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4 tips for creating authentic connections online

May 31, 2016
by Ryan Eisenacher
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There is no denying that social media has significantly impacted communication. In fact, the Pew Research Center reports that as of 2015, 65% of American adults use social networking sites to share, learn and engage with other users.   

Some people say that the rapid growth of social media is completely killing language and that honest, personal interactions are now few and far between.

For the record: I completely disagree.

When used correctly, social media is an extremely powerful tool, especially for healthcare marketers. It grants you the opportunity to share information, promote education and build a loyal community. But in order to be truly successful, you have to be genuine and authentic when engaging online.

Healthcare decisions are typically fraught with complexity, so it’s imperative that our communication techniques at Recovery Brands help to establish trust, empathy and credibility. And, thanks to social media, we have been given an invaluable opportunity to do just that.  

So, how do you maintain a genuine and authentic approach when using social media in your marketing mix? Keep these four tips in mind when creating and nurturing your online brand.

1) Make it about them, not you

Social media networking is very similar to real life relationships: it’s a two-way street. I cringe every time I come across a brand that only talks about their products, services and accomplishments. Social media is not meant to be a broadcasting channel. The purpose is to create and distribute content that is shareable, memorable and valuable. Participating in Twitter chats (or even hosting your own) is an excellent way to focus less on your brand and more on your audience.

Take the time to listen to them and don’t be afraid to ask questions. For healthcare specifically, these sorts of tactics are tremendous in terms of showing empathy and care.

2) Pull back the curtain

If your brand is already using social media, there’s a good chance you have a real live human(s) manning it. Use this as an opportunity to be real and authentic with your audience by letting them know what goes on behind the scenes. After all, people don’t want to connect with your logo, they want to connect with your people. They want to know that you’re a source they can rely on, a company they can trust.

Have you featured a Q&A with your leadership or top doctors? How about a virtual tour of your new facility? What about showcasing some of the latest community initiatives your organization has been involved in?  Get on their level and share your human side with them.

3) Be consistent

Every social media platform requires a unique and different strategy, and sometimes, larger companies might even have different people managing different accounts. While the approach may be different for each channel, the message and tone must be the same. Your audience needs to know that they’ll get the same valuable, authentic experience at every interaction point.

So, how do you maintain a cohesive brand experience while operating on various networks? First and foremost, develop a strategy—you never want to “just wing it” when it comes social media. Take the time to train your employees about your brand’s core values to ensure that content is represented accurately and professionally across all mediums. One of my favorite methods is using a brand guide. Include the tone, imagery, brand personality, color scheme and audience personas. This an excellent and quick reference point, not just for your team, but also for others within the company.

4) Remember your manners

Social media can quickly turn into a slippery slope if the wrong information is shared and privacy is compromised. Aside from the consequences this may bring for your company, it will also break the trust you’ve worked so hard to earn from your audience. When I’m posting/tweeting on behalf of our brand, I always follow one simple rule: If you wouldn’t say your comment in public, don’t put it on social media. It’s also imperative that your team is up to speed on HIPAA laws to avoid potentially hazardous mistakes.

One common mistake that I’ve seen is public disclosure of physician-patient relationships. For example, a former patient may write on facility X’s Facebook thanking them for such wonderful treatment, and facility X responds publicly, thanking them for their kind words. Any communication with former or current patients should always be done privately, even if they publicly disclosed the information first. Even if you have good intentions, you may still be violating HIPAA laws. One small slip could cost you everything, so be sure to approach your social media strategy and execution with utmost caution.

The next time someone tells you that social media is preventing personal connections with your audience, I hope you’ll think back to this article. Your social presence is what you make it. Put in the appropriate time, passion, resources, and strategy, and I guarantee that you’ll see a positive shift in the way people are interacting with your brand online.

Ryan Eisenacher is content marketing manager at Recovery Brands.