A snapshot profile of today’s Facebook as a marketing platform

Facebook's High-Wire Balancing Act Continues

Note to marketers who have been investing in Facebook: Fasten your safety belts.

Once again, Mark Zuckerberg is changing the algorithm that determines what users will see in their newsfeed.

Give Facebook credit. They announced some time ago the intent to make social media social again, and the change in algorithm is intended to give more visibility to status updates from friends and family. Positive social engagement should increase as a result.

The ancillary benefit for users is that their newsfeed will not feel bogged down by commercial content. But once again, marketers have to take a hard look at their Facebook spend.

The question: Should brands write off Facebook as a marketing vehicle?

Diosclosure: We make no money off media investments that clients make in Facebook. So our views below are relatively unbiased.

And our view on this is no, marketers shouldn’t abandon Facebook as a means of building brand awareness or community involvement.

Rationale: Mark Zuckerberg is walking a tightrope, balancing a publicly traded company’s need to hit quarterly numbers (which comes from ad revenue), and the largest social media platform’s need to remain committed to being essentially social, not commercial.

We think that Facebook’s decisions will pay off in the long run, and marketers should be reassured by the fact that Facebook literally cannot afford to push out brands altogether. So at least in the short term, there will still be opportunity for brands to market through Facebook.
In the midterm, we continue to watch the multi-year trend of sliding Facebook usership among key demographics.

Advice: Target and Moderate

Our position on Facebook is that while there are excellent targeted opportunities on the platform, our clients should not overinvest in a marketing tactic that fluctuates in reach (and therefore value) and which lacks policy transparency.

If you want to talk further about Facebook or targeted marketing over a beverage, please contact us, and stop by for a beverage.

Paging Dr. Brand


Most doctors hate the idea of branding

It’s beneath them. It’s superficial. It’s unseemly. It’s “selling.” It’s for marketers who create false identities and promises around soda pop, potato chips, sneakers, and disposable razor blades.

You can’t tell physicians who think this way that they’re wrong, but they’re only partially right.

Branding is entering the health care arena faster than anyone might think, and doctors will not be immune to the market forces that influence consumer choice. So it’s a good idea for physicians to start managing their own brands like professionals.

Some building blocks of physician brand development

Define the source of new patients

Are you a referral-based practice, or will patients come from the general public? Knowing this will help shape the scope of your targeting, outreach, message, and content. A primary care physician will have a decidedly different brand identity than a specialist.

Identify your core value

Patients – like all consumers – want to believe that their choices are smart ones. So be clear about what you stand for, and try to pinpoint one central attribute. Maybe it’s speed. Or communication. The Mayo Clinic brand – although it’s an institution and not an individual – became powerful by a serious and relentless focus on the patient.

The value of NPR

NPR’s credibility among its listeners is pretty remarkable. That’s why it’s often a good place for doctors and physician group practices to begin marketing. The sponsorship announcement rules (no superlatives, no promotions, just information) suits doctors well, and the audience (upscale, educated, opinion-shapers) is valuable because they make educated buying decisions. And talk about them.

“Now accepting new patients”

It may sound like micro-copy, but this phrase can be very useful. It suggests that there may have been a waiting list before, but there are openings now. It keeps the prerogative in the doctor’s corner: He or she is doing the accepting, rather than the consumer making the choice.

The ratings game

A recent US News article said that 66% of Americans know about doctor-rating websites, such as Healthgrades.com and RateMDs.com, and act on the data they find there. Justly or unjustly, consumers rate doctors.

The issues for doctors: 1. A small number of patients contributing reviews will skew results. One or two bad reviews can look very bad – especially for doctors who practice in small communities. 2. Some doctors over-serve patients to earn positive ratings. 3. The inherent aversion to risk stops many doctors from putting content into online consumer channels.

How to play it

Regardless of these pitfalls, any physician serious about expanding their practice needs to participate in patient ratings.

A course of action: Have front-office staff encourage and enable patients to contribute reviews, so that there’s a healthy amount of opinion. Do it as part of the patient visit, so the experience is fresh. Direct patients away from Yelp and Angie’s List and steer them toward Healthgrades or, better yet, RateMDs.com, which has more than 1.3 million doctors reviewed. It’s a more credible environment than the consumer sites.

Yes, you need a website

It’s not enough to be on Linked In, Healthgrades, Yelp, and in the Yellow Pages. Get a site built. Keep it simple so it’s doable. Maybe it’s no more than a landing page with a well-crafted message, some basic information, and contact action. If your site is up, build it out with more patient-empowering content and functionality.

Get a quarterly marketing checkup

Don’t let marketing content grow old prematurely. Commit to refreshing profile information at least quarterly, more frequently if possible.

Stay tuned for more medical marketing advice from us. And if you need a consultation, contact us.

Dadvertising hits healthcare

Myth: The female head of household drives all family healthcare decisions.

Fact: In the aftermath of 2008, male unemployment outpaced female joblessness by a factor of 3 to 1. CNN Money reported that in 2010, 20% of married dads were the primary caregiver for kids age 5 and under. So it’s no surprise that men have become much more engaged in household buying decisions, including healthcare.

This brings us to “dadvertising,” the trend in marketing that acknowledges a core truth of the consumer marketplace: More and more men are either in charge of consumer healthcare decisions or very much part of the discussion.

Some actions steps clients should consider.

  • Balance value propositions between men and women. Men often start decisions with empirical analysis, whereas women “feel” their way into a relationship with a brand. Healthcare brands should plot their values in a left brain-right brain diagram and look at where the center of gravity lies. With some copy support, the same values can often be reframed to cross gender lines. Example: A hospital needs to market its robotic prostate surgery. Tell him: It minimizes blood loss and tissue damage. Tell her: He’s back on his feet faster, making school lunches.
  • Avoid homogeneity. Beware of what we call “blanding” – the embrace of creative content that has no personality at all. You may laugh, but it happens when brands try to be all things to all people. To keep the visual identity crisp go to your creative toolbox:
    • Explore stronger color saturation. Signal brand colors should be emphasized. Also, broaden the brand color palate to include analogous and corresponding colors that can appeal to both men and women.
    • Use textures and gradients to create more inviting pages with backgrounds that feel inviting
    • Shoot photography from atypical angles, as opposed to the photojournalistic/lifestyle approach that has been done to death.
  • Embrace video. Video content is the standard of seriousness for any healthcare brand, from the smallest hospitals to the largest insurers, and it has been for some time. And video is used more by men than by women.  If you haven’t included video as part of your content strategy, make it a priority. Here are some guidelines.
  • Take a flyer now and then. Emerson said, “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” And we think sometimes healthcare marketing can be foolishly consistent. Make no mistake, discipline is good. But healthcare brands need to know what consumer brands know: It’s okay to bend the rules because it can help you appear and sound fresh, relevant, vibrant, and interesting – to both halves of the healthcare consumer audience.

Healthcare marketing has plenty of unknowns. When anticipating them, it’s best to talk through all the eventualities. Join us for a beverage and we can do it together.