How to put the social back into social media

Dave Bargmann
Social media consultant for Duckridge Advisors

While it’s a great thing that more and more companies are jumping aboard the social media bandwagon every day, most providers in the home medical/durable medical (HME/DME) arena still aren’t really grasping the point of doing so and, therefore, missing out on huge opportunities to engage the target audience (patient, referral source, etc.).

OK, so your DME organization may have a Facebook page with the bare minimums filled in and consider your organization social media savvy. That, folks, is not embracing social media.

There’s a finite distinction between social media marketing, and marketing via social media. Social media marketing requires a specific strategy, and most importantly, content designed for each individual platform.

Simply using social media to send out traditional “old school” marketing will not do the trick. When a provider distributes information on social networks, it is not social marketing, specifically if the provider is simply sending information on its latest products for sale, feeding miscellaneous news to its Twitter stream or asking people to simply “Like” your company on Facebook or “Follow” it on Twitter on a weekly basis. This becomes a one-way street that is simply forcing information out, versus engaging your patients and referral sources.

What you need to create is a two-way conversation!

While there are not that many DME providers on Twitter from my analysis, I follow as many that pop into the “Who to Follow” area (Twitter accounts suggested for you based on who you follow and more) and find most are doing social media without attempting to be social. Twitter is perfect for providing 140 characters that can engage your followers in conversation. And produce the end goal of being social via a very cost-friendly medium.

One-way social media marketing draws attention to the fact that you don’t know how to properly utilize this particular space, and that you haven’t taken the time to learn it, or find someone qualified to do it for you. This may gain you followers from the adult film arena, but not from your target audience!

Even more importantly, old-school marketing using new-wave techniques can have the tendency to be viewed as spam, and I haven’t met many that appreciate spam in any form.

Keep in mind, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using traditional marketing to get the word out about your offerings. Press releases, advertising, visits to referral sources, etc. are still extremely valuable for your overall marketing initiative.

Is your marketing sociable…or unsociable?

These days, you have to consider that traditional marketing was a one-way street. Providers would produce a press release, take out an ad in an industry-related or local newspaper or buy billboard space. Their customers would then view it in one of the aforementioned forms, then decide what, or if, they would do anything with the information. Then, based on analytics derived from history, a percentage would respond to the marketing techniques. But there was one important point…the customer could not talk back to these forms of marketing.

Now they can. Social media, in contrast to traditional marketing, is a two-way street. DME providers can still use Twitter and Facebook to distribute the same information they always have, but today, the customer now has the ability—and the willingness—to talk back.

This version of marketing actually permits your customer to tell you how your message is being received. Yes, you heard that correctly. They will tell you if it is right…or wrong! And while this can lead a DME owner to be scared stiff, it provides a lot of new functionality for providers to connect with their audience in new ways not available previously.

Remember, social media is not meant to replace the human touch or interactions with your customers. It provides forums to enhance the patient experience in ways never before available.

However, in the end, if you’re not listening, responding to and engaging with your followers via social media, you’re missing the point, and ultimately, a larger opportunity.