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This book can be applied to and used as a guide within any industry at any stage of the new media marketing game. Appendices contain information specific to social media and search elevation in the medical profession, specifically small medical business, hospital and clinic and pharmaceutical companies.
Social Media is pervasive in society and growing at a tremendous clip, surpassing other forms of electronic communication. Li and Bernoff, in their popular book on social media, Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies, state, "Media isn't neatly boxed into little rectangles called newspapers, magazines, and TV sets anymore. The Internet is not some sandbox that can be walled off anymore—it is fully integrated into all elements of business and society. People connect with other people and draw power from other people, especially in crowds."
Using social media, you can take advantage of this new "groundswell"; your message can reach thousands of eyes and ears with news and information regularly at the touch of a button! How is that different from e-mail marketing? When you use e-mail, you are pushing often-unwanted information at people. Social media conversations are two-way, where people who want to hear from you "connect" or "friend" you, or sign up to read what you write, so they no longer have to search and pull the content they are interested in from the Internet. Instead, they are giving you permission to share those things they want to read about. If the information you provide is quality, and relevant to the information your connections are asking for, your network grows and you reach more eyes and ears with your message. If your clients visit your business on average once a year, social media keeps your business in front of them through multiple exposures year round, possibly driving them through your doors more than once a year. While people frequently change their e-mail addresses, they are less likely to change social media accounts, so your lists are more accurate over longer periods of time. In 2009, Boston College stopped issuing students e-mail accounts in favor of communication via social media tools. I know what you're thinking: "But I just got comfortable using e-mail, and now things are changing again!" Well, all I can tell you is, buckle your seatbelt—you're in for quite a ride.
I'm sure at least half of my unsolicited patient mailings and other "push" marketing efforts were glanced at and trashed after I paid a fortune in printing and postage. At best, each contact I was able to reach through traditional marketing had, on average, a reach of a family of four, and maybe a few friends. I question whether anyone even looked at my Yellow Pages ad. Now when I have an interesting comment (affectionately known as a "tweet") to post on Twitter, it can get proliferated ("re-tweeted," or RTd) to hundreds of thousands, even millions of people! And each new tweet is recognized by Google and appears in the top of search engine searches for the keywords and key phrases I input in the tweet. When I finally understood how to manipulate this to my advantage, I wondered what reason there was not to be part of this new "conversation." It was at this point that my social media efforts took off, and within a year, I had built a significant network of thousands of "followers" over several social media outlets.
Today, my practice marketing budget is reduced more than 80 percent, the "unique new visitors" statistic for my practice website is up more than 100 percent, and new business continues to roll in to the practice without using any type of traditional media advertising. My website, which after fourteen years receives thousands of visitors a month, has been eclipsed by my "blog" (more on blogs and blogging later), which within one year of launching receives seven to ten thousand visitors a month. I have enhanced my reputation and that of my business, enhanced my visibility, and great opportunities are coming out of the woodwork, such as professional blogging opportunities, interviews by major industry and non-industry publications, and regional awards.
You are probably thinking, "Yeah, great for you, but I don't have the time." That may be the case, but with a small bit of patience, even a surprisingly smaller effort and some decent delegating skills (the key to maintaining your sanity) can help you use social media effectively to market your business while reducing the expense and effort of traditional push marketing (e.g., direct mail, recall (contacting clients to remind them about annual or recurring visits), Yellow Pages, etc.) and profit from it.
Don't worry—you don't need all the intimidating tools like Twitter and Facebook to start. We will dip our toes in the water one tool at a time and build your conversation from the ground up—the best way to start a successful, long-term effort. There are a few rules for success in Searchial Marketing that I ask you to pay close attention to when participating in searchial marketing (SM). Once you immerse yourself in it, the differences between the people who follow the rules and those who don't will become apparent; those who follow the rules benefit with increased business and, opportunities and an improved reputation, obtained through their growing network. Those who don't are ignored and never maximize the potential of the campaign.
Rule #1—This is a Conversation—Participate
It's not enough to set up your LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, or Twitter account. Don't bother if you plan on having it remain static—you already have a website for that. The purpose of participating in SM is to interact with others, establish a rapport with a wide variety and network of people, and create interesting posts and content that draw people to your efforts. This only happens if you are participatory; there are plenty of voyeurs out there watching the conversation (don't ask me why), but those who get the attention are the ones who are social within—hence the name "social" media!
Rule #2—Pay Attention to the Conversation
You'll find you need to keep up with a lot when you participate in more than two SM "sites." (facebook, Digg, Twitter etc) It can seem overwhelming. I felt much the way I did at the craps table before I understood the game—I didn't want to play because it seemed intimidating, but there are really only a few things you should do consistently to maximize your odds of success while ignoring the useless junk (or "sucker bets," as they are called). You will soon be able to focus only on what counts, and you will ultimately use multiple tools to promote the content you create. Don't be afraid to get heavily involved in multiple suites of social media now, with the ultimate intention of "pruning the tree"—eliminating the SM suites that you don't derive value out of as your efforts progress. You'll need to watch others, and pay attention to how they interact in their "conversations" on the different suites so you can learn how to build your social skills, learn the lingo, and rise to the top like cream without sticking out like a sore thumb.
Rule #3—Don't be a Walking Billboard
People don't want to be pelted by advertisements or posts that may be interpreted as advertising. You will lose followers left and right if you do this, and your efforts will amount to nothing. If you have a product, and you want to use social media to move it, you have to be subtle. If you are selling a line of antioxidants or other vitamins, start a blog on health, create useful content, and hide your plug within the content. Don't shout in a tweet, "Buy these special antioxidant pills—click this link." People want to friend you or follow you because your posts are interesting, substantive, and bring value to the conversation; they can and get pitched everywhere else, but you can be the one grabbing their attention and making meaningful connections.
Rule #4—Get Ready to Give Five Times before you Ask Once
You want people to follow or connect with you when you participate in SM. A "follower" is someone who "signs up" for your content feeds and in doing so allows you to push information at him or her when you want to. You control the content of the information that you push—just think of the possibilities. People tend to follow you when they see you are taking the effort and spending the time to create content valuable to them. Your followers are basically giving you a license to push information to them as much as you want. As long as you provide quality information, you maintain the majority of your network and attract new followers as well. It's okay every once in a while to promote something, just do so sparingly and maintain professionalism when you do, and you'll see your network thrive and grow. It's okay to plug something 20 percent of the time, but you need to give something of quality to the conversation 80 percent of the time for people to accept an occasional marketing message from you.
In the early days of the Internet, websites were used to market businesses. Marketing using websites in the early web was called "pull" marketing—you put your website up and waited for people to find it. Your website was static; there was nothing interactive on it, and it sat out there in cyberspace, waiting to be found. You could spend money to pull people to it, just like you still can use banner advertisements or paid directories. Basically, you put your website up and waited, or spent lots of money on advertising and waited. If you needed to change something on your website, you either had to learn computer languages or spend decent money on a developer. That version of the Internet, referred to as Web 1.0, is obsolete.
We are now well into the third version of the Internet, Web 3.0, where "push" is the new game in town. Push marketing involves creating content (sharing knowledge and expertise through blogs, video, or audio means), and people who like the content you are creating or what you are doing "sign up" to participate in a conversation with you. They do this on social media websites by connecting with you either by invitation or by finding you based on the subject matter you are creating or proliferating and they are searching for. Connecting with you is an indication they are interested in what you are saying. When others connects with you, they are essentially giving you permission to push your information toward them. Web 3.0 is dynamic and full of interaction and socialization. A company's web presence can be regularly updated without learning computer language or spending a fortune on developers via a blog or social media platform/ site. In Web 3.0, you don't have to pay to advertise; you have to put some work into it, in the form of creating ongoing new information relevant to the subject matter your potential customers want. Pay per click still exists, but people participating in Web 3.0 are more likely to trust a highly ranked "organic"—i.e., naturally occurring—search engine listing than an ad they know is sponsored to push information. They are also more willing to trust someone who has been "recommended" online by someone else, or to look up the person or businesses "influence" as ranked by social influence-ranking websites such as Klout.com. If you want to pay, you can use pay marketing services that enhance your efforts even more, but you don't have to have an expensive marketing effort to be successful in this realm. Most of it is intuitive, and almost all of it is free.
Web 3.0 is ultra-dynamic, with exciting things like "augmented reality" (already in its infancy), location-based advertising, and information gleaned from modern bar codes, called "QR codes," which are read through the camera on your mobile phone via a mobile application. Imagine walking down a street in New York City and holding your PDA in front of you while you walk. On your screen is a virtual picture of the street and buildings in front of you. In cartoon fashion, bubbles with advertising and other promotions pop out of the virtual storefronts whose brick-and-mortar counterparts are steps ahead of you. Or you hold your phone up at the entrance to a hospital, and a floor-by-floor map shows you exactly where radiology is. While shopping, you hold your phone camera up to that product, information appears on your screen, and you get a coupon for the product on the spot. You use this information to learn things you otherwise wouldn't know about: sales and promotions, etc., and stores use it to draw new business right off the street. Global positioning systems (GPS) are used to shoot messages to you or for you to locate and find friends, or research restaurants and professional services like doctors' offices. Google's Android technology is leading the way into this strange new world of Web 3.0.
The Internet continues to evolve. Now, businesses that use Yellow Pages are considered geriatric while your younger clients (age fifty and younger—which should make most of my readers happy to be included in the younger group) are searching for products and services using Internet search engines. Direct mail goes in the garbage and the Yellow Pages is used as a booster seat for your three-year-old child. (It is rumored that the postal service is considering ceasing operations, as "snail mail" keeps getting more expensive and is totally inefficient compared to other methods of communicating, such as e-mail and social media.) Need a neurologist? Google one. Looking for the closest pharmacy? Google one. Searching for information on a healthcare corporation? Ask a question on Quora.com...
The first thing you should do is drop direct-mail ad campaigns. I suggest you try dropping one traditional marketing method every three months for a more comfortable, less stressful transition as you ramp up your social media campaign and search engine position. "What about the Yellow Pages? Can I really drop that too? What if someone can't find me?" That's where you need to adjust your thinking cap. It's a new marketing world out there I know from experience; I reluctantly did what the management experts in my field recommend and dropped my major Yellow Pages advertising at the end of 2007, and I remember what it felt like ... but no one is finding you there, so ask yourself if the population still using the Yellow Pages and things like mailbox flyers is the population you want to attract to your business. So why continue? The significant majority of people with disposable income search for the services and products they seek on the Internet using search engines. Wouldn't it make more sense to spend your Yellow Pages money in areas people are searching? See where I'm going with this?
You will have to "put yourself out there" if you want to participate in social media, plain and simple. Are there privacy concerns for social media? Absolutely. Most privacy concerns, however, are overblown. Can you avoid exposing yourself? You can try. There are things you do and don't want to do when you participate. Many social media platforms allow you to maintain multiple sites, and you can separate your business from your personal use. For example, Facebook makes it easy for you to separate your business page from personal. You can even set preferences that keep your business from finding your personal and vice versa. Privacy settings are important if you are worried about privacy, and most social media suites offer them. Tip: if you are concerned about privacy, don't go around the Internet clicking "like" buttons. Every like button you click collects information about you. Privacy is a legitimate concern.
There are three kinds of people surfing the Internet: the overly cautious, those with a come-as-they-may attitude who deal with privacy issues if and when they arrive and those who hover somewhere in between the two. You can bank manually, you can avoid e-mail for fear of getting a virus, and you can avoid filling out online forms for fear of identity theft. You can do tons of things that will limit your exposure and reduce risk, but at the risk of less exposure for your business. Remember, social media doesn't have the word "social" in it for nothing. Maximizing your exposure is a key to your success in social marketing. I'm not advocating that you do things you are uncomfortable with or that put you or your business at risk. Most of social media involves people interacting, much like a cocktail party, so you can hide behind the punchbowl, but you won't make connections and are sure to not be invited when something exciting is happening.
Excerpted from Searchial Marketing by Alan Glazier Copyright © 2011 by Dr. Alan Glazier. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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