Cocktail parties and backyard barbeques

Providers need to learn how to redefine the role of social media and content marketing within their organizations
Friday, August 23, 2013

Editor’s note: Lisa Wells and Anna McDevitt will conduct a pre-conference workshop at Medtrade on Oct. 7 called “Keeping Your Business Ahead of the Digital Curve.” They will show attendees how to confidently build and manage dynamic digital marketing campaigns that generate online and in-store results. FMI:

It’s about them, not about you

Three years ago, at the HME News Business Summit in Nashville, an esteemed professor from Vanderbilt University spoke on the topic of social media, comparing it to a cocktail party that’s taking place online. When he finished, I took the stage and proclaimed he was right—although, the HME community groups that I work with online would be more likely to describe their social persona as a backyard barbeque.

The tone of the community events you host, whether they are in-person or online, defines the way your guests will engage and remember them. In person, your attendees might snag a souvenir giveaway to save as a memento. Online, your fans will pass along a picture or video that you post, wanting to save it on their page and share it with friends. Both are considered tokens of appreciation by your target audience. 

So while your presence within online forums may vary, what you say and do in these forums makes a difference. It can be the difference in turning a fan or friend into an active customer.

Remember the golden rule for social success: It’s about them, not about you.

—Lisa Wells

Personality first, sales pitches second

Perhaps you and your team decide you “really should” get involved with social media or expand your online presence. Then days turn to weeks, which turn to months—and you still have no progress. Does this sound familiar? For many providers, the biggest hurdle is not the concept or idea of online marketing, but the effort of content development itself that stands in the way of cyber success.

This is why the backyard barbecue idea is so helpful. The tone of the content you develop to post online is a lot like the manners you use in a social setting. Picture yourself attending a friend’s party. Now picture yourself stuck talking to “that guy” who just won’t stop talking about the product he sells. He doesn’t even pretend to be interested in you or your life. Are you likely to seek him out for conversation at the next party? Probably not. Are you likely to seek him out after the party to buy his product? Definitely not.

The online presence of your company works the same way. Much like social gatherings, people engage in social media online to be social: to interact, to find new information, to make friends. Let your customers get to know the personality of your company (and learn a little about them!) before you start introducing your sales pitches.

—Anna McDevitt

Lisa Wells is the president of Get Social Consulting. Reach her at 678-232-1330 or visit

Anna McDevitt is the  president of Laboratory Marketing. Reach her at 248-227-6930 or visit