Social Media and Healthcare – Interesting Video

My friends at Awareness Networks posted a video a while back that will be of interest to the healthcare industry in Australia

What’s interesting to note is that we’re seeing increasing instances where healthcare institutions are employing social media managers so as to manage community engagement via social channels. Here in Australia this will be seen as a massive leap forward, in fact I’m yet to see any local hospital or health care group start to engage via social media. What they should be taking from this video is evidence that a safe, personal, and sustainable approach to engagement via social media is possible.

Actually getting started in using social channels doesn’t need to be complex for a hospital. It could be a simple 3-step plan like this:

  1. Establish your presence in 2-3 channels (based on the demographics of your community)
  2. Have a look at what others are doing and learn from them
  3. Start by communicating simple information about your hospital – humanise things

I hope in 2011 we’ll start to see evidence of this market starting to experiment with social media.

Social Content Marketing Webinar

On Wednesday the 8th December we’re holding our first webinar with Mike Lewis from Awareness Networks. We partnered with Awareness earlier this year to help introduce their Social Marketing Hub into the APAC market.

I’ve known Mike for quite a few years and I’ve come to respect and trust his thinking around social media and specifically social media marketing. Mike has a very practical perspective on social media marketing and has also interviewed many of the industry’s leading thinkers including David Meerman Scott, Marta Kagan, Brian Solis, and Erik Qualman (author of one of my current favourite books – Socialnomics).

I noted earlier this year that the focus for Australian companies going into 2011 needs to move away from whether social media is worth it to a focused effort to be an active participant. It’s with this in mind that the focus of this webinar with Mike is to discuss the finer points of developing and implementing a multi-channel social content marketing plan.

You can find out more about our social content marketing webinar here and given this webinar is early afternoon Australian time – I’d encourage anyone who’s interested in this subject to register as it’s not often we get this type of webinar at a respectable time down here.

Developing a Social Commerce Strategy

Last month I wrote about an emerging trend that I was following – Social Commerce.

The idea that you need to take the point of sale to wherever your customers are talking is intriguing for a number of reasons, not the least being I own a business that sells products into segments that are heavy Facebook users.

For this specific business, we’ve focused a lot of effort over the past two years on socialising how we sell and introducing social content and services into our ecommerce platform. This has been a major competitive advantage for us as we compete with some of Australia’s largest bricks & mortar retailers where their social strategy has been “me sell – you buy”.

The challenge going forward is whether we need to try and create a sale at the point of social. The reason I say this is that “Like”, “Poke”, “thumbs up”, or “someone like me” has become the trusted source for purchasing decisions – and into this we have to factor the Bing/Facebook alliance:

”Starting today, Bing is integrating data from your friends and social network into search results. This could include information on “likes”, reviews, photos and links from your friends into your search experience.“
The Bing/Facebook Alliance – Oct 15, 2010

As this starts to become more disruptive I’m convinced we need to in fact segment our strategy and develop a whole approach that enables commerce at the point of social. If I look at Facebook for example my thinking now isn’t that I want to be active on Facebook (through fan pages, and advertising) so as to connect and get them over to my ecommerce site; rather I want to treat Facebook as its own parallel universe – I want to contain the whole connection, engagement, and then transaction within Facebook – with the exception being subtle prompts that the fan could leave Facebook and source additional information from our other channels if they need it.

Now as I start to forumulate this strategy, it (in simple terms) includes the following considerations:

  1. Specific fan pages based on the demographic we want to target
  2. Product bundles, offers that are unique to the platform – and in saying this I don’t mean discounting (don’t get me started on Groupon) – I mean value-add, uniqueness.
  3. Facebook ads targeted across brand awareness building, special offers, feedback capture, polls etc.
  4. An ROI that might be measured across a different time period than a traditional marketing campaign.

Have I missed anything?

Finally, one question keeps coming back to me – and I have to admit I don’t know the answer to this one – Will users actually purchase on a social platform like Facebook?

Australian Sports Team Behind the times on Social Media

An article on news.com.au last week really surprised me. The article notes that Australian Rugby League team the Penrith Panthers have banned players and staff from using Facebook and Twitter.

Whilst I understand the why bit – clearly there are risks and these risks need to be managed – I wasn’t getting why they would take this approach. An approach that I feel is wrong.

At the heart of this issue is a desire by the sports team to protect the social identity of the core group – this is basically online reputation management

Here’s the key point – Online reputation management is not achieved by banning the use of tools like Facebook and Twitter. If anything, a ban may lead to a bigger opportunity for misrepresentation of players and executives.

There is a better way.

Here are some key points that I’d make to the Penrith Panthers Executive Group:

  • The clubs should be actively involved in education - I know most clubs do this now, but I believe it needs to extend beyond the players – player families, fans, sponsors, and their own employees.
  • Develop and institute a post education program so that the right people are in the right places – we refer to this as digital custodianship. Just as clubs often have appropriately qualified security experts on hand to monitor face to face engagements (i.e. club functions etc), they need to adopt a similar mindset for the social/digital world.
  • Develop and distribute a social media incident plan – Most clubs have plans and training in place to deal with real world incidents, they need to take this mindset into the social world. The easiest way to think about this is the 3 C’s of being a Digital Custodian
  • Will anyone remember the ban - are fans really going to remember in a few weeks, months, or even next season whether specific players have official profiles?

There are many examples from around the world of how pro sports teams are getting their heads around social media and how to harness the potential whilst mitigating the risks.

Used the right way, engaging with social media can be a showcase for the player and act as a channel to demonstrate to potential sponsors the image, reputation, and values of a player. Some players may use this as a way of communicating how they get involved in local communities. Why let the mainstream media control what is written about the code or about players?

Beware the Social Media Snake Oil

A bit has been written in the past about the number of clowns flooding into the social media space basically conning companies into spending money to build a social media profile. This article last year from BusinessWeek and a follow on post from Olivier Blanchard touch on some of these issues.

Here in Australia I’ve seen these types of people and organisations popping up around the web – in many cases offering low cost programs that involve nothing more than setting up a Twitter account and Facebook page. And unfortunately it’s not just limited to social media – I see the same happening in the digital marketing and online reputation management space.

I saw evidence of this first hand last week with a new client. They had engaged a Sydney company to build a ‘social brand’ for them. The end result was beyond ordinary – it was wrong on so many fronts. The biggest issue however wasn’t the shoddy work. They had made 3 or 4 grave mistakes that someone in their position, with their experience shouldn’t be making.

Mistake #1 – Strategy

There wasn’t any.

The vendor has sold the client a solution that is totally lacking in any form of strategy – and this from a company where the executives claim to be ex-IBM. This company also proudly states they are a leader in digital marketing and social media.

The problem with this is that the vendor has committed their client to a whole raft of services with nothing in place to guide or measure this effort. They’ve basically set them up to fail.

Mistake #2 – Brand Disintegration

This vendor talks long and hard about building a social brand, yet all the work they’ve done fails to incorporate the clients brand name in any of the services they’ve set up. I honestly don’t get this.

Here’s a client that is pure B2B, only Australia, and looking to establish themselves as an alternative to a group of competitors who are mega-sized and mega-hated in the business community. I look down the list of 23 services that they were signed up for and NOT once has their core brand been used.

Mistake #3 – Focus and Alignment

Nothing had been done to understand the clients business – this has led to the client being signed up to dozens of services – some of them quite bizarre. Why register them on MySpace or a community site for expat Indian’s? Again, this is a waste of client time and money.

The situation is made worse by the fact none of this is aligned to their overall business strategy, let alone their marketing strategy.

Lessons?

Firstly, I don’t know that this problem is going to disappear overnight. One of the reasons I think this is that many of Australia’s core business hubs (i.e. our major capital cities) have highly concentrated mainstream media. This same media has a fixation with the bird and the book – making it easier for clowns like this company to sell the snake oil.

For businesses who are thinking about social media? The lesson is to put the hype aside and focus on determining where you’ll achieve business value. Don’t be afraid to ask old-school business questions around relevance, sustainability, TCEP (Total Cost of Effective Participation), and strategy examples.

If someone’s selling you the dream, ask them to bring you examples of relevant peer companies.

For those of us who work in this space – we need to spend time debunking the hype and getting back to business basics. At the end of the day, we’ve got to demonstrate how social media will help a company make money, save money, or manage risk.

Managing Your Social Media Assets

Recently I’ve had a number of customers express to me that they’ve lost track of a certain social media account – usually because the person who set up the account is no longer working for the company. Getting control of an account or reactivating a dormant account can be tough and time consuming.

This got me thinking about what simple steps a company (of any size) could take to retain and/or manage control of their social footprint.

The first point that is worth noting is that your social media accounts are digital assets – and we should adopt an asset management mentality when thinking about this.

Key Points:

  1. Create a digital asset register that tracks at least username, password, email account that is linked to the channel – ideally you should extend this to also map/track where content goes if it’s published via a channel – i.e. a Twitter account might feed off to a blog, Facebook etc.
  2. Have at least two people with admin rights over key assets
  3. Have very clear and simple language about asset ownership
    • If the account is going to be used in a general way such as for customer service or as an expert contact be very clear that the brand owns the account (not the employee)
    • Make it clear who is authorised to make profile changes to accounts
  4. Make sure the email account that “owns” the account is one that the company has control or access to. A password can be changed so make sure it’s a generic account (i.e. twitter-mark@mycompany.com). Take this a step further and ensure that the employee stores the login credentials in a centralised location.
  5. Undertake regular audits so as to keep track of growth and new areas where parts of your business may be experimenting – i.e. Foursquare, Google+ (post updated Dec 16, 2011).

Conclusion:

These are simple tips – in the first instance I’d ensure you at least do an audit and create a register of your companies social media footprint.

As an aside, we’ve undertaken a number of audits for our clients and will be formally launching an independent audit service in 2011.

My Ongoing Debate about Twitter’s Relevance

Earlier this year I wrote about my doubts regarding Twitter. I had concerns at the time about the relevance of Twitter and whether it would be effective enough to warrant investment and attention. I’ve kept at Twitter, I’m an active user with the service integrated into my other social activities. Whilst mainstream media continues to be slap happy about Twitter, I’m still not convinced.

I get the whole information distribution thing. I blogged recently about how effectively Australian band Powderfinger had been in using Twitter to build enthusiasm for their free concerts. I see lots of other good examples – ABC Radio for example. We’ve even had tremendous success – for another business I own Twitter has become a very powerful sales and communication channel.

But

The system has issues and the risk for enterprise in my opinion is too great – particularly in the B2B context.

Here are my concerns:

1. The system is flakey – part 1

The whole ‘fail-whale’ thing is cute for like – 2 minutes. Google gets its butt kicked when Gmail is down for 10 minutes yet constant service from Twitter is a rare thing. Running a major service channel through Twitter with this service standard? Sorry, I wouldn’t be hanging my career on that option

2. Hackers Rule the Roost

I used to get angry when people sent me DM’s about ‘I’ve added you to my mafia family’ or ‘are you as smart as me’. Then I realised these users were subject to hack attacks and spam attacks.

Here’s an example of a user who I consider to be prominent issuing an apology:

A user apologies for spamming his followers

This would be a tough conversation with the CMO or CIO – ’Lets get on Twitter. Good chance we’ll spam our followers, our account will be hacked – but it’s all good. Everyone’s doing it…’

3. The system is flakey – part 2

What is it with changes being lost, blocks being unblocked, the system being severely constipated before it suddenly spews out a torrent of ‘past due date’ content?

This is poor. And again, in an enterprise context – why would you put trust in a system with these flaws?

4. Inappropriate Content

I’m pretty diligent about blocking anyone who mentions money, sex, or religion. But most days I find companies and individuals with followers who are so suspect it beggars belief that they haven’t been blocked or reported.

I’ve seen some really really inappropriate avatars used by Twitter accounts – why aren’t these users blocked?

Worse, I’ve seen some major US companies following users who have avatars that are quite shocking. I have to ask. If you’re following users who have graphic images of women – what is your Twitter strategy? Is this really a reflection of your company’s values? One of these companies is a major brand in the social media space.

So how are we protecting our brand in this free-for-all world? Can someone fill me in on what Twitter is doing to police this space? And don’t give me that ‘oh there’s a new report spam link’ – rubbish!

5. Widespread Abuse

This really irks me. Company names and brands are being hijacked. The proliferation of this abuse is amazing.

Given I work in the CRM space I’ve been watching a couple of accounts. One account bbakari uses the Twitter API to flood the service with – spam.

Here’s an example

An example of a user abusing Twitter

Now, granted I can block this user and not worry about the mindless river of drivel – but the fact is if you search for Salesforce.com or SugarCRM.com this torrent of spam clogs up the search results.

And just so you know, this is bbakari’s second account on Twitter. His first account @freecrm was killed off.

My Conclusion

Personally, I like Twitter. I follow people whose opinions I value and I like that they use the service appropriately. I like the fact I can tie my other social profiles into Twitter.

I can see the value. I can see the big picture with Twitter being a useful tool for information distribution.

But if I put a CEO hat on I have concerns – serious concerns. Would I recommend a B2B company jump into Twitter – probably not! I think their social media strategy would make more sense and they’d get better value focusing elsewhere.