less than eight months. Instagram was just purchased a few months ago by Facebook for $1 billion only two years after launch.
Social media is also changing the way we approach healthcare marketing and advertising. TV, radio, newspaper, and magazine advertisement spending is going down rapidly as companies move dollars toward the internet. Meanwhile, consumers have become more skeptical and resentful of advertisement and are turning to the internet to discover more reliable information.
As such, healthcare marketers must adapt their approach. Now more than ever, gaining and retaining clients is not just about crafting a message to reach consumers; it’s about building trust.
Why Focus on Trust
Since the economic situation and the prosperity of most Americans took a turn for the worse within the last few years, trust in businesses — including the marketing, health-care, pharmaceutical, and insurance industries — has plummeted. People react to negative news with resentment and wariness.
The internet has facilitated an exponential growth in word-of-mouth and peer-to-peer evaluations of businesses. Consumers have easy access to the unbiased and unfiltered opinions of their peers, and are more likely to trust those opinions than information from companies when making decisions — especially when they don’t have time to make sense of the overwhelming amount of marketing messages consumers are subjected to today. Add growing distrust of advertisement, and it becomes clear that earning consumer trust is the single most important thing when attempting to expand a customer base.
The logical question is simple: How do I build trust?
First, make it easier to find you as a source. Rather than interrupting a consumer’s search for information with a barrage of advertising, cultivate referrals and let them come to you. Then, when consumers discover you, ensure you have intellectual authority and a clear vision of how you will provide value.
Furthermore, you have to demonstrate genuine and consistent ethics, trustworthiness, and value. Healthcare decisions are often both emotionally sensitive and logically complex, and anyone who is perceived as taking advantage of patient or consumer vulnerability will be very quickly excluded from the customer’s consideration. When you deliver a message, have and demonstrate a solid grounding in fact. Reference sources whenever stating a fact or asserting a claim.
Fear, Hope & Love
It is important to remember that consumers formulate and express opinions on health services with three main emotions: fear, love, and hope. If you can allay fear, respect consumers’ desire for their loved ones to thrive, and provide legitimate hope that you can address their concerns, you will have made a meaningful connection that the consumer will tell other people about.
In an established business, you already probably have the trust of many customers. This provides a great base to build upon as you embrace social media. If you connect online with people already familiar with your great services, you’ll have a base of potential advocates and a good start to your online marketing efforts.
Online social marketing does provide many advantages over traditional media. If you’re willing to put the thought and time into it, you have much more opportunities than before to engage consumers rather than just broadcasting messages to them. You can publish content more easily and through more channels than before, and with the proliferation of mobile broadband data access and wireless devices, people can access it easily from wherever they are. In addition, it’s much more direct and less expensive to conduct market testing, and companies can even collaborate on projects, gaining visibility within each other’s customer base.
These efforts will be ongoing. This is not a fad, nor is it just another item on the healthcare marketing laundry list. This is a fundamental shift in how information is disseminated. People who need to market a product must consider consumers’ changing behaviors and thought patterns. Then, they must consider from a fresh perspective how they want to spend limited time and money to reach prospective customers.
The bottom line is, trust is essential, and you can build it by making yourself prominent and easy to find, by demonstrating knowledge and value, and by being trustworthy.