Social media marketing is a rapidly developing field that holds potential importance for the success of public health non-profit companies. Very little can make a person feel antiquated faster than social media. (Except maybe using an early 1990’s reference as the basis for a social media marketing post.)
The current climate of rapid information consumption requires some facility with both social media and marketing strategies. So what’s a caveman (or cavewoman) public health executive to do? Here are 3 ideas.
1. Understand your product, services, and target audience.
Let’s face it. At the end of the day, whether you use social media or not, the same basics of marketing apply. You have to know your product and services. You have to know to whom those products and services might appeal, and how they might carry that appeal. Correspondingly, you should understand your market, including any competitors or fellow travelers. I curate a Facebook page, Twitter feed, and LinkedIn page for my Department in a University setting. (I’ve also dabbled with Pinterest and Foursquare.) Our product is an innovative physical therapist education program. I think about my target audience as a community, all of whom are bound by interest in the Department. The community involves current and prospective students, alumni, potential employers, and friends. Our target audience is diverse, and their information needs are similarly diverse. Current students like to keep connected through our page and share updates. Prospective students want to understand our program from an “insider’s” perspective. Alumni want to know what’s going on with their old program. Employers like to see how our students are engaged in their training and service to the community, in order to help verify the quality of candidates for jobs. Posts are specifically designed to engage each constituent group.
2. Use your resources. All of them!
There are a number of resources that can be used to initiate and maintain a successful social media presence. Sure, it helps to have a budget. But strategic thinking and technical know-how can be just as important to get a social media marketing presence off the ground. One of the biggest initial investments is time to learn how to use social media platforms. It’s important to know how to log in and set up your account in order to have a social media presence. After you get things set up, it’s similarly important to learn the etiquette that corresponds to each social media platform. Sending too many Facebook friend requests can get your account locked! People don’t like it when you indiscriminately send LinkedIn requests! Being involved in every Twitter conversation on your timeline will drive you and everyone on your timeline nuts! Make sure to get to know these things as soon as possible, in order to put your best foot forward.
Although it’s not important to be heavily involved in social media personally to be successful, it certainly helps to have enough direct experience with social media to understand the questions to ask and the issues that may arise. If you’re a social media caveman or -woman (like me!), technical and etiquette information are best discovered from people who are on social media. Having a cohort off whom to bounce content ideas can be critical to avoid all manner of crises and disasters that can affect your social media image. My students and junior faculty are often very helpful to consult and lend a hand to keep me from embarrassing myself and my Department.
3. Evaluate, re-design, deploy….lather, rinse, repeat!
Not everything is going to work in social media marketing. The discerning social media marketing executive will seek data to make decisions about what’s working, and when to pull the plug on a failed strategy. There are a number of data sources. Facebook has ad and page insights that allow for analysis of audience characteristics and success of marketing campaigns. Similarly, Google+ insights are also very easy to use in order to view traffic associated with posts and ads. Twitter analytics are also useful to understand the social media reach of content shared on this platform. Each audience will be different in terms of engagement, so it will be important to gather a baseline using different types of posts to assess activity. Over time, it will be possible to create benchmarks for social media posts. For example, the past 5 years of experience suggests that our target audience tends to be very responsive to photos of students in class, laboratory, clinical, and community service settings. Thus, we try to share photos or short videos whenever possible to enliven the content, and create and maintain a personal connection with our Department.
As this post suggests, a “focus on the basics” can demystify social media marketing even for the most calcified caveman and cavewoman public health executive. In the words of Keyrock, the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, “People Come First.”