Hospitals and healthcare providers of all sizes are jumping feet first into social media marketing to help engage patients, to improve name recognition and to promote community health activities. While large health systems and physician groups have the means to hire full-time, experienced marketing professionals, small to mid-sized physician groups often look to outsource their social media and other marketing activities.
As a result of the overall demand and interest in using social media to drive business, several firms that claim to specialize in social media marketing have sprung up in practically every city in the country. Often referred to by more experienced marketing/communications firms as “social media sweatshops,” these new-breed marketers often employ less-than honest techniques to drive traffic to client websites and inflate the number of Twitter and Facebook followers, regardless of the quality of interaction or the interest of the new followers.
Tony Wright, CEO of Dallas-based interactive marketing firm WrightIMC, recently took the time to answer the following questions about social media sweatshops to help you and your health care organization identify and avoid these shady organizations that target small to mid-sized organizations.
1. What is your definition of a social media sweatshop?
I define a social media sweatshop as any company that sells “one size fits all” social media packages and employs low-level, low-experience individuals to implement those strategies.
2. What do they claim to offer clients?
Usually, the package is something like “three blog posts a week, 10 twitter posts and two videos.” The content produced is usually low quality and has little or no relevance to the overall strategy of the organization. Usually, the sales team at these companies will promise anything that will get the sale. Most of these companies require a year-long commitment but have a churn rate of more than 70%.
3. Can you offer any advice to help health care organizations identify one of these companies?
They are usually pretty easy to spot. If they are using high-pressure sales techniques, require long-term commitments (or short commitments with large up-front costs) they might be best avoided. Also, if they won’t introduce you to the account manager for your project, claim they have a “secret” way of winning or don’t take the time to understand your particular company’s business model and culture, stay away.
4. Do these companies really care about retaining clients?
Are they just after the initial contract so they can get their money and move on to the next unsuspecting client? The “Churn and Burn” model is very prevalent among this crowd. There are different levels here — some will try to get you sign up by offering some new “magic bullet” that wasn’t available before.
Some will take your money and run. Others will try to give you a deep discount for paying for a year in advance. But in most cases, they don’t care about retaining the clients because they don’t work too hard to get the results required to retain clients.
5. What are typical problems that organizations encounter after hiring one of these firms?
Outsourcing your social media should be a hard decision. You are hiring people to represent your brand. I’m biased, but I think that an outside agency can offer lots of value on a social media campaign — however going for the agency with the cheapest price is a huge mistake. Agencies have tools and talent that can be leveraged, but the overall strategy needs to be created in partnership with the client.
Typically, companies that utilize “one size fits all” social media programs find themselves wearing a proverbial potato sack when it comes to their social media.
6. What should a health care provider look for/expect from a company they hire to handle their social media marketing activities?
Health care providers should get everything they want in a marketing company. Here are some general measuring points I would recommend they look for when choosing to outsource social media marketing activities. A quality marketing/PR agency should:
- Immerse itself in your business and get to know it from the inside out.
- Set clear goals for social media based on what you want to achieve, e.g., growing your social network, customer service, or attract new patients.
- Not guarantee a certain number of fans or followers (because they won’t be real fans of your business).
- Mind its Ps and Qs in regards to HIPAA compliance and other regulations.
- Look at all the social network options to use for you, rather than just relying on Facebook and Twitter.
- Use social media to drive people back to your website and help retain or convert them to customers.
- Under-promise and over-deliver.
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