Why are healthcare organizations so hesitant to join the social media movement? Simply put, healthcare providers operate within extremely strict regulatory guidelines when it comes to marketing and communications. The fear of those regulations and the lack of guidance are sidelining these organizations. By not participating in social media, healthcare companies are missing out on important opportunities to increase their online presence, and engage with their customers.
The FDA and Division of Drug Marketing and Communications (DDMAC) have not yet released formal participatory guidelines. As such, we recommend to our healthcare clients that they work closely with their legal team to create a clearly defined social media policy. This is to ensure that all regulations are met until the FDA, or DDMAC, formally release guidelines.
As you get started, healthcare organizations need to look beyond direct promotion and client acquisition, and focus on engagement. Because the healthcare industry can be a difficult landscape to navigate at times, it is extremely important that the social media messaging is authentic and personal. We encourage healthcare organizations to explore the opportunities within social marketing. As you get started, below are some things to take into consideration when mapping out your marketing plan.
Everyone involved in the marketing process needs to be educated on its importance, and how their involvement will help to bring awareness to your organization. Highlight the need to be included in the conversation that is already taking place around your brand. People talk about healthcare, they want a response, and they want information, social media is a perfect platform for continued engagement.
PLAY BY THE RULES
Your legal team will be your biggest asset when creating a policy. Yes, marketers and attorneys can work together. Even though they look at the risk and the reward differently, both will still benefit greatly from the collaboration.
RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
As mentioned above, the way you avoid risk is by creating and enforcing very specific guidelines for your employees to follow when engaging in social media. You need to be careful not to try and regulate what they do on their personal profiles. Instead establish strong controls, and set solid expectations of what you expect from your staff regarding their participation in marketing.
After you release your guidelines, continue to monitor and review your marketing program. This will help to identify potential fire drills regarding regulatory issues like privacy laws.
People choose healthcare providers based on referrals, credentials and shared values. Healthcare organizations need to remind themselves that health is of universal importance. Humans by nature share things that evoke emotion. Social media is driven by people seeking connections. If you want a successful social media program, identify and highlight compelling stories that show the benefits of your organizations.