This past week, I participated and presented at a Digital Academy for one of my pharma clients. I took them through best practices and the importance of what it means to have a social mentality to drive winning results. One of the key points that I made (and it is applicable to all brands) is that you need to think about how your audience may and may not use Facebook before you jump on the band wagon. There may, in fact, be better social networks or channels to be used as determined by consumer behavior.
First, let’s talk about healthcare brands and then I’ll dive into a broader perspective. If am a Facebook user and have a certain condition (say diabetes or high blood pressure or anything for that matter), I may not “like” that brand and/or engage with that brand because that is something I do not want visible to my friends. It is just not a topic that I share with old high school friends and the vast number of people I am connected to. Yes, you can say that Facebook has privacy settings to protect this, but in all seriousness, how many people drill into that level of privacy and mess around with privacy settings at that detail. So it is the target audience behavior that dictates such decisions.
But that does not mean that the use of social is a bad idea for pharma companies. There are two other options – run with the pack where they already exist or be the go to community for information and discussion of the topic the brand provides solutions for. I always recommend that social starts by finding the relevant conversations, where they happen, and go there to start discussions (even if you are building your own social network). There are existing communities and discussion forums on just about every topic in the world. Go there and be an active brand voice. Help by providing information and solutions as opposed to being advertorial. The other option (and it takes a strong commitment) is to work like a publisher and be the go to destination for a particular topic. This requires the site to have awesome original content, curation, and places for people to have conversations.
Too many brands assume that Facebook is the most important social channel for them. As explained in the pharma examples, it may not even be a worthwhile channel. The issue that not enough brands are considering is how users behave and act on Facebook. Too many marketers think that the “like” is the end of their effort. They run a sweepstake to capture a like and claim success. The reality is that no user really cares about brand presence on Facebook. That is, unless the brand provides something valuable, engaging, and compelling. And when brands do this successfully, it almost always focuses on user interested topics as opposed to product push.
Whether brands use Facebook, an existing forum or community, or establish their own community, they must focus compelling content that relates to their brand as opposed to being about their brand. A good example of this is “Dove Inspired.” Do you think that any women would actually be compelled to follow a Dove social channel if Dove talked about moisturizing soap … not likely. So instead, Dove established a program and a following for users to highlight women that inspired them. The focus was not on product, but rather an understanding of the target market and developing a topic that would keep the target marketed engaged. This is something I call “associated marketing.” Dove stays top of mind, by keeping their audience engaged with something of importance to them. Dove associates their brand with something relevant to the target market.
Recognize that Facebook is a social network where friends congregate. Sometimes a brand will have a greater success in a different social network where people with similar interests and needs connect. There, members are not necessarily friends, but their concerns create a strong association and/or support network.
And one more note getting back to the question about establishing a brand’s own community. You cannot build the field of dreams and expect the crowd to come. You must ask, “Why would anyone want to come to our community?” The answer to this will come from two areas: deep customer insights; and complete commitment to being the go to destination for the target audience and the topic(s) covered.
So a handful of suggestions in closing:
1) Understand your target audience and what interests them
2) Cover topics that are relevant to your audience and associate your brand with matters that are important to them
3) Be a valuable source
4) Work to establish a friend nature, not a brand broadcast pipe
5) Determine if you can establish a strong presence in an existing community or if there are benefits of establishing your own … if you establish your own community, consider a publisher mentality where you have an editor in chief and support staff.
6) If you do establish your own community, have a strategy that not only motivates conversation between the brand and users, but also creates a platform where users with similar interest engage with each other.
Make It Happen,