Social Media and Healthcare
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Social Media and Healthcare
Articles and Discussions on the intersection of Social Media and Healthcare.
Relevant to Healthcare Practitioners, Pharma', Insurance, Clinicians, Labs, Health IT Vendors, Health Marketeers, Health Policy Makers, Hospital Administrators.
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How social marketing works in health care

How social marketing works in health care | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social marketing applies commercial marketing strategies to promote public health. Social marketing is effective on a population level, and healthcare providers can contribute to its effectiveness.

What is social marketing?

In the preface to Marketing Social Change, Andreasen defines social marketing as “the application of proven concepts and techniques drawn from the commercial sector to promote changes in diverse socially important behaviors such as drug use, smoking, sexual behavior... This marketing approach has an immense potential to affect major social problems if we can only learn how to harness its power.”1By “proven techniques” Andreasen meant methods drawn from behavioural theory, persuasion psychology, and marketing science with regard to health behaviour, human reactions to messages and message delivery, and the “marketing mix” or “four Ps” of marketing (place, price, product, and promotion).2 These methods include using behavioural theory to influence behaviour that affects health; assessing factors that underlie the receptivity of audiences to messages, such as the credibility and likeability of the argument; and strategic marketing of messages that aim to change the behaviour of target audiences using the four Ps.3

How is social marketing applied to health?

Social marketing is widely used to influence health behaviour. Social marketers use a wide range of health communication strategies based on mass media; they also use mediated (for example, through a healthcare provider), interpersonal, and other modes of communication; and marketing methods such as message placement (for example, in clinics), promotion, dissemination, and community level outreach. Social marketing encompasses all of these strategies.

Communication channels for health information have changed greatly in recent years. One-way dissemination of information has given way to a multimodal transactional model of communication. Social marketers face challenges such as increased numbers and types of health issues competing for the public's attention; limitations on people's time; and increased numbers and types of communication channels, including the internet.4 A multimodal approach is the most effective way to reach audiences about health issues.5

Figure 1 summarises the basic elements or stages of social marketing.6 The six basic stages are: developing plans and strategies using behavioural theory; selecting communication channels and materials based on the required behavioural change and knowledge of the target audience; developing and pretesting materials, typically using qualitative methods; implementing the communication programme or “campaign”; assessing effectiveness in terms of exposure and awareness of the audience, reactions to messages, and behavioural outcomes (such as improved diet or not smoking); and refining the materials for future communications. The last stage feeds back into the first to create a continuous loop of planning, implementation, and improvement.

Social marketing wheel
Audience segmentation

One of the key decisions in social marketing that guides the planning of most health communications is whether to deliver messages to a general audience or whether to “segment” into target audiences. Audience segmentation is usually based on sociodemographic, cultural, and behavioural characteristics that may be associated with the intended behaviour change. For example, the National Cancer Institute's “five a day for better health” campaign developed specific messages aimed at Hispanic people, because national data indicate that they eat fewer fruits and vegetables and may have cultural reasons that discourage them from eating locally available produce.6

The broadest approach to audience segmentation is targeted communications, in which information about population groups is used to prepare messages that draw attention to a generic message but are targeted using a person's name (for example, marketing by mass mail). This form of segmentation is used commercially to aim products at specific customer profiles (for example, upper middle income women who have children and live in suburban areas). It has been used effectively in health promotion to develop socially desirable images and prevention messages (fig 2).

Image used in the American Legacy Foundation's Truth antismoking campaign aimed at young people

“Tailored” communications are a more specific, individualised form of segmentation. Tailoring can generate highly customised messages on a large scale. Over the past 10-15 years, tailored health communications have been used widely for public health issues. Such communications have been defined as “any combination of information and behavior change strategies intended to reach one specific person, based on characteristics that are unique to that person, related to the outcome of interest, and derived from an individual assessment.”7 Because tailored materials consider specific cognitive and behavioural patterns as well as individual demographic characteristics, they are more precise than targeted materials but are more limited in population reach and may be more expensive to develop and implement.

Media trends and adapting commercial marketing

As digital sources of health information continue to proliferate, people with low income and low education will find it more difficult to access health information. This “digital divide” affects a large proportion of people in the United States and other Western nations. Thus, creating effective health messages and rapidly identifying and adapting them to appropriate audiences (which are themselves rapidly changing) is essential to achieving the Healthy People 2010 goal of reducing health disparity within the US population.8

In response, social marketers have adapted commercial marketing for health purposes. Social marketing now uses commercial marketing techniques—such as analysing target audiences, identifying the objectives of targeted behaviour changes, tailoring messages, and adapting strategies like branding—to promote the adoption and maintenance of health behaviours. Key trends include the recognition that messages on health behaviour vary along a continuum from prevention to promotion and maintenance, as reflected by theories such as the “transtheoretical model”9; the need for unified message strategies and methods of measuring reactions and outcomes10; and competition between health messages and messages that promote unhealthy behaviour from product marketers and others.11

Prevention versus promotion

Social marketing messages can aim to prevent risky health behaviour through education or the promotion of behavioural alternatives. Early anti-drug messages in the US sought to prevent, whereas the antismoking campaigns of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Legacy Foundation offered socially desirable lifestyle alternatives (be “cool” by not smoking).12,13 The challenge for social marketing is how best to compete against product advertisers with bigger budgets and more ways to reach consumers.

Competing for attention

Social marketing aimed at changing health behaviour encounters external and internal competition. Digital communications proffer countless unhealthy eating messages along with seductive lifestyle images associated with cigarette brands. Cable television, the web, and video games offer endless opportunities for comorbid behaviour. At the same time, product marketers add to the confusion by marketing “reduced risk” cigarettes or obscure benefits of foods (such as low salt content in foods high in saturated fat).

How is social marketing used to change health behaviour?

Social marketing uses behavioural, persuasion, and exposure theories to target changes in health risk behaviour. Social cognitive theory based on response consequences (of individual behaviour), observational learning, and behavioural modelling is widely used.14 Persuasion theory indicates that people must engage in message “elaboration” (developing favourable thoughts about a message's arguments) for long term persuasion to occur.3 Exposure theorists study how the intensity of and length of exposure to a message affects behaviour.10

Social marketers use theory to identify behavioural determinants that can be modified. For example, social marketing aimed at obesity might use behavioural theory to identify connections between behavioural determinants of poor nutrition, such as eating habits within the family, availability of food with high calorie and low nutrient density (junk food) in the community, and the glamorisation of fast food in advertising. Social marketers use such factors to construct conceptual frameworks that model complex pathways from messages to changes in behaviour (fig 3).

Example of social marketing conceptual framework

In applying theory based conceptual models, social marketers again use commercial marketing strategies based on the marketing mix.2 For example, they develop brands on the basis of health behaviour and lifestyles, as commercial marketers would with products. Targeted and tailored message strategies have been used in antismoking campaigns to build “brand equity”—a set of attributes that a consumer has for a product, service, or (in the case health campaigns) set of behaviours.13 Brands underlying the VERB campaign (which encourages young people to be physically active) and Truth campaigns were based on alternative healthy behaviours, marketed using socially appealing images that portrayed healthy lifestyles as preferable to junk food or fast food and cigarettes.14,15

Can social marketing change health behaviour?

The best evidence that social marketing is effective comes from studies of mass communication campaigns. The lessons learned from these campaigns can be applied to other modes of communication, such as communication mediated by healthcare providers and interpersonal communication (for example, mass nutrition messages can be used in interactions between doctors and patients).

Social marketing campaigns can change health behaviour and behavioural mediators, but the effects are often small.5 For example, antismoking campaigns, such as the American Legacy Foundation's Truth campaign, can reduce the number of people who start smoking and progress to established smoking.16 From 1999 to 2002, the prevalence of smoking in young people in the US decreased from 25.3% to 18%, and the Truth campaign was responsible for about 22% of that decrease.16

Summary points

Social marketing uses commercial marketing strategies such as audience segmentation and branding to change health behaviour

Social marketing is an effective way to change health behaviour in many areas of health risk

Doctors can reinforce these messages during their direct and indirect contact with patients

This is a small effect by clinical standards, but it shows that social marketing can have a big impact at the population level. For example, if the number of young people in the US was 40 million, 10.1 million would have smoked in 1999, and this would be reduced to 7.2 million by 2002. In this example, the Truth campaign would be responsible for nearly 640 000 young people not starting to smoke; this would result in millions of added life years and reductions in healthcare costs and other social costs.

In a study of 48 social marketing campaigns in the US based on the mass media, the average campaign accounted for about 9% of the favourable changes in health risk behaviour, but the results were variable.17 “Non-coercive” campaigns (those that simply delivered health information) accounted for about 5% of the observed variation.17

A study of 17 recent European health campaigns on a range of topics including promotion of testing for HIV, admissions for myocardial infarction, immunisations, and cancer screening also found small but positive effects.18 This study showed that behaviours that need to be changed once or only a few times are easier to promote than those that must be repeated and maintained over time.19 Some examples (such as breast feeding, taking vitamin A supplements, and switching to skimmed milk) have shown greater effect sizes, and they seem to have higher rates of success.19,20

Implications for healthcare practitioners

This brief overview indicates that social marketing practices can be useful in healthcare practice. Firstly, during social marketing campaigns, such as antismoking campaigns, practitioners should reinforce media messages through brief counselling. Secondly, practitioners can make a valuable contribution by providing another communication channel to reach the target audience. Finally, because practitioners are a trusted source of health information, their reinforcement of social marketing messages adds value beyond the effects of mass communication.


Contributors and sources: WDE's research focuses on behaviour change and public education intervention programmes designed to communicate science based information. He has published extensively on the influence of the media on health behaviour, including the effects of social marketing on changes in behaviour. This article arose from his presentation at and discussions after a recent conference on diet and communication.

Competing interests: None declared.

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6 Creative Ways to Use Twitter Vine for Healthcare Marketing

6 Creative Ways to Use Twitter Vine for Healthcare Marketing | Social Media and Healthcare |

Video can make a major impact and leave a lasting impression. When that power is paired with the strength of social media, the results can be truly remarkable. Now, that mighty marketing combination is available via Vine, the mobile app from Twitter that can be used to record and share brief videos.

Despite its six-second limit, content creators are already getting creative and producing video snippets that inspire, promote, educate, and entertain. In fact, their brief length makes people more likely to watch them since they know they’ll be short and sweet. To help healthcare marketers create the most compelling and beneficial videos, offered the following savvy suggestions.

1. Spotlight Your Supporters – Satisfied patients and passionate employees can be a powerful form of advertising, so let these advocates sing the praises of your brand on video. Help each of them create a personal video and attach it to the brand’s #hashtag for the world to see and share.

2. Exhibit New Technology – Give the facility a competitive advantage by highlighting new medical equipment via video. Show how the facility prides itself on having the latest advances in treatment and testing, and then briefly show how it works—and works wonders.

3. Celebrate Special Occasions – There are an abundance of special days, weeks, and months devoted to different health issues and Vine is a great way to show the organization’s support for these occasions. Healthcare videos can feature inspiring messages to encourage support, personal stories of hope and survival, and interesting facts that grab attention.

4. Hype Up the Hospital – If the organization is about to unveil a new building or a renovated area, create a teaser video as a way to promote the debut and spark buzz about the event.

5. Offer a Virtual Tour – Introduce potential patients to your facility by offering a virtual video tour. Show off the high-tech features and beautiful surroundings, as well as the friendly faces that staff the facility to leave a likeable and lasting impression.

6. Promote Upcoming Events – Spread the word about fundraising, health classes, blood drives, and other events by creating brief teaser videos. Make the videos upbeat and promote the benefits of the event to encourage attendance.

Vine is an outstanding way to leverage video and social media all at once. It offers enormous potential to healthcare marketers as they strive to connect with consumers in the most convenient and contemporary ways.

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Medical Marketing on Pinterest: The Safest Place to Start Health Care Social Media

Medical Marketing on Pinterest: The Safest Place to Start Health Care Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |


Health care companies are not getting involved in Social Media because they’re scared. If you look at the hoops medical marketing directors have to jump through with their legal department, and then combine that with the pressures all marketers face, such as justifying marketing spend, it’s no wonder health care companies have chosen to stay on the sidelines.


Many businesses are finding that it’s possible to engage with patients, customers, and other stakeholders without running into legal problems. If you’re still feeling hesitant, that’s okay. Take one step at a time. Not ready for all of the conversational aspects of Facebook? Try a less conversational network. Here’s where Pinterest comes in.


According to Simply Measured, 69 of the world’s top 100 brands are on Pinterest. Pinterest is driving more traffic to websites and blogs than Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, or YouTube.


You can also gain positive brand exposure when people see pins about your company, the people who work there, and the products and services that are changing lives.

You can teach patients about a new product you are launching so they understand how it works and how it benefits them.

Give patients a look inside your company and what makes your organization great. This is an opportunity for you to humanize your company. After all, your team probably got involved in health care because at least some part of you wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.

Now is your chance to show consumers the side of your company that feels their emotions, shares their desire to find the cure, wants to effectively treat a medical condition, dreams of ending suffering, and will do whatever it takes to save lives.

Driving referral traffic to a website from Pinterest is incredibly valuable for medical marketing. Why? This is a golden opportunity for health care marketers to ride the social wave without getting tangled in the legal complication. You get the benefits of social media: brand exposure and awareness, positive corporate PR, patient education, exposure for new product launches, and referral traffic to your health care website without the risks that are inherent in the more conversational social networks.


Pinterest is primarily a visual network. People look at images, share images, pin images, like images, and on occasion, maybe comment on an image. But Pinterest is no Facebook. Facebook is the water cooler where people really start talking about things. When people start talking, legal and regulatory departments get nervous. Breathe a sigh of relief. People don’t usually get too involved in conversations on Pinterest. Many people have probably never commented on a pin in their whole Pinterest history.


If you’re worried about people talking, start on Pinterest. It’s not a huge drain on resources because it doesn’t require you to monitor and respond to conversations all day. While I would recommend always having a plan in place before starting any social media campaign, I don’t think a detailed response matrix for responding to various situations is necessary like it is on Facebook.

Posting pictures of patient education materials and other images you already have visible to the public in your existing marketing mediums isn’t likely to elicit lots of comments. This means you aren’t likely to deal with complaints, negative reviews, potential adverse event reports, or off-label discussions. People just don’t use Pinterest in that way.


It doesn’t require as many resources for content creation. You don’t need to post 3-5 carefully crafted messages a day and then be ready to respond to them. As the Marketing Communications Manager, you don’t have to worry about a flood of content you have to oversee for legal risks. Pinterest doesn’t move as fast as the other social networks. You don’t necessarily have to post every day. The work flow is manageable.


You just have to provide your agency with the visual materials you already have and they organize and repurpose the imagery for Pinterest. It’s that easy.

Yes, you, Director of Marketing for a healthcare company. I know you already have Pinterest content, even if you don’t think you do. Chances are, you already have images on your website that can be pinned. I would go as far as to venture that if you really surveyed existing marketing material, you would find a lot of images that can be repurposed for Pinterest. Did you know that you can pin video, too? Pinterest is a great way to get more exposure for your medical marketing videos, which can be a great way to showcase your technology and help customers to understand the benefits of your product in an easy-to-understand format.

Still need some Pinspiration? Here’s a list of 40 ideas for Pinterest that can help you get started.


I know this is a lot to process, but if you think about it, this is an exciting, low-risk way to enter social media. With the help of an agency, all you have to do is provide some of your existing visual material, and they will do the rest. You don’t have to go through pages and pages of written material with the legal team. You just need a willingness to be open-minded about social media. Once you decide your ready, trust your agency as the social media experts and your legal department as the legal experts. If everybody does their job, you’ll be just fine.

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Characteristics of a Healthcare Marketing Team in 2013

Characteristics of a Healthcare Marketing Team in 2013 | Social Media and Healthcare |

According to a Gartner study on digital marketing, many industries are increasing their marketing budgets this year. However, some industries – Healthcare included – are continuing to dump significantly higher funds into traditional marketing methods, which can’t be measured as effectively as digital efforts. In a world where consumers are increasingly transitioning their news and research mediums from television and radio to online sources, a lack of digital marketing is a gross misstep by any industry – especially healthcare.

Along with adhering to the growing trend of researching healthcare information online, the benefit of digital marketing is the ability to track potential and current patients’ behavior and conversions, illuminating which format and tone of messaging is effective.


Three-quarters of U.S. citizens prefer researching topics regarding their personal health before seeking professional, in-person medical advice. In order to capture the attention of this burgeoning self-searching consumer, it is vital for pharmaceutical and healthcare providers to invest not simply in digital marketing, but also in a great digital marketing team.

Effective healthcare marketing teams will develop and implement a plan that educates and engages current or potential patients in a cost-effective, measurable way. To build a great digital marketing team for your healthcare brand, focus on developing the following characteristics:

1. Able to plan in months – not just years

A hospital’s digital marketing team needs to begin with a solid plan that addresses short and long-term goals. Because data is available to us online instantly, there is no reason to not generate monthly or quarterly plans in lieu of locked-in, stagnant annual plans. This opportunity for frequent measuring and flexibility is vital to capitalize on new opportunities and react to market performance changes. If a paid search campaign isn’t delivering leads, there is no need to wait several months to make adjustments – that’s the beauty of search. And that’s just one way healthcare brands can ensure their budgeting dollars are being spent wisely.

2.  Cognizent of multiple marketing channels

A sufficient digital team features members who have experience marketing through multiple channels, such as email marketing, paid advertising, mobile apps, and local search. Often this means using a CRM (customer relationship management) tool. In healthcare, a CRM tool allows hospitals to comply with critical healthcare reform demands, such as sending appointment follow-ups and delivering literature for procedure preparation or recovery.

3. Proficient in social media

Healthcare marketing teams need to have a thorough understanding of how to use social media for the overall brand development. Along with allowing brands to reach new patients, social channels provide a way to signal to Google that a brand is relevant and committed to its audience. We especially want to emphasize the importance of using Google+ as a hub for sharing news, engaging in conversation, and encouraging online reviews.

4. Willing to rely on analytical thinking

From email marketing to website behavior, every aspect of an online business can be tracked. Team members who understand the digital trends and can draw insights from analytics will be able to communicate what impacts sales and why a web page sees an increase (or lack thereof) in traffic. Effective digital healthcare marketers will then be able to incorporate the data into creating even more successful marketing strategies – starting with sharing digital wins across all service lines. This application takes practice – and in many instances, training from outside resources – but the investment will change the way your organization measures success.

5. Eager to invest in content creation

Digital marketing hinges on website content – but this doesn’t just refer to an influx of words on new pages. Rather, this strategy refers to the creation of engaging, educational content that transforms the visitor into a patient and inspires him or her to share content across social networks, further expanding the potential audience. By referring to keyword research as an indication of what questions your organization can answer for patients, as well as what topics have significant search volume and opportunity for patient acquisition, a content strategy will enhance the quality of your hospital’s website while simultaneously catering to potential patients.


Times have changed for the healthcare industry. Now it is the patient who is in charge. This awareness should fuel all marketing efforts, especially inbound. It is critical to realize that a website without sufficient content will struggle to retain – much less convert – traffic coming in from paid ads, organic search rankings, or social media avenues. A digital marketing team must not only understand the evolving online marketplace, but also be able to educate, engage, and empower the audience with quality content and task-oriented websites.

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Making a Powerful Hospital Video for improved Social Presence

Making a Powerful Hospital Video for improved Social Presence | Social Media and Healthcare |

The internet has transformed healthcare into a consumer-driven market, with patients becoming active decision-makers in choosing hospitals. 

1. Create Health Information Videos, Not Commercials

Many hospitals create videos promoting their physicians and facilities, post them on YouTube, and are surprised to see that few people watch them. Why doesn’t this tactic work?

A study of over 600 hospital YouTube channels published in a 2013 edition of the "Journal of Communication in Healthcare" reveals health information videos are by far more popular than promotional videos. The author, Dr. Edgar Huang of Indiana University, states: “to attract traffic, hospitals should shift their foci to better serving their users by altruistically providing more videos that pertain to users’ interests” which includes, primarily, videos on patient education, surgical procedures, and public announcements.

Bottom line: You will reach more patients if you give them the information they’re searching for.

2. Include Animations in Your Videos

What works for Hollywood can work for hospitals. Look at some hospital YouTube channels and view the videos based on popularity. What you should notice are the videos with 3D animations rise to the top of the list.

Regardless of the reasons--whether it’s the simplified information, the high production values, the lack of “gore,” or just the cool factor--patients enjoy watching 3D medical animations far more than live videos depicting the same subjects.

This type of content is not as expensive as it was 5 years ago, and you can licensee stock medical animations for a relatively low annual fee from companies like Nucleus Medical Media.

3. Sync Your Efforts: Broadcast & Cross-Promote

It’s important to make certain that your content is at the top of the health information searches for patients in your area.

The easiest way to improve search engine results is to coordinate digital marketing among various social media sites. Post a video on your hospital YouTube channel. Link to it on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Write a press release about your hospital’s latest educational video, including a link. Embed the video into your website and blog posts. You’ll get the best response in the first week, but patients can refer back to your video any time they have questions about a condition or procedure.

4. Optimize, Evaluate, & Adjust

To attract patients in your area using YouTube, include keywords in your videos’ title, description, and tags related to location, medical specialty, disease state, tests, treatments, etc. Use terms a patient would search for rather than technical terms, like "flu” not “influenza."

Never assume you can just “set is and forget it” when it comes to online video. Initial views will rise and then taper off. Afterward, use analytics to evaluate what helped your video perform well so you can replicate it in future campaigns. YouTube Analytics lets you track incoming traffic sources, demographic data, and geographic locations down to the city level. With this information, you can make intelligent choices about how to promote your videos.

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Rules of Engagement: 7 Tips for Successful Pharma Content Marketing

Rules of Engagement: 7 Tips for Successful Pharma Content Marketing | Social Media and Healthcare |

With the phenomenal rise of content marketing as a tool for generating inbound leads, content marketing is now the phrase on everyone’s lips, but the successful execution of a content marketing strategy often eludes companies.

The essence of good content marketing is that it offers something the viewer wants, such as information or entertainment. Content marketing can take a lot of different forms, including YouTube videos, blog posts and articles. It shouldn’t really seem like marketing — in some cases, in fact, it should only be identifiable as marketing because the advertiser is identified as the content provider.”

#1 Put Your Customers First

Obsessive self-orientation is a big mistake companies make with their marketing communications. Refocus your attitude with the customer as core, what problem have they that you could help solve. “Don’t be egotistical. Nobody cares about your products and services (except you). What people care about are themselves and solving their problems”. David Meerman Scott, author of “The New Rules of Marketing and PR”.

#2 Planning

Before you begin working on a specific piece of content, it is important to define and communicate your goals. This is particularly important if you need to justify your budget investment to your company’s executives, as it will help you quantify your results later on. You can also build your content strategy with specific goals in mind — for example, increasing your number of Facebook “likes” or growing your database of email addresses. By setting your goals right from the start, you can then focus on building your content in a way that will increase the chances of meeting those benchmarks.

#3 Help, Don’t Sell

Content marketing requires a shift in your thinking, from “all about us” to “all about the reader.” Being a successful publisher – and now, content marketer — means delivering content that genuinely serves your readers’ needs, not your brand’s. In return, you gain their trust and their attention. That’s a great deal. The purpose of your marketing is to build relationships – to get people to know like and trust you and consider you when it comes to making a purchasing decision.

#4 Slow Burn

Don’t expect results after one or two months. Businesses often give up just as they’re starting to gain influence with their audience. Content marketing is a long-term investment. There are no quick wins.

#5 It’s Not All about SEO

Making content discoverable to Google is often as important as the substance of the content itself – whether it’s a piece of service journalism, a data-driven infographic, or something else. Content producers need to incorporate basic SEO 101 into their daily routines.  At the same time, getting too religious about the latest page-rank formulas and other requirements can work against the most powerful variables of quality content – narrative, voice, credibility, trust, humor – and turn a creative process robotic.

#6 Commit to Quality

It’s not enough to publish a well-written article; it has to be valuable, useful, fulfilling a need. Make it fascinating, says Brian Clark of Copyblogger, “entertaining beautiful, fun.” It needs to be styled to attract and retain the focus of the reader. Use good quality photos and illustrations, clear text styling and design elements that compliment the look and feel of your website.

#7 Continuous Effort

The key to good content marketing is understanding that it is a continuous effort to come up with new, engaging content targeted to your audience, and requires research, thought, and a long-term plan to all be documented in an editorial calendar.

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How Technology is Driving Communication in Pharma

How Technology is Driving Communication in Pharma | Social Media and Healthcare |

This just in: another example of a Pharma company trying to use social media in a responsible way and being undermined by shifting technology – meta tags where you don’t expect them. You can read about it here.

We are learning, we are evolving, and we are trying to stay a step ahead of technology that is changing at a pace few can keep up with – especially if it is not the focus of your job, like many Pharma marketers. Layer in the promotional review process, designed to protect our companies from exposure to regulatory and legal liability – a process that even when streamlined moves at a snail’s pace compared to communications. Many of the social platforms update their backend design and functionality with very little fanfare or notice to the business community. By the time a company launches a new program the platforms/technology have changed and they are left with all sorts of unanticipated issues.

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5 Rules To Guide Your Approach to Learning in Social Media for your Practice

5 Rules To Guide Your Approach to Learning in Social Media for your Practice | Social Media and Healthcare |

Blogs, podcasts, and other social media platforms in medical education, known collectively as Free Open Access Meducation (FOAM), are becoming increasingly popular and integrated into daily learning habits. Through various push technologies, these resources come to you in the form of RSS feeds, podcast tools, and other apps. Do you have a mental checklist to help you determine whether the content is trustworthy and accurate? How do you process the information from FOAM sites? 

Here are 5 rules that we at ALiEM follow as lifelong learners ourselves when learning from other FOAM sites:


Read more about the topic using several references, such as journal articles, textbooks, and other social media sources. ‘Triangulate’ your information using multiple references. Be suspicious if the resource has no references.


Check with your colleagues in the department or on Twitter. Ask clarification questions on the blog or podcast site. Does this fit into your practice given the available resources that you have? Is this in your scope of practice? Is this appropriate for your level of training? What are the risks to your patient and you?


For not-yet-mainstream practices, such as rapid-rule out troponins for AMI, hands-on defibrillation, or PESI scoring for outpatient management of pulmonary embolism, if you are in doubt, don’t incorporate it into your practice until there’s more literature out there. The same is true for non-traditional procedural techniques. It is great to know about what innovations are on the knowledge horizon, but being the first to implement it isn’t wise.


Many N=1 innovations are worthwhile to know about. Many have a high reward and low risk profile, such as using parts of your hand as a makeshift ruler to guestimate wound lengths. Others are the opposite with low reward and high risk profiles. The key is differentiating between the two. Use common sense. Refer to #3.


As with all patient-care activities, you should be involving your patient in the discussion around your treatment.  If you are trying something ‘new’ or ‘innovative’, admit to your patient that the solution to their problem is not well studied… and therefore you can journey with them towards trialing a new method. Document your shared decisions this way.  Make it a truthful, informed (or ‘as-informed-as-possible’) discussion.

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Incorporating Social Media into Medical Education

Slides from Social Media workshop for medical educators at Academic Internal Medicine Week 2010. Presenters represent 3 different universities and different rol
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11 Tips for How Hospitals Can Use Social Media for Patient Education

11 Tips for How Hospitals Can Use Social Media for Patient Education | Social Media and Healthcare |
One of our first clients was a hospital. They wanted to find a way to keep their patients more engaged and better informed about their own health. Every family practice doctor had a similar story: patients would come in, mention an article they read in a paper like the New York Times, and ask if it was true.

Health education is one of the most effective ways to keep patients healthy, so the hospital saw an opportunity: what if the clinic could recommend important health news directly to patients via social media?


Would they read it? Would doctors participate? And would the hospital support them?

We were brought in to  develop a strategy and implement a social media health education program. In this blog post I’m going to explain the principles behind a social media health education strategy, how the strategy

works, and how to implement it successfully. These same principles apply to any large service organization that employs highly educated, highly independent professionals (law firms, accounting firms, consulting firms, etc). 

What Patients Want: Personal Relationships, Leveraging the News, Creating ROI

We learned some important principles about what patients want when it comes to health news. 

  1. People want health tips from the doctors and nurses they know. Whether it’s a friend or family member or their own doctor or nurse, patients and their families trust them for health advice. “So I saw this on Dr. Oz…” are seven words every health professional has heard before. 
  2. Patients are influential too. Patients also share news and health advice with their friends and family. 
  3. Sharing news is just as good as creating new content. People are as likely to read health news from a major publisher as they are press releases or content created by their doctor’s hospital. Unless it’s important to create new content, you can save time and cost by sharing news articles. 
  4. Email gets the most engagement, followed by Facebook, then Twitter. Patients were most likely to read posts shared via email, but sharing to Facebook was how to reach the most people. The best approach was to combine email + facebook sharing 

What Hospitals Need to Know: Doctors are Individuals, Risk Needs to be Managed, and Personal Profiles are Critical

In addition to the principles of what patients wanted, hospitals are large organizations with complex risk profiles. There are some critical considerations for how to make a social media health education program work for them: 

  1. Communications teams need to be the quarterbacks: Communications teams are aware of the risks and need to be at the centre. They need to either train the doctors carefully about brand risks or they need to be involved in selecting content (more on how to do that shortly). 
  2. Total control is not an option: Communications teams can’t control what doctors and employees share to their personal profiles without antagonizing them, so it’s important to make it easier for them to share approved content than to find their own content. 
  3. Doctor and employee presences often drive more traffic than brand presences: Via personal presences on Facebook and Twitter accounts, many individuals have presences that have higher levels of engagement than brand presences (like the hospital’s official presence). It is especially true if you have any doctors who are frequently quoted by the media. Very large health organizations like Mayo Clinic are exceptions. 
  4. Email is the most effective channel: The most effective way to engage employees and doctors to share hospital-approved content is by emailing them content they can retweet or like. Relying on them to navigate to the hospital’s approved Twitter account to find what they can retweet is significantly less effective and users won’t do it consistently. 

The Playbook: How These Principles Turn into a Strategy

Now that we’ve looked at the principles, here’s the best way to actually run a program that maximizes patient education and engagement while minimizing risk. 

  1. Find all of your doctor’s and official hospital Twitter accounts. There are usually a few doctors or departments sharing hospital or health related news. These are great sources for health news to share. 
  2. The communications team should select relevant health news. Working with the doctors to establish criteria, communications professionals should select appropriate news. 
  3. Share it to Twitter and Facebook. Official presences should be managed by a communications professional to control brand risk. 
  4. Email out your best Tweets and Facebook posts to your staff and patients. Your staff were probably working when you were tweeting, or maybe they just missed the update. So email them the most important health news so it’s easy for them to share to their own networks.
  5. Measure and Repeat. There are two important things to measure: which content is most popular and whose sharing is getting the most engagement. This will will help you identify which topics and sources are working best and who among your staff and patients have the most critical networks. Plus, sometimes it’s nice to thank people for sharing!

So those are the lessons and that’s the strategy. Hospitals and health organizations can use social media as an effective health education channel by using a coordinated strategy that keeps their brands safe, their employees engaged, and their patients healthy. 

Charlotte Serres's curator insight, September 18, 2013 3:06 PM

Hospitales y organizaciones de salud deben de usar redes sociales como medio efectivo de educación sanitaria para sus pacientes para mejorar su salud cuotidiada

Walter Adamson's curator insight, September 20, 2013 1:31 AM

Goo playbook

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Using social media to empower people with arthritis

Using social media to empower people with arthritis | Social Media and Healthcare |
Online social networking sites such as Facebook are used for individuals and organizations to connect with others, share photos and videos, as well as provide status updates by posting to a profile page. Can they also be used as a tool to implement a health care education program?

A group of researchers, including Dr. Lucie Brosseau, School of Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Ottawa, and Dr. Sydney Brooks, Director of Research, The Arthritis Society, Ontario Division, completed a study to answer this very question.

The study, entitled: People getting a grip on arthritis II: An innovative strategy to implement clinical practice guidelines for rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis patients through Facebook, set out to determine if an updated online evidence-based educational program delivered through Facebook was effective in improving the knowledge, skills, and self-efficacy of patients with arthritis (osteoarthritis – OA – and rheumatoid arthritis – RA) in relation to evidence-based self-management rehabilitation strategies.

The study included 110 participants over 18 with self-reported OA or RA. Eleven participants were part of a focus group that would choose effective self-management strategies for OA and RA for posting on Facebook. The other 99 were part of the online Facebook study, which featured case-based video clips on the self-management strategies and how to apply them.

“Since this was a new approach to patient education, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was hopeful we might reach a new group of people who were comfortable using technology to participate in arthritis research and education,” says Dr. Brooks.It turns out many arthritis sufferers were interested in participating in the study.

“Our biggest surprise was the ease in recruitment,” adds Dr. Brooks. “Once the study was advertised on The Arthritis Society website, we reached our required sample size quickly.”

Over a three-month period, all participants were asked to complete three online questionnaires regarding their previous knowledge, intention to actually use the self-management strategies and confidence level in the self-management of their arthritis. Ultimately, a goal of the research team was to discover after the study that using Facebook would be an effective, low-cost solution to providing people with arthritis across the country with information about self-management strategies.

The first focus group’s watched a two-hour presentation describing the self-management strategies. The group then engaged in discussions and ranked each strategy according to the relevance and practicality.

The online study participants received a brief tutorial on how to use the Facebook page to complete the online questionnaires.They logged in to the Facebook group pages to view the uploaded YouTube videos describing the arthritis self-management strategies. The videos were only posted after participants had completed the first questionnaire regarding previous knowledge. Once the videos were viewed, participants could communicate with one another via the ‘wall’ and ‘comment’ tools available and complete the other two online questionnaires (intention to use strategies and confidence level).

In the end, the research team was happy with the results. Immediately after the online study, 41 participants with OA had improved knowledge on the topic of arthritis self-management strategies, while 22 participants with RA had improved knowledge. Eighty-three per cent of participants with OA and 74 per cent of participants with RA intended to use at least one of the arthritis self-management strategies following the study. Some of these strategies included aquatic therapy, strengthening exercises of the hand and weight management.

“Our positive results support the use of social media as a knowledge transfer and education tool, even among an older population,” says Dr. Brooks. “Facebook was a successful tool for recruiting research participants and disseminating evidence-based self-management strategies to people living with arthritis. This low-cost intervention allowed people with arthritis from across Canada to learn about evidence-based self-management strategies in the privacy and comfort of their own home,” she adds.

Not only can the participants continue to use the videos on Facebook as a learning tool, they can share this information with others who suffer from arthritis.For more information about The Arthritis Society’s research activities, visit
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Enable, Engage,Comfort, Educate ... and Thrive

Enable, Engage,Comfort, Educate ... and Thrive | Social Media and Healthcare |
Raise your hands if you would like to know more about your doctor before you enter their office … and be able to further educate yourself after you have left.

You’re not alone !

Ok… who’s paying attention? Doctors are human beings… so are patients. Some people trust and get along with one another … some, not so much.That’s fine…

It would be nice if you were able to get to know more about your doctor before you entered the four walls of their office (and perhaps waited an hour to see them).

A typical “parking spot” style physicians’ website with purchased pictures, limited content, and their address and telephone number isn’t going to cut it anymore.

Physicians have a moral obligation to educate their patients. Patients are looking for information online. Some are being misled by nonsense information posted by disreputable sources! Physicians should therefore endeavor to create content and enter the digital and social space to educate patients. Think of it as extending your relevance and pushing out your shareable knowledge base beyond the four walls of your practice.A deep digital presence can also go a very long way in terms of “humanizing your presence”, and enabling your patients to determine if they think you are a proper fit. After all… we’re in this together as a team. If one member of the team doesn’t trust the other… game over.

As Sarah-Jayne Gratton describes in this interview:"… patients don’t want to talk to a faceless, nameless entity; they want to sense the person behind it — the personal. They want to like and get to know you, not just interact with your business. Remember that emotions are everything — they always have been and they always will be. Without them we cease to be human and we cease to invest in the human race."

While the numbers of physicians who are developing a deep online presence is growing… very few physicians (and healthcare organizations) understand the complexities and dynamics which accompany a web presence rich enough to enable, engage, comfort and educate patients.You are your brand. You can not separate your own voice from that of your brand. Powerful branding comes as a natural extension of a purposeful (perhaps altruistic) inbound initiative because of your presence.. and is simply icing on the cake.

Sarah goes on …

… it’s so important to acknowledge the fact that today’s patients, consumers and clients have the ability to communicate online all day, every day, sharing, tweeting and blogging about how they feel. Sentiment is oozing out of every post they make, and we should not fear it, but instead, embrace it as the new lifeblood of branding. The ability to listen and understand how our patients feel (whether good or bad), what is important to them and what their expectations are, provides huge opportunities for forming the emotional allegiances needed for enduring personal brand loyalty.

So what’s the dilemma? Adopting a new media presence to push your digital content and to enable patients to ‘meet” you on their terms represents a change… and change is painful and evokes a fear response in many. But change is necessary, and social media is not going away.

We need to be the change we wish to see… or in this case, the change our patients want to see.
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Patient Understanding and Health Comprehension In the Age of Social Media

Patient Understanding and Health Comprehension In the Age of Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |
Your patient can be your friend and advocate

Sales of medical devices and pharmaceuticals are influenced by patients. Patients can help promote a brand by letting physicians know about it and talking about it with their friends on- or off-line. Patients can even agree to receive a certain treatment or participate in a clinical study based on their understanding of the way a product could advance their health.

Just look at the following statistics:

  • 40% of consumers say that information they have found on social media sites affects the way that they manage their health
  • 42% of consumers use the internet to look up reviews for treatments and products
  • 34% of patients use the internet to discover new brands
  • 32% of patients use the internet to evaluate specific features of a product

What needs to be taken into account is the patient’s experience and this means promoting the patient understanding of your product.

Patient understanding and literacy is not as high as you may think

The average patient that reads health information is not as literate as you m
ay have come to believe. Patient understanding and comprehension is in fact extremely low.


New research published in JAMA Internal Medicine assesses readability of patient education resources found online. The research determined that such materials often are too complex for their intended audience. The main reason is that the average American adult reads at approximately a seventh- to- eighth-grade level.


An average patient would get completely lost in the endless jargon a medical marketer puts in his communications materials. Information that medical devices companies promote is highly technical and feature based. We often see that doctors cannot comprehend these densely written, jargon-filled brochures and one-pagers. So what about patients?


Some words that seem extremely clear for a medical marketer may not be understood by patients. “Simple” words such as benignterminal, or hypertension may not be as clear as you believe, according to the Agency of HealthCare Research and Quality (AHRQ).


As it turns out, some disciplines perform worse than others. Of the 16 medical disciplines researched, the quality of writing in obstetrics and gynecology materials was especially full of clichés and grammar mistakes.

Want positive feedback on your product? Promote patient understanding and experience.

Do the following:

  • Write content especially designed for patients – If you do not have a patient section in your medical site, build one now. Having such a section will increase your products’ appeal, promote patient understanding and create a positive patient experience, which is what you want.
  • Explain your product in plain English – Start by removing buzzwords and writing in language that isn’t technical but rather appealing to the readers. Explain your devices’ benefits and the drawbacks of the solutions offered by your competitors in the simplest terms.
  • Give the patient collateral to a 15 year old. Before you print or publish on your website, give the material to a 15 year old to read. Did he understand it? If he did, chances are your patient will understand it too. Industry sources claim that the level of materials should be aimed to the comprehension levels of a sixth grader!
  • Use a lot of pictures – Do not stuff your materials with a lot of text. Use pictures if you can, even hiring a professional photographer if you can afford one. There is actually quite a lot to learn from the medical aesthetics industry, which uses before and after pictures extensively.
  • Use videos – 25% of U.S. adults watch videos and product information related to healthcare . Watching is so much easier than reading. Create patient videos to optimize the patient experience and accommodate to patient needs. Share these on your website and on YouTube.
  • Keep them engaged – Motivate patients to share the information about your device to pique physicians’ curiosity. There are several ways this can be done, which we will cover in a future post.

For now, remember that your patient is interested – he or she just might not have the background to understand complicated medical marketing communications materials. Write it well, without jargon or unnecessary complicated language, and you’ll have satisfied and better informed patients—and advocates.

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Driving Engagement through Social Media for Healthcare Providers

Driving Engagement through Social Media for Healthcare Providers | Social Media and Healthcare |

Historically, the healthcare industry has been slow to adopt digital marketing practices. However, social media provides a great way for healthcare companies to engage their audience with interesting and meaningful content.  And more and more healthcare marketers are getting up to speed.


Platforms like Facebook and Twitter let patients have conversations with real doctors and healthcare workers, and the ability to share such conversations help spark interest and get more people involved.  People love to share their opinions and win competitions, and healthcare companies can take advantage of this by creating surveys and contests to be deployed through social media.

In fact, many healthcare companies are starting to become more involved in social media. 

But which healthcare providers are taking advantage of social media? Check out some innovative examples of healthcare institutions that are really engaging through social media. 

Lexington Medical Center

The Lexington Medical Center made great use of the 2012 Pink Glove Dance, a video competition where the prizes are awarded as donations to breast cancer charities, to attract attention to itself, engaging practically the entire state of South Carolina. They used social media, content marketing, and YouTube to ramp up their efforts and get the community involved–and all for a good cause. This is also a great example of a healthcare facility going outside of the box and having some fun with their marketing.

Henry Ford Hospital

Social networks give businesses a place to be innovative.  Take, for example, the fascinating idea of using Twitter to share live broadcasts of surgical procedures.  The first was a tumor removal operation that took place in 2009 at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, and many have followed.  These live broadcasts fascinate audiences and can showcase the facilities and level of care given by a healthcare facility. They also show transparency and create trust with patients.

Seattle Children’s Hospital

Seattle Children’s Hospital is also quite active on social channels. They have 71,794 likes on Facebook and their posts all average about 1,000 likes, which is great engagement. Seattle Children’s hospital excels on Facebook through their highly visual cover image and posts. They also encourage active blogging and have 4 separate blogs that appeal to different audiences including a blog for autism, teens, and medical reports.

Johns Hopkins Hospital

Social Media Today recently posted an article applauding the social media efforts of Johns Hopkins.  One of the campaigns that the social media manager Stacy Poliseo talked about in the article was one they did for Sheikh Zayed Tower and The Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children’s Center. The buildings were under construction and the social media team created an interactive Facebook tab to learn about the buildings, take a video tour, and even take a quiz about the building’s construction. According to Stacy, “that page drove over 20% of new Facebook likes”, which is a great metric.

Even though many healthcare institutions are slow to adopt digital marketing, clearly there are some stand-outs who have truly embraced social media and engagement. 

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Research finds health care content marketing lags two years behind

Research finds health care content marketing lags two years behind | Social Media and Healthcare |

This is nothing against our wonderful marketers in the health care space, but just take a look at our content marketing research from two years ago. What you’ll notice is that the health care content marketing findings from this year look a lot like the overall findings from two years ago. And this makes sense – health care is a highly-regulated industry, and fear is rampant. But it also means there are significant opportunities for growth in this space.

In particular, some major findings include:

  • Forty-three percent of health care marketers plan to increase their content marketing spend over the next 12 months, compared to 54 percent for all industries.
  • On average, health care marketers spend 23 percent of their total marketing budget on content marketing activities, compared to 31 percent for all marketers.
  • Brand awareness is the most popular content marketing objective (81 percent).
  • The biggest content marketing challenge isproducing enough content.


Here are a few additional highlights of how this highly-regulated vertical is using content marketing:

Health care marketers use print more often

For the most part, health care marketers have similar rates of adoption for most tactics, but there are some notable differences:

Health care marketers tend to use print at higher rates than their peers:

  • Print magazines:47 percent of health care marketers use them, versus 35 percent of all marketers.
  • Print newsletters:43 percent of health care marketers use them, versus 28 percent of all marketers.
  • Annual reports:36 percent of health care marketers use them, versus 26 percent of all marketers.

There are also tactics health care marketers use less often than their peers:

  • Blogs:58 percent of health care marketers use blogs, versus 74 percent of all marketers.
  • Case studies:53 percent of health care marketers use case studies, versus 63 percent of all marketers. (This makes sense… just think of the challenges in the Pharma industry.)

Health care marketers use social media less often

Below you will see the average rates for using social media for content distribution. With the exception of YouTube, health care marketers use all social media channels less often than their peers in other industries do. Yet, it’s interesting to note that health care marketers use video (75 percent) slightly more often than their peers (71 percent).

Health care marketers outsource more content than their peers

Compared to their peers, health care marketers outsource content far more often: 63 percent versus 45 percent of marketers overall. Printed content marketing vehicles have been a mainstay in the industry for a long time, often outsourced to content agencies. In addition, adding outside consult is always helpful, as fear of HIPAA violations is always a concern for marketers.

A brief look at the health care demographic

While it is noteworthy to understand how marketers in the health care industry are using content marketing, it’s important to understand how other demographics may play a role in these research findings. Here are a few notes about the demographics of this research:

  • Out of 2,404 total respondents, 118 respondents identified themselves as working in the health care industry.
  • About half of the respondents work for companies with 1,000 or more employees, and 23 percent of total respondents work for companies with more than 10,000 employees.

Do you work in health care? Are these trends consistent with what you are seeing?

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How to get doctors involved in social media for hospitals

Dr. Russell Faust shares tips for getting doctors involved in producing content for hospital marketing and social media.
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Healthcare Marketing: Social Streams Must Serve a Purpose

Healthcare Marketing: Social Streams Must Serve a Purpose | Social Media and Healthcare |

f you build it, they will come.

If that’s the crux your social marketing strategy, I’ve got some bad news for you: no, they probably won’t.

A lot of healthcare marketing managers think that just by setting up Facebook pages and establishing Twitter accounts they’re good to go. That by “having a presence” on LinkedIn and Google+ they can check the box next to “social media” on their to-do lists and move on. Oh, if it were only that easy!

The most important thing to consider before embarking on a social effort – or to reconsider if you’ve already started and can’t seem to figure out why it’s not working – is whether or not any given platform or stream is actually going to serve a purpose for your hospital, provider or insurance company. That is to say, social media channels should only exist for your organization if they fulfill a specific need.

Purposeful streams include those that provide unique and quality content, build community and engagement, and can be fostered and supported on an ongoing and regular basis. If your streams can manage to do all those things, they will build awareness, a positive image for your healthcare organization, and – hopefully – a larger fan base.


Here are a few things to think about as you build (or rebuild) your social marketing strategy.


Too many streams, not enough differentiating content
There’s nothing worse than checking out an organization’s Twitter stream and seeing that each tweet is really a cut-off Facebook post. Seriously: why bother? If you can’t come up with platform-appropriate content, you’re really not serving any purpose or filling any need. Remember: what’s good for Facebook may not be good for Twitter, may not be good for LinkedIn, may not be good for Pinterest, etc. Not every platform is equal and each social network has a different potential that can be maximized in different ways for healthcare. Your fans and followers know this and expect you to know it, too.


Be where your audience is
Fundamentally, just because a social platform exists doesn’t mean that your organization should join it. A good question to ask yourself when finding your social space is, “Where is my audience?” Who are you trying to reach? If you’re looking to build a robust and engaged community among an audience of consumers, maybe Facebook is a better option than, say, LinkedIn – which might be a better option for you if you’re trying to build influence or thought leadership within an audience primarily made up of businesses and business-minded folks. Likewise, if your organization and audience have a fun side, perhaps a little Pinterest personality is in order.

Fresh content and timely engagement are key
If you’re on Twitter, you have to be on Twitter. Meaning: one or two tweets a week is not going to cut it. You have to keep your content coming – or else no one’s going to take your effort seriously. Different platforms have different standards for what is considered a “good amount” of updates; learn those standards and stick to them. And, of course, updates are only half of it: the other half is the conversation you’re having with your audience. This requires an active presence so you can respond in a timely manner. Even if you’re not using your stream as a “customer service” medium, you’re still going to be answering questions and providing assistance – it’s just the nature of social. Make sure you have the tools and people in place so you’re able to support it.

Remember: a social stream with the right content, engagement and support can tap into the energy of your audience and create enthusiasm and advocacy among its members.

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10 Reasons Your mHealth Brand Needs Social Media Marketing

10 Reasons Your mHealth Brand Needs Social Media Marketing | Social Media and Healthcare |

If your mHealth brand isn't actively involved in social media marketing, you could be missing out on more sales, more awareness, more visibility

Healthy Social Media Marketing for mHealth Brands

1. Social media is where your customers are
Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and mobile apps and games have all become favorite pastimes across the world. Interacting in that environment puts your brand and product messages in a position to be shared and commented which leads to awareness, interest and sales.

2. Social media levels the playing field
The advantage is still with larger, more established brands, simply because they started with existing fan bases and may have larger budgets for media spends. That just means you may have to be more creative and work harder to reach the same audiences.

3. Social media is already helping your competition
Your archrivals already jumped into social media and are way ahead. You’ll need to get with the program and escalate quickly before it’s too late.

4. Social media is searchable
Consumers are looking for your products and services. Social media can affect organic Google search results as well as be an entry point to your website, microsite or promo page.

5. Social media content is shareable
A vital part of social media is creating and sharing content like videos, articles, photos, graphics and social media updates.

6. Social media allows for real-time feedback and interaction
Through the process of creating content, sharing and interacting, you’ll learn what’s important to your consumers. This builds brand and product loyalty as you discuss new ways of doing things better and measure response along the way.

7. Social media is measurable
Since the real bottom line is always going to be sales, social media measurement can help your boss and partners determine which actions and reactions are leading to increased sales.

8. Social media lives forever and is more cost effective
Videos, photos, LinkedIn updates, tweets, etc. stay online and in Google results for a very long time. But unlike print ads that are thrown away, social media content stays online, working for you and reducing the overall per-unit spend over time.

9. Social media is one click away from the buy button
Properly set up and executed, consumers should never be more than one click away from the opportunity to buy – or at least learn more about – the product or service you are selling.

10. Social media marketing involves selling, not just playing around
Social media initiatives and daily interaction should revolve around clear objectives and calls to action to create an environment in which consumers can easily purchase.

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Doctors Use Social Media For Continuous Medical Education

Doctors Use Social Media For Continuous Medical Education | Social Media and Healthcare |

By rebranding what they do on blogs and Twitter, advocates of Free Open Access Medical Education, or #FOAMed, seek to accelerate medical knowledge sharing.

here are serious medical conversations going on every day on Twitter, squeezed in between the celebrity news and the millions posting what they had for lunch. To find them, just search for #FOAMed.

The hashtag refers to the concept of Free Open Access Meducation (medical education), or FOAM, first promoted at the 2012 International Conference on Emergency Medicine in a lecture by Mike Cadogan, an emergency medicine physician, educator and digital media enthusiast from Australia. Frustrated by the resistance of many physicians and medical educators to the serious potential of social media, he decided to rebrand what he and others were doing online as a form of continuing education.

"I'd always seen blogging and podcasting as an amazing medium to use for medical education," Cadogan said in a Skype interview. He saw the rebranding as a way to "get people on board with something they felt was very beneath them."

The past year has seen proliferating use of the hashtag and specialty-specific variants on it (such as #FOAMcc for critical care doctors). While the Twitter feed itself, with its 140-character limit, doesn't lend itself to in deep exploration, it's acting as a carrier wave for broader conversations a click away in blogs, podcasts, videos and video chats. While this information has not gone through the same peer review filters as an article in a medical journal, enthusiasts say it is often more current and useful -- not necessarily for major research findings but as a way to share practical tips on techniques for the everyday practice of medicine.

"We've actively managed to engage a large group of researchers and significant academics who are moving away from writing textbooks and journal articles to doing more in the online arena," Cadogan said. "That's lending a sense of credence to what we're doing."

"The journals are still an essential part of the culture we work in," he allowed, but medical education is starting to be influenced by the open source and open content trends on the Internet, where "you take all the simple stuff, all the basic knowledge, and make it free." As an author of medical textbooks himself, Cadogan has decided it is more productive for him to spend his time blogging than to produce a new edition of one of those books.

Textbooks tend to be "outdated and expensive," whereas information gleaned from blogs and wikis can be better for fostering a "lifelong learning habit," said Michelle Lin, an associate professor of clinical emergency medicine at the University of California San Francisco and a contributor to the Academic Life in Emergency Medicine blog. Many FOAM enthusiasts will start a blog and use links posted to Twitter as "a means of directing people to their grander thoughts." Because of the growing number of clinical experts participating on Twitter, it can also be a powerful research tool, she said.

FOAM is distinct from the uses of social media for marketing or patient communication. Instead, the focus is on peer-to-peer networking of doctors.

Considered as education, FOAM mirrors what has been going on in other sectors of higher education with open educational resources (OERs) such as free digital textbooks and massive open online courses (MOOCs). At the undergraduate level, OER textbooks and other course materials are often promoted as a tool for lowering the cost of education, but also as a way of keeping instructional videos up to date by making them modular and digital. Although healthcare has some open textbook type projects of its own -- such as WikEM for emergency medicine -- most of the open education momentum is taking place outside of medical school.

While medical blogging and online activity is not new, it has a new focus.

"Really in the last year, it has just sort of exploded," said Haney Mallemat, an assistant professor and member of the department of emergency medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. While medical blogging is not new, the hashtag is useful because doctors use it exclusively for subjects related to medical education, as "a sacred temple" where personal tweets or even discussions of healthcare politics should not intrude, he said. Longer term, he sees potential for the conversation to migrate to Google+, which supports longer posts and other useful features like video Hangouts.

Many of the participating doctors have taken to posting a daily "pearl" (as in, pearl of wisdom), a practice Mallemat has adopted. "Often I'll send out a picture of an X-ray and all I'll say is 'What is the diagnosis?' and later answer with bullet points. In that sense, it is pure education." Social networking among physicians is also an extension of what they do at conferences, where the focus is on "going beyond the textbook" to interacting directly with experts -- but now they can do it all year long, any hour of the day. In yet other cases, Mallemat may encounter a clinical problem he doesn't know how to solve, share it with his network (without patient identifiers), and "instantaneously get responses from around the globe."

"Is that classical medical education? Maybe not, but it's a new way of learning," Mallemat said.

"It's education in the broadest possible sense -- idea dissemination and discussion," said Ryan Patrick Radecki, an assistant professor at the University of Texas Medical School, whose specialties include emergency medicine and informatics. As an educational resource, FOAM materials may be particularly useful to physicians around the world whose hospitals may not have the budget to subscribe to all the relevant journals, he said.

Partly because it was first promoted at an emergency medical conference by an emergency medical physician, FOAM's center of gravity is very much in emergency medicine, although Cadogan said he also sees it taking off among general practitioners, pediatricians and others. Urology and cancer physicians are also starting to pay attention. One reason emergency physicians have a strong interest might have to do with their "short attention span and need to have answers quickly, with a large number of topics covered." An emergency room doctor needs to understand a little of all specialties, never knowing who might come in the door, he said. "They're also willing to discuss things far more openly and far more open to being wrong" and accepting new evidence that there is a better way to do something, he said.

FOAM has just advanced to the point where practitioners are starting to ask more serious questions, such as who is to blame for medical errors inspired by unreliable information from an online source, Cadogan said. Yet information in professional journals can be just as unreliable, or even fraudulent, he said, and doctors need to hone their critical thinking skills for all the information they consume.


As a polymath who writes software code in addition to practicing medicine and teaching, Cadogan is working on a new website that would correlate the best medical information available in social media. His first cut at that problem was the Global Medical Education Project (GMEP) website. He is particularly interested in organizing medical images that can be used for teaching purposes. Medical privacy rules have complicated the process of obtaining images to write about, and procedures for obtaining proper consent from patients are just now being solidified, he said. A library of images obtained in keeping with the rules and available under Creative Commons licensing would help solve that problem, he said.


Meanwhile, he sees FOAM as an "initial foray into collaborative education." Some of the trends sweeping through the rest of higher education are starting to make their way into medical school, such as the concept of a "flipped classroom" where students view video lectures and do most of their studying online, shifting the emphasis in classroom time from lecturing to discussing the material. Even though this approach is not officially sanctioned by the medical schools where he teaches, probably 90 out of 100 students in the lecture hall will have studied in advance.


"Now it's not two minutes of question time at the end of the lecture -- they want 20 minutes lecture time -- and that change has become wildly apparent over last 12-18 months," Cadogan said. "If you're sitting in a lecture hall to learn, you're not doing it right anymore."

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Why Medical Education Should Embrace Social Media

Why Medical Education Should Embrace Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

I have never been very computer or tech savvy.  I’m not up-to-date on the latest technology, but I do have a smart phone and a laptop which I use for their very basic purposes; and I do admit I have a Facebook account, mostly for keeping in touch with friends and family and, you know, the daily grind.  Up until recently, I had no idea how to “Tweet” or what Twitter was really all about.  A physician mentor of mine suggested that I start a Twitter account and take advantage of the vast amount of knowledge floating around in Twitter world. 


I was hesitant at first since my free time is limited and I didn’t really need any additional distractions from my fellowship.  Plus, I definitely didn’t need to join another social media network to share pictures and read about everyone’s daily happenings.  But, I trust my mentor and appreciate his guidance, so I signed up.  And WOW!  Information overload at my fingertips!!  Within a few minutes, I became a “follower” of JAMA, Chest, Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins, New England Journal of Medicine, the Annals of Internal Medicine and numerous other large medical journals and institutions.  Granted, I may have also become a “follower” of a couple fitness magazines and my beloved Kansas Jayhawks, but the majority of my Twitter thread consists of these professional organizations. 


I had immediate access to hundreds of tweets from these prestigious institutions across the world.  These world-renowned entities were “tweeting” about medical information, both past and present.  They were sharing everything from major review articles to personal reflections and comic strips.  Not only were the major institutions sharing these, but other physicians were sharing their professional opinions and other articles that they found important and interesting.  By signing up for Twitter, I had opened my eyes to a whole new world of medical education.


At first, I mostly just browsed articles and topics that were posted.  But the more I read, the more I wanted to share.  I felt like others were helping me, so why not share the knowledge.   One afternoon, I sat down in the fellow call room on a break.  I had been browsing my Twitter feed on my phone and there were a couple of interesting articles and commentaries I wanted to read.  But low and behold, when signing in, a big red box comes across the screen stating “Access Denied.”  Ok, so I know Twitter is technically considered social media, but why can’t social media be used as an educational tool?  Large renowned institutions and organizations are tweeting valuable information pertaining to my livelihood and I can’t access it “on the job” where I’m supposed to be gaining an education.


I completely understand the philosophy of “internet censoring”.  I mean, who wants to see Johnny Five post 15 pictures a day from his iPhone about what he had for lunch while he’s supposed to be getting paid to do his job.  There is a time and a place for social media.  But why not allow some social media in the workplace as an educational tool? Why not allow residents and fellows the opportunity to access this information in their downtime?  Twitter, and/or other social media networks, could be viewed as a great opportunity for medical professionals to share information with one another. 


Why not start a “Pulmonary and Critical Care fellow’s page” and fill it with all the landmark articles, recent advancements, personal stories, financial advice, and multiple other topics important for fellows to become well-rounded physicians?  Not only do you have access to scientific information, but also personal stories and advice that humanize medicine.  Other healthcare professionals’ comments encourage you to think about topics in a way you might not have done so previously.  This allows you to grow, not only professionally, but personally.  Wouldn’t it be great if residents, fellows and physicians started tweeting about their experiences, and sharing information they found useful for their practice? After all, medicine is an art.  The beauty of the network is that you have the power to choose who you follow and what you read based upon your professional needs.  It’s a way to stay up-to-date on current medical events, to network with other professionals, and to follow what other medical professionals are reading; things that you should probably be reading, but just didn’t really know existed.


In this age of technology, healthcare social media is becoming an all new important and emerging part of medicine.  One that until recently, I didn’t even realize existed.  Training programs all across the country, at least in my neck of the woods, are censoring how their residents and fellows are using their resources.  What do you think about unlocking their social media access while at the workplace and opening this up as an avenue for education and growth?  In this new generation of healthcare social media networking, maybe “access denied” isn’t just prohibiting trainees from posting their favorite Harlem shake video on hospital time.  Maybe it is actually prohibiting the the expansion of educational opportunities in the modern age. It’s time that medical education answer the call of this tremendous opportunity.

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Social Media Marketing: How Big Data is Changing Everything

Social Media Marketing: How Big Data is Changing Everything | Social Media and Healthcare |

Every second of every day, Big Data gets bigger. Social media alone generates endless streams of data, flowing in from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social sites like never before.

Fortunately, sophisticated analytics platforms have arrived on the scene to help social media marketers manage, analyze and leverage large social data sets to gain actionable insights and a clear competitive advantage. Here’s a look at how Big Data is changing social media marketing in some pretty big ways.

Leveraging structured and unstructured data

According to industry experts, 90 percent of the world’s data was created within the past two years. Of this data, only 20 percent is structured — meaning that it can be readily stored in rows and columns and analyzed via the same tools that have been used for over four decades. The remaining 80 percent of this newly created data is “unstructured” content stemming from sources such as Instagram photos, YouTube videos and social media posts.

Creating more targeted and personalized campaigns

Social media marketers are always looking to communicate with customers in ways that are more relevant, personalized and targeted. And analysis of large social data sets can reveal important trends, which marketers can utilize to customize communications and content to better reflect what people are actually sharing, liking and talking about. 

A classic example of using Big Data to craft targeted and personalized offers is Amazon, which reaches out to customers by name — with specific product suggestions — to turn an otherwise anonymous transaction into an intimate long-term relationship.

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Social Media Release Increases Dissemination of Original Articles in the Clinical Pain Sciences

Social Media Release Increases Dissemination of Original Articles in the Clinical Pain Sciences | Social Media and Healthcare |

A barrier to dissemination of research is that it depends on the end-user searching for or ‘pulling’ relevant knowledge from the literature base. Social media instead ‘pushes’ relevant knowledge straight to the end-user, via blogs and sites such as Facebook and Twitter. That social media is very effective at improving dissemination seems well accepted, but, remarkably, there is no evidence to support this claim. We aimed to quantify the impact of social media release on views and downloads of articles in the clinical pain sciences.


Sixteen PLOS ONE articles were blogged and released via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and on one of two randomly selected dates. The other date served as a control. The primary outcomes were the rate of HTML views and PDF downloads of the article, over a seven-day period. The critical result was an increase in both outcome variables in the week after the blog post and social media release. The mean ± SD rate of HTML views in the week after the social media release was 18±18 per day, whereas the rate during the other three weeks was no more than 6±3 per day. The mean ± SD rate of PDF downloads in the week after the social media release was 4±4 per day, whereas the rate during the other three weeks was less than 1±1 per day (p<0.05 for all comparisons).


However, none of the recognized measures of social media reach, engagement or virality related to either outcome variable, nor to citation count one year later (p>0.3 for all). We conclude that social media release of a research article in the clinical pain sciences increases the number of people who view or download that article, but conventional social media metrics are unrelated to the effect.

We hypothesised that social media release of an original research article in the clinical pain sciences increases viewing and downloads of the article. The results support our hypothesis. In the week after the social media release, there were about 12 extra views of the HTML of the research article per day, and 3 extra downloads of the article itself per day, that we can attribute to the social media release. The effects were variable between articles, showing that multiple factors mediate the effect of a social media release on our chosen outcome variables. Although the absolute magnitude of the effect might be considered small (about 0.01% of people we reached were sufficiently interested to download the PDF), the effect size of the intervention was large (Cohen’s d >0.9 for both outcomes). The effect of social media release was probably smaller for our site, which is small, young and specialised, than it would be for sites with greater gravitas, for example NEJM or BMJ or indeed, PLOS.

Relationship between Reach and Impact

The idea of social media reach is fairly straightforward - it can be considered as the number of people in a network, for example the number of Facebook friends or Twitter followers. A blog may have 2,000 Facebook ‘likes’, 700 Twitter followers and 300 subscribers - a reach of three thousand people. Impact is less straightforward. The various definitions of social media each reflects a substantially larger population than our most proximal measure of impact – HTML views and PDF downloads of the original article. One might suggest that impact should reflect some sense of engagement with the material, for example the number of people within a network who make a comment on a post. From a clinical pain sciences perspective, change in clinical practice or clinician knowledge would be clear signs of impact, but such metrics are very difficult to obtain. Perhaps this is part of the reason that researchers are using, we believe erroneously, social media reach as a measure of social media impact.


There are now several social media options that researchers integrate into their overall ‘impact strategy’, for example listing their research on open non-subscription sites such as Mendeley, and joining discussions about research on social media sites such as Twitter and on blogs. Certainly, current measures of dissemination, most notably citations of articles or the impact factor of the journals in which they are published, do not take into account the social media impact of the article. New measurements, such as altmetrics and article-level metrics such as those provided by PLOS, aim to take into account the views, citations, social network conversations, blog posts and media coverage in an attempt to analyse the influence of research across a global community. There is merit in this pursuit, but, although our study relates to clinical pain sciences research, our results strongly suggest that we need to be careful in equating such measures with impact or influence, or using them as a surrogate for dissemination. Indeed, not even virality, which estimates the propensity of an item to ‘go viral’, was related with HTML views or PDF downloads.


This is very important because our results actually suggest that we may be measuring the wrong thing when it comes to determining the social media impact of research. That is, we showed a very clear effect of the social media release on both HTML views and PDF downloads of the target article. However, we did not detect any relationship between either outcome and the social media metrics we used. The only variable that related to either outcome was the number of HTML views, of the original blog post, in the week after social media release. It seems clear then, that it is not the total number of people you tell about your study, nor the number of people they tell, nor the number of people who follow you or who re-tweet your tweets. In fact, it appears that we are missing more of how the release improves dissemination than we are capturing.


The final result, that citation count did not relate to any social media measures, casts doubt over the intuitively sensible idea that social media impact reflects future citation-related impact. We used the Scopus citation count, taken almost 9 months after the completion of the experimental period, and 1–2 years after the publication date of the target articles, as a conventional measure of impact. There was no relationship between citation count and our measures of social media reach or virality. One must be cautious when interpreting this result because citation count so soon (1–2 years) after publication might be unlikely to capture new research that was triggered by the original article – although, importantly, journal impact factors are calculated on the basis of citations in the two years after publication. Suffice here to observe that the apparent popularity of an article on social media does not necessarily predict its short-term citation count.


Although this is the first empirical evaluation of social media impact in the clinical pain sciences and we have employed a conservative and robust design, we acknowledge several limitations. Social media dissemination in the clinical sciences relies on clinicians having access to, and using, social media. It will have no effect for those who do not use the web and who rely on more traditional means of dissemination - ‘pulling’ the evidence. Although there was an increase in HTML views and PDF downloads as a result of social media dissemination, we do not know if people read the article or whether it changed their practice. We presumed that a portion of those who viewed the HTML version of the article would then go onto download it, however our data suggest that a different pattern of access is occurring. Unfortunately, our data do not allow us to determine whether the same people both viewed the HTML and downloaded the article PDF or whether different people viewed the HTML and downloaded the article PDF. Downloading a PDF version of a paper does not necessarily imply that they would later read it, but it does increase the probability of such.


Citations and impact factors measure the impact within the scientific community whereas views by social media will also include interested clinicians and laypeople and, as such, measure uptake by different audiences. Although we used a variety of different social media platforms to disseminate to as wide an audience as possible, we do not know who the audience is - we can only surmise that they are a mixture of researchers, clinicians, people in pain and interested laypeople. Further, each social media strategy comes with inherent limitations in regards to data collection of usage statistics related to a blog post. Gathering Facebook and Twitter statistics for each article is still cumbersome and is probably not always accurate. The risk in using search engines to gather data is that there is no way of knowing whether all the data have been identified. For Twitter there is no way to retrospectively calculate the number of re-tweets accurately over a longer period retrospectively for each post.


As a result, our Twitter data is a best estimate and my have underestimated the true values but, critically, we would expect this effect to be unrelated to our blog post and therefore not impact on our findings. Regarding Facebook, shares, likes and comments are grouped as one statistic but in reality only shares and comments show engagement with the post and indicate that people are more likely to have read it. Regarding LinkedIn, the only available data was the number of members of the BodyInMind group and as such, we have no way of knowing how many viewed the actual blog post.


The blog,, through which the original blog posts of PLoS ONE articles were released, experienced a technical interruption half-way through the experiment. In spite of an attempt by PLOS to retrieve the statistics, approximately five days of data were lost on several of the blog posts. This also meant that additional data on traffic, such as percentage of traffic for each blog post from external sources such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and ResearchBlogging could not be measured during this period. Critically and fortuitously, this period did not coincide with data collection weeks. PLOS indicated that this technical problem has now been fixed, but similar problems may arise in the future and present an ongoing risk to studies such as ours. Although disconcerting for those keenly following social media data, this problem would be very unlikely to have affected our primary outcomes because none of our dates fell within the period that was affected.


Social influence can produce an effect whereby something that is popular becomes more popular and something that is unpopular becomes even less popular. It seems possible that articles on were shared because the site is popular among a discrete community and not because the article itself merited circulation. This possibility does not confound our main result but it adds a possible argument to the common objective of making a blog more popular as a device to boost social media impact of individual posts. Finally, our study relied on the target articles being freely available to the public. Many journals are not open access, particularly those in the clinical pain sciences. Therefore, we must be cautious extrapolating our results to subscription only access journals.


In conclusion, our results clearly support the hypothesis that social media can increase the number of people who view or download an original research article in the clinical pain sciences. However, the size of the effect is not related to conventional social media metrics, such as reach, engagement and virality. Our results highlight the difference between social media reach and social media impact and suggest that the latter is not a simple function of the former.

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Social Media Monitoring: Innovation for Public & Veteran Health

Social Media Monitoring: Innovation for Public & Veteran Health | Social Media and Healthcare |

Day-to-day personal interactions that don’t include social media are becoming harder and harder to find. US consumers spent 20-30 percent of their time online or 121 billion total minutes in July 2012 on social networking, up 37 percent from 2011. In other words, Americans alone spend upwards of 24 billion hours each year divulging minute-to-minute personal details online… or lurking…  with no indication of stopping.

This week, Ombud has taken a look at some innovative ways organizations are leveraging that magnitude of data for potentially life-saving innovations in Social Media Monitoring technologies.


Pharma + Consumer Surveillance = Pharmacovigilance

Social media trends present an opportunity for the pharmaceutical industry to gain medical insights and provide immediate medical alerts to consumers. This translates into a significant opportunity to revolutionize pharmacovigilance.

Pharmacovigilance is the science and activities related to detecting, assessing, understanding and preventing adverse event (any undesirable experience) or any other drug-related problem.

A partnership between the EU and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, known as the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), is bringing Social Media Monitoring to pharmacovigilance. IMI is currently seeking social media innovation to establish a policy and regulatory framework for pharmacovigilance surveillance.

The IMI has two overall methods of gathering crucial self-reported data:

  1. Reporting: Patients suffering suspected adverse effects from medications could directly report to appropriate authorities through a mobile app integrated with established workflows and tools. Such reports can come from patients or physicians and becomes the basis of a two-way communication between reporter and authority.
  1. Data Mining: Social media will be scanned for emerging, self-reported medical insights. Content gathered from several web sources into a social media monitoring solution will allow for analysis and identification of adverse events in real-time.

This will allow for real-time reporting, identification and alerting on adverse events.

Leveraging Social Media Monitoring for healthcare is also taking hold in the US.


US Veteran Support

Social Media Monitoring technologies also allow for a new effort to save American veterans. Military suicide experts are collaborating with software companies to identify signs of despondency in military veterans through social media.

On average, 22 US military veterans are lost to suicide each day. These men and women may not explicitly announce their intentions in their Facebook statuses. However, military suicide experts believe social media postings can be analyzed for instant help before it’s too late.

These experts are currently researching their theory to find out how to monitor social media postings to predict and prevent military and veteran suicides.

Phase one of the project has already been completed. Based on doctors’ notes from veteran patients, experts identified key words and phrases to create a language-driven suicide prediction model.

Up to 100,000 service members and veterans in addition to their support network will be volunteering in phase two of the project to test the model’s predictive quality.

The results of this study will become the basis of identifying at-risk service members and veterans. Once identified, they will be automatically linked to resources. Their support network will also be notified in hopes of initiating intervention in time for prevention.


Key Takeaway

Innovating new uses for Social Media Monitoring technologies, organizations are demonstrating the value of social media far beyond networking and marketing.

After identifying a Social Media Monitoring initiative, the second step is finding the best tool to accomplish your goal. Dozens of options exist ranging from comprehensive social business tools to listening tools to publishing tools. Each is equipped with a very different set of capabilities and total cost of ownership.

Ombud has included Social Media Monitoring tools within our Social Media 

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What if Dr House used Twitter?

Bertalan Meskò: social media health Bertalan (Berci) is a geek. He is a medical futurist who started out being a project leader of 'personalised medicine thr...
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