Get Free Content Marketing Advice

Sign up below and learn how to:

  • grow your online brand with content marketing
  • create valuable content that attracts customers

Sign up

4 Tips for Handling Negative Social Media Comments

When it comes to dealing with negative social media comments, more than half of marketers aren’t sure what to do.

Recent research published on eMarketer shows only 45% of marketers currently have an effective strategy to deal with negative social media posts; 23% don’t have any kind of plan; 25% are working on getting a plan; and 8% have a plan that doesn’t work.

graph showing how marketers deal with negative social media feedback

Remember the old saying—no one plans to fail, they fail to plan.

Dealing with negative social media posts can be time-consuming and uncomfortable, particularly if you don’t have a written policy for handling them. Rather than waiting until disgruntled customers or anonymous haters (you should be able to tell them apart!) show up, make a plan for handling those situations even before they arise.

Here are 4 things you should do to tackle negative social media buzz:

#1. Create a Policy

Create a comment policy and make it visible on your blog and social media profiles. Define the kind of language or comments that are unacceptable and may cause users to be blocked from your community. If you work in health care, check out these health care social media policies.

#2. Moderate Wisely

Always moderate comments, but be selective about what you delete, hide or block. It’s bad form to delete a post just because you don’t like it; there are some conversations that need to take place even if they’re not pleasant. Sometimes you should let people vent, especially if they have a valid reason.

#3. Respond Judiciously

Ignore trolls to the best of your ability, but always respond to all others, all of the time. If an issue escalates, ask to connect with the commenter privately so you can resolve the issue.

#4. Respect Feedback

It’s important to create an open and respectful space where customer feedback is valued and sincere conversations can take place (even when they’re unpleasant). This inspires them to come back and even share your blog with their friends. However, that’s easier to do when you have a plan in place.

Thoughts? What plans have you put in place to tackle negative social media feedback?

Millennials, Brands and Digital Content [Infographic]

Jay (not real name) is a 26-year old grad student from Chicago. He is single, is active on Facebook, Twitter and His favorite websites, newspapers, magazines or TV shows are: The Economist, The Onion,,, and Dexter.

Jay has this advice for companies who want to truly reach him and his friends:

“Take time to engage with us. Don’t just push your message, but listen as well. Social media networks make this very easy for you but they’re often misused or underused by companies like yours. Prompt a response, a discussion and relate your company to someone’s life. Don’t be afraid to step outside your specific product and go for the bigger message to which we can relate and participate.”

Millennial conusmers a.k.a. digital natives, are fast becoming a very influential group of consumers. Brands like yours can no longer afford to ignore them.

We created this infographic (information sourced from Edelman/StrategyOne) to give you a better understanding of millenial consumers like Jay and to illustrate their relationship with other millennials, with business brands and with digital content:

Millennials, brands and digital content

How millennial consumers interact with their network, with brands and digital content

Over to you: What steps are you taking to engage with millennial consumers like Jay?

Research Reveals Best Social Media Networks for Content Marketers

Which social media networks are most relevant to content marketers right now?

Content marketers need to know where (and how) they should focus their efforts for maximum ROI.

This article gives you four major research findings from reports tracking trends in social media marketing and the content that works best on each.

#1: People Spend More Time on Visual Networks

It’s impossible to miss the powerful effect of visual content on the social web. It can significantly enhance a brand’s marketing objectives by generating more customer interest and prompting prospects to take desired actions.

As an example of the power of pictures, consider that Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram each gained over 10 million visitors in 2012, thanks to eye-catching content. Numbers from Statista numbers shared on Mediabistro show that users spend more time on Pinterest (1:17 minutes) or Tumblr (1:38 minutes) than on Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace and Google+ combined.

Image One

If you’re looking for ways to incorporate visual content into your own social media strategy, one of the key things you can do is include one or more high-quality images in all of your blog posts. (Don’t forget to add an ALT attribute in the image properties to help your SEO!)

You can also leverage real-time photo sharing. Customers and followers are used to seeing staged photos that highlight your products and the best parts of your company. Sharing impromptu pictures can be equally compelling when shared in real time.

When you do post product or brand pictures on networks like Pinterest, Instagram and Flickr, allow others to use your images in exchange for a link back to your site.

Don’t forget video! YouTube is the second-largest search engine (after Google, which coincidentally owns YouTube). Videos uploaded to YouTube do very well in search and boost your site’s ranking. Interviews, Q&As, product demos or tips are popular with a wide audience beyond your current followers.

Image Two

Finally, don’t give up on memes, which are especially popular on Tumblr. For the best success with memes, make sure they’re witty and match your brand and audience.

NPR did this particularly well by modifying the popular Ryan Gosling Hey Girl memeon their Tumblr page.

#2: Google+ Is Best for SEO

Google+ is finding success with social marketers more as an SEO option than a marketing tactic. While it’s doing better than Pinterest and Tumblr, only 14% of marketers are giving high priority to Google+ in 2014. 23% of those surveyed won’t consider the platform at all.

You should still have a presence on Google+, even if you’re only using it for SEO.

Image Three

As you cultivate your presence on Google+, the first thing you should do is optimize your Google author profile with a great image. With an eye-catching photo, it won’t matter if you rank third or fourth on the search engine results page. Your image is what gets people’s attention and lends to your authority.

When you post an article on Google+choose your first sentence carefully and use keywords or phrases. That sentence is part of the title tag and can affect your search ranking. As a bonus, one of the great things about Google+ is that you can edit your title and posts anytime. If you find your post isn’t getting the traction you want, try a new title and lead sentence. That’s a lot of control right there!

As always, continue to publish great content on your blog and Google+. While you’re at it, go ahead and +1 your own content. Why not? Google already knows you’re the author anyway. At the very least, it encourages others to +1 your post as well!

#3: Facebook’s Updated News Feed Affects Page Posts

In January 2014, Facebook updated their news feed algorithm to deliver more relevant content to users. Status updates from pages are no longer treated the same as text updates from users’ friends, because most users interacted with friends, not pages.

What does this mean for you as a content marketer? You have to mix it up. Since users may not see or engage with your page updates often, make your posts as interesting as you can. Include photos, videos, links (don’t forget to include a preview image), questions, events and offers.

Image Four

In all cases, use the story type that best fits with the message you want to tell.

One more thing: If you use Facebook’s Promote feature and your post has an image, that image can’t have more than 20% text.

#4: B2B Marketers Are Most Successful on LinkedIn

Sixty-two percent of B2B marketers say LinkedIn is the most effective platform for them, with Twitter and SlideShare close behind.

Image Five

How can you take advantage of the most effective social media network? Take advantage of LinkedIn’s publishing platform.

LinkedIn opened up its publishing platform (previously reserved for a few editorially selected influencers like Bill Gates, Martha Stewart and Joe Pulizzi) to all 277 million LinkedIn members. This could be a game-changer.

If you decide to publish on LinkedInknow that posts with the same basic information found on 50 other blogs won’t be successful. LinkedIn users look for well-written personalized insights, professional expertise and interesting industry opinions.

Surveys are helpful to gauge trends in social media; however, it’s even more important to track your own successes and build on them. You can use both options by keeping trends in mind and using them as guides as your marketing strategy and tactics evolve.

What do you think? Are the survey results above consistent with what you’ve seen in your own social media marketing? Which platforms are working best for you? Please share your successes and experiences in the comment box below.


***This article was first published on Social Media Examiner on April 8th, 2014.


16 Tools to Turbo Boost Your Blogging Process

Do you blog regularly?

Are you looking for tools to make the process easier?

Blogging is hard work and it takes a lot of time to do it well. Wouldn’t it be great if you could streamline parts of that process?

In this article, you’ll find a list of tools, apps and advice you can use to find your groove and take care of blogging business.

#1: Brainstorm Blogging Ideas

When you need inspiration for your next blog post, where do you go? You can avoid blogger’s block by trying out these idea-generators to quickly get your creative juices flowing.

How to Use Quora to Cook Up Great Content: Adrienne Erin writes a pretty inspiring post about scanning Quora to find popular conversations and using those topics to create blog content.

Don’t Know What to Write About? Get Ideas From the Blog Topic Generator [Free Tool]: Ginny Soskey introduces HubSpot’s handy new topic generator. You simply put in three terms (nouns) you’d like to blog about and the tool spits out several topics. Of course, the topics aren’t always 100% perfect, but you can tweak them to make them work for you.

Hubspot Blog Topic generator
Let HubSpot help you find a topic to write about.

Need a Google Alerts Replacement? Meet TalkWalker: Since the future of Google Alerts is unknown, this alternative tool, suggested by Gary Price, might do the trick.

Alternative to Google Alerts shares Google Alert alternatives.

#2: Get Organized to Be Productive

You have ideas, but now what? Keep track of them and organize your thoughts with cool online tools you can access from anywhere. Check out these resources that help you manage your ideas so you can make the most of your time.

How to Use Evernote as a Blogger: Michael Hyatt kills it in this timeless post where he shares his personal workflow using Evernote. His suggestion for setting up a blog template in Evernote is definitely worth the click.

Evernote blogging process walks you through using Evernote.

15 Tips & Tricks to Get More Out of Google Drive: If you’re not using Google Drive, you’ll be surprised how much you can get out of it! Brian Voo’s article introduces some cool ways to use Google Drive to do everything from mind-mapping to editing images.

How to Use Google Calendar to Create an Editorial Calendar: The best way to keep track of your ideas is an editorial calendar. Some people use spreadsheets, others use pen and paper. Rebecca Livermore explains why you should switch to Google Calendar and even gives you a step-by-step guide for getting started.

Google Calendar

Learn to use Google Calendar as an editorial tool on

#3: Optimize Your Content

Keywords not only help readers find you, they can also help you flesh out your post ideas. If you don’t know much about SEO (and really, even if you do), check out these posts that give you tips and advice about tools that can get you started.

Google Keyword Planner: The Ultimate Guide: Ask Ian Cleary any question about social media tools and he’ll write you an “Ultimate Guide.” So if you’re wondering about the ultimate tool for keyword research, look no further than his outstanding post about Google’s Keyword Planner.

Google Keyword Planner

Find out how to use Google’s Keyword Planner from

Get SEO Tips When You Need Them: For novice bloggers who aren’t sure how SEO works, Matthew Tschoegl does a great job introducing InboundWriter’s WordPress plugin. It’s basically a “consultant on your dashboard.” It’s a paid plugin, but definitely check it out to see if it’s a fit for you.

The Beginner’s Guide to SEO: Moz is the SEO site. Their guide has been downloaded over a million times! That’s a good sign that it’s info you need. Even seasoned bloggers will learn a thing or two.

SEO tutorial from

There’s a great SEO walkthrough on

#4: Find or Make Your Own Images (Fast!)

You know how important compelling images are for your blog, but it’s not always easy or cheap to find them. These articles show you how to find copyright-free images or make stunning graphics of your own!

How and Why I Use Photo Pin to Find Free Images for My Blog: John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing explains why he stopped using iStockphoto, Shutterstock and other image sites and started using Photo Pin. Be careful—you might be persuaded to change your mind too!

colorful roses shares an image finding option.

Tool for Screenshots: Awesome Screenshot: If you’re still trying to capture screenshots using Command-Shift-3 or -4, stop! There’s a better way. Check out this simple demonstration by Amy Lynn Andrews.

How to Make a Banner for Your Blog Using Gimp (for free!): If you’ve ever wondered how to make cool banners and incorporate them into your blog post, this article by Karen Lewis of Simply Amusing Designs illustrates (complete with screenshots) how it’s done. Give it a try—it’s not difficult at all. [NOTE: This site is in construction until 2/28/14. Check the link next week.]

Creating a Header Image for Your BlogPicMonkey is an awesome free site (with a premium subscription option) to create and edit photos for your blog. Julie DeNeen, from Fabulous Blogging, also offers more advanced tips in her post, 10 Design Tips Using PicMonkey That You Might Not Know About!

using PicMonkey to edit images

Learn how to use PicMonkey over on

#5: Tell the World

After all of the hard work of writing and optimizing your blog post, you’d better make sure everyone in your network sees it and shares it with their friends too. Here are some nifty tools and guides to help your blog post go that extra mile.

5 Social Sharing Plugins Reviewed: Dan Norris lays it all out with “what we like” and “what we don’t like” about five popular sharing plugins. Now you’ll know what to expect before jumping in.

example of a social sharing plugin

Explore some great plugins on

Need a New Tool? 3 Social Sharing Tools That Do Something Specific: I like how Amanda DiSilvestro emphasizes the “do something specific” aspect of these tools. Indeed, these three tools are so specific you’ve probably never heard of them, but you should definitely give them a whirl.

social sharing tools from shares sharing tools.

The Essential Guide to Content Sharing: Yes, another Ian Cleary article (because he’s the tool guru, remember?). This time Ian’s “Ultimate Guide” includes 13 tools you can use to get the word out about new posts. Some of the tools you’ve seen, some you haven’t and some you should probably use more. Definitely check this one out.

What do you think? Which of these tools have you tried? Please share your experience in the comment box below.

***This article was first published on Social Media Examiner on March 13th, 2014.

6 Ways to Engage Your Patients on Facebook

Do you have a Facebook page for your medical practice? Are you looking for fresh ideas to quickly ramp up engagement and participation from your fans?

Thumb with post it notes There are tens of millions of business pages on Facebook. There’re also those notorious, complex algorithms that mysteriously determine what fans can see or not see on their news feed.

Both these factors make it incredibly difficult for page owners like you, to maintain engagement on Facebook. But as a doctor and a business owner you know that Facebook is extremely valuable to your practice.

Here are 6 ways to improve engagement on your page.

1.  Post News articles, stories and current events

As of December 2013, Facebook updated their Newsfeed algorithm with a requirement of ‘high quality content.’ What this means is that Facebook will start to give more visibility to interesting news articles, story links and current events than ever before.

Your response should be to start posting attention-grabbing health articles from news publishers, or compelling stories from your own blog. The goal of course is to create conversation among your fans and clients.

If you can achieve that, your Facebook posts will be bumped higher up on your fans’ news feed and engagement will increase significantly.

2.  Host Video Events

A fun way to increase engagement with fans is by bringing live video events to your Facebook page. You can do this easily by installing a free app such as Livestream, (go to

The chat feature on Livestream makes it more interactive with your audience. So let’s say you want to introduce a new skin care system. Using the app, you can host an event on your Facebook page to show fans how the program works. They can see you, ask questions, and interact with you right there on your Facebook page!

3.  Offer Contests and Giveaways

Promotions of any kind are fantastic way to increase engagement on Facebook. That’s because everyone loves the opportunity of winning something special.

Use a photo contest app like Strutta that allows fans to upload images. Then encourage them to tell their friends about the contest and open the voting up to everyone who has submitted a photo.

A few things to watch out for when it comes to Facebook contests – follow the rules; keep the contest requirements simple; and offer a special prize that’s relevant to your practice.

4. Games

If you want to improve engagement on your page without spending a ton of money, then social games are one way to go. Social games on Facebook can spur comments, likes and shares and also help to build a community around your page.

The important thing is to choose a game that is consistent with your brand and that your fans will enjoy. For example the “Tell a Story” game is a good one for dermatology pages.

The game is similar to those books you read that let you choose what happens next. It is also appropriate since you can co-create a story with your Facebook fans thus making them the ‘stars of the show’ .” Here’s one version of the game.

Simply create a graphic that shares the first sentence of a story like this: “Once upon a time a young lady called Celia woke up on her wedding day to find a huge zit on her face!”

Then right below the story opener, write down the instructions for participating in the game as follows:

  • What happens next?
  • To participate, simply write the next sentence in a comment below.
  • Make sure you read the comments above yours so you know where the story is leading.
  • Share the story thread with your friends to keep things moving
  • Let’s see where this goes!

5.  Recognize your fans

Your Facebook fans like to know that you appreciate them. Every so often get into the habit of recognizing them for various reasons e.g. birthdays, ‘fan of the week,’ and so on.

If you want to be a little creative you might even consider posting a fan’s picture on your page (with permission of course!) and featuring them for a week. During that time, you can highlight something new about them, or let them give tips and advice about skin care!

 6.  Be Personal

Last but not least, people like to know that they’re interacting with a person, not a business. So when you post an update on Facebook, sign off with your first name so your fans and clients know whom they’re talking to. That way, the next time they stop by your office they’ll know exactly how to carry on the conversation with that person. In the same way, address them individually as “you” and “your” rather than using a plural salutation.

Creating engagement on your Facebook page doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive. With some imagination you can use any one of these ideas (or come up with your own) to encourage participation from your fans so they’ll see more of your posts on their news feed.

What do you think? Have you tried any of these ideas on your page? What other ideas have worked for you?




5 Things Highly Effective Content Marketers Do Differently

Are you wondering what the best content marketers do differently?

Why not take a peek into their habits and practices, to glean insights that could take your own content marketing to the next level?

man in shirt, tie and boxing glovesA while back, Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs published their latest report, B2B Content Marketing: 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends – North America. The report shows two sides of content marketing.

On one hand, the industry is still growing and has a long way to go. On the other hand, things are looking up and confidence is growing as many marketers start to get it right!

Where Are We Headed?

What’s clear from the report is that the most successful B2B marketers are doing more! “More what?” you ask. Well, they’re spending more money, paying more attention to strategy, using more tactics and social media platforms and even producing more content.

Let’s dig deeper into five things that show exactly what the most effective B2B content marketers are doing.

#1. Have Someone to Oversee Content

Seventy-three percent of all B2B organizations have someone in charge of content marketing strategy. However, the majority (86%) of the most effective or best-in-class marketers had someone to oversee content strategy, compared to only 46% of their least effective peers.

pie chart - B2B content marketing best practices

Key Takeaway

Don’t kid yourself—you do need someone to manage your content marketing! To be successful in this industry, there should be at least one person in your organization designated to ‘own’ the content marketing initiative. This person is in charge of executing the content goals that you want to accomplish as an organization.

In his book Epic Content Marketing, Joe Pulizzi says that a lot of times when content marketing fails, it’s not because your organization lacks good content. It’s because execution has failed.

Even if you’re a small business and don’t have the budget to hire a dedicated person, you can get one of your managers within the company to supervise content production (UPS does this!)

#2. Have a Documented Content Strategy

Among the most effective marketers, 66% have a documented strategy compared to 11% of the least effective marketers. But overall, only 44% of B2B marketers have a documented strategy.

chart - B2B content marketing best practices

Key Takeaway

There’s no content marketing success without a strategy.

If you’ve been operating without a documented content strategy, it’s time to stop gambling. Most likely, any success you have achieved up to this point has been sheer luck.

Figure out what you want content marketing to do for you. Write down your goals, your plan to achieve those goals and what indicators you’ll use to prove your success. Make sure everyone who’s involved in content production is on board with this document.

#3. Use More Tactics

The most effective B2B marketers use an average of 15 tactics compared to the least effective marketers who use only 10. Interestingly, the use of infographics has increased significantly with 38% of marketers using this tactic last year compared to 51% this year.

bar graph - B2B content marketing best practices

Key Takeaway

The most effective marketers understand that they have to keep up with consumers. That’s why they cast a wider net and invest in more tactics (e.g., text, images, apps, video, audio, etc.). Of course the size of your budget also dictates what you can or can’t do.

If you have a small business, why not start out with the most cost-effective tactics such as social media, e-newsletters, articles and blogs and then gradually add other tactics as your budget allows? Always be expanding your content menu; don’t be satisfied with the handful of tactics you were using last year.

#4. Use Social Media More Frequently

B2B content marketers use an average of 6 social media platforms, up from 5 last year. In addition, they’re using all social media platforms to distribute content.

As expected, LinkedIn is the top social media site used by B2B marketers, while Facebook is 10 points behind. The social sites that have experienced the biggest increase in use are SlideShare (23% last year to 40% this year), Google+ (39% to 55%) and Instagram (7% to 22%).

bar graph - B2B content marketing best practices



Key Takeaway

No content marketing initiative is complete without social media. That’s because social drives awareness of your content, which in turn impacts lead generation.

In fact, a different report from Brafton stated that 70% of consumers click through to a brand’s blog content after reading stories shared on their social networks. Once they get there, they’re more likely to download more content or fill out a form.

As a B2B marketer, you should try to repurpose your content specifically for each social channel (particularly LinkedIn) in order to capture interest and engagement. Keep in mind too that social signals (likes, retweets, +1′s, comments, shares, mentions, etc.) influence Google, thus maximizing your brand’s online exposure

#5. Produce More Content

On average, 73% of B2B marketers are producing more content than they did last year. Of the best-in-class (most effective) marketers, 78% are creating more content compared to 57% of their least effective peers.

pie chart - B2B content marketing best practices


Key Takeaway

B2B marketers are increasing their investment in content creation. Why? Because the ultimate purpose of content is to attract new customers and retain existing ones. Your content has to solve problems and answer all of your prospects’ product-related questions in order to drive those purchasing decisions. That means you have to be a content machine without sacrificing quality. If you’re not convinced that more content is better, here’s some food for thought:

At Content Marketing World 2013, a panel of experts was asked whether producing more content is better than producing less. The most compelling answers came from:

Joe Chernov“Quantity. You can create something awesome, then it takes 3 months to create your next great thing. What happens in the meantime?”

Marcus Sheridan“Quantity is intimidating for people who are too afraid to create content, because they think it must be epic. Let quantity lead to quality. Content marketing is not launching a rocket. Just do it.”

What do you think about these findings? Do you agree with them? Does anything surprise you? Share your comments in the box below.

6 Ways to Boost Lead Generation with Twitter

The problem with Twitter is figuring out how to separate the wheat from the chaff.

With few rules, fewer leaders, and very little structure, it’s not surprising that many marketers don’t know what to do with it. However, generating leads on Twitter can be amazingly effective.

Twitter is all about relationship building, which makes it very easy to turn followers into valuable prospects, clients, and brand champions. Generating leads on Twitter is possible when you have a strategy.

Twitter scrabble

Here are 6 tips for generating leads with Twitter:

#1. Follow selectively

Twitter is what you make of it. If you’re not careful, it can lead you down multiple rabbit holes. That’s why you should focus on interacting with people or brands that add value to your business when your aim is generating leads on Twitter.

It’s hard to attract and retain people’s attention on Twitter, so the trick is to mainly interact with those who are interested in your knowledge and expertise.

#2. Listen carefully

When you first start using Twitter, listen carefully to discover the interests of people in your industry so that you can approach them with relevant conversations that can lead to long-term relationships.

Remember that sales opportunities don’t happen overnight. Rather than bombarding people with sales messages, try to focus on content that your target audience would find interesting at various stages of their buying process. Ideally, this content links back to your website, where you can further engage with them using marketing automation for lead management.

#3. Use Twitter lists

A twitter list is a curated group of Twitter users that is based on specific characteristics, e.g., key prospects, local media, customers, industry peers, competitors, etc. You may create your own list or subscribe to lists created by others.

Lists help you to organize your followers and apply a strategy around your interactions with them. Since you will follow different people for different reasons, organizing them based on their usefulness helps you to focus on different engagement strategies that benefit your brand.

#4. Provide compelling content

Learn how to craft compelling tweets that contain engaging messages and link to useful content that help your followers gain knowledge about your expertise.

Tweets that revolve around your products and services won’t get much attention. But tweets that offer advice on how to solve a prospect’s problem or improve their situation will help to extend your reach and establish thought leadership in your industry.

#5 Use hashtags

It can be easy to get lost in the masses of content on Twitter. While it may be tempting to watch cute cat videos and get caught up in the latest memes, it’s important to stay focused on relevant topics to your business. One of the ways to filter the noise and find relevant conversations is to use hashtags.

Hashtags are words or phrases prefixed by the pound (#) symbol, which allow users to follow specific conversations based on keywords. One of the most effective ways to find leads using hashtags is to participate in Twitter chats. These are moderated, subject-focused conversations used for educating and informing your audience. There are many Twitter chats that revolve around business-specific hashtags. Use the hashtag discovery tool to find a hashtag that is relevant to your business and start using Twitter chats to engage with prospects

#6. Use the Lead Generation Card

If you’re not aware, Twitter has a new addition to its suite of Twitter Cards – Lead Generation Cards. It is a new type of Twitter Card that allows marketers to collect leads directly within a tweet and is similar to having a landing page within a tweet. The landing page is designed to drive more social media users to particular brands that match their specific needs and interests.

Currently, the Lead Generation Card is only available as a feature of Promoted Tweets – a paid feature of Twitter Ads. Users don’t have to fill out a form. Their information, i.e., name, email, and username are pulled directly into the card. To learn how the Lead Generation Card works, go here.

Your Turn:

Are you using Twitter to generate leads for your business? Share your experience with us in the comments section below.

Image Credit: iStockphoto

This article was first published on the ParkerWhite Blog in August 2013.

3 Lessons on Influence Marketing and the Ultimate Inner Circle

Most senior executives are well acquainted with the concept of influence marketing.

The idea is to build relationships with a group of people who are able to sway the buying decisions of your target audience. We’ve been conditioned to thinking of influencers as celebrities, public figures, or Twitter profiles with a Klout score of 70. But these are not the people who influence your customers.

an influencer showing the direction

In fact, when shopping for your products, prospects are more likely to be swayed by their families, friends, and peers – people with whom they have common interests and a trusting relationship. But since most CEO’s don’t have access to this “inner circle,” what other options do they have?

#1. Digital Friends

Well the good news is that today’s consumer has a whole new set of individuals and brands that make up their inner circle. This is a group of “trusted digital friends” whom consumers rely upon to give them advice on what to buy and where to go. They include writers, niche bloggers, industry analysts, industry peers, event speakers, investors and more.

If you’re trying to identify the “movers and shakers” in your industry, these are some of the folks who offer a level of trust, credibility and expertise to prospects that you have yet to reach. They offer your company another route to an untapped market. For this reason it is well worth your time to identify and interact with them.

#2. Business Benefits of Influencer Marketing

With email and social media, the time it takes to reach out to influencers is little compared to the benefits that you can achieve. Here are some cost-effective benefits of influencer marketing:

  • Drive more traffic to your website – When an influencer mentions your company and its products, a lot of people (whom you previously had no access to) will go to your website to get more information. They trust the influencer’s guidance and will be open to learning about your company.
  • Increase brand awareness, inbound leads and inquiries about your company – When you invest in a relationship with a key influencer in your industry, they might review your products, guest-blog on your site, or just talk about your company’s values and mission. These are all opportunities for a wider audience to learn about your offerings.
  • Boost positive sentiment, build credibility, overcome sales objections – When an influencer gives your company ‘the stamp of approval’, people who trust him or her are also more likely to trust your company, making it easier for your sales staff to do their job faster, without spending much time selling the company’s value proposition.
  • Test your brand’s messaging and value proposition – if you can’t sell your company’s offerings to influencers, chances are you will receive the same friction from prospects. Influencer marketing provides vital feedback (whether positive or negative) that gives you valuable insights about how your company is perceived.

#3. Getting the Attention of Influencers

It’s not always easy to identify influencers, let alone get them on board with your company’s mission. Most of them have a laundry list of pre-requisites for working with brands – partnership, a long-term commitment, respect, compensation, relevant products, clear campaign goals and so on.

Brands that want to create successful partnerships with influencers find that they must meet these requirements. However there’s no doubt that they have a great potential to help your company achieve the marketing goals you want.

If you don’t have an influencer outreach program, or a staff to help execute it, consider hiring an Influencer Relations Specialist to help you. Their role is to represent your company well, reach out and get the attention of influencers, communicate your company’s message clearly, and deliver tangible results based on the goals set by senior executives.

Hopefully your company will start to engage with key influencers in your industry so that you can generate trust and credibility around your brand, and reach more customers!

Your Turn:

Does your company have an influencer outreach program? What kind of experience have you had? Please share in the comment box below.

Image Credit: iStockphoto

This article was first published on the ParkerWhite Blog

4 Quick Tips to Get Your Social Media Team Started

Social media teams are becoming more common according to Exact Target’s State of Marketing 2014 Report.

Out of 2,500 marketers surveyed for their study,  57% of respondents said they have a dedicated team to strategize, execute and steward social media initiatives.

Passing the relay baton

Most brands understand that having a dedicated team is key to social marketing success. It’s also clear from the report that “one-person social media teams” are the most common (probably due to small budgets or lack of buy-in from upper management).

Of course, having a social media team of more than one person would be great. But don’t be discouraged if you don’t have the budget to make it happen. There are always things you can do to create social media success. However, you also have to adjust your expectations to match the level of investment in your budget and team. Whether your team is comprised of one person or more, here are 4 quick tips to get them started:

#1. Begin with a strategy

Know what you want to accomplish from social media and choose your social networks wisely. Hint: You don’t have to have a presence on ALL social networks just because that’s what everyone is doing. However you do have to be where your customers and your target audience are.

#2. Create a workflow process

Schedule some time each day for routine social media activities (e.g., listening and monitoring, posting updates, networking and so on). The more you repeat these tasks, the better you’ll get at them.

#3. Develop quality content

You’ll need to create original content on a regular basis (e.g., blog posts, images, videos, graphics, etc.). Even with a small budget, you can get other people to create high-quality content for you by using a service like Fiverr. You can also get free images from Flickr, Photopin, or Wikimedia Commons.

#4. Get the word out

Let your co-workers and customers know that you have a Facebook page or a Twitter profile. Encourage them to engage with the company on these channels.

It’s also a good idea to join an online community where you can tactfully get the word out to others (without spamming them). The more value you add to their conversations, the more receptive they will be to discovering and engaging with your online brand.

What did I miss? What other tips can you share with social media teams that are just starting out?

The Ultimate Guide to Using Twitter For Your Dermatology Practice

Are you interested in learning how to promote your dermatology practice on Twitter?

Compared to other social networks, Twitter is one of the simplest and most straightforward platforms you could ever use. The interface is simple and there are no privacy settings or new changes to deal with every few months.

Twitter, tweets, birds on a line

In fact Twitter is perceived by physicians to be a more relevant platform for medical conversations than say, Facebook. Even with a limitation of 140 characters per tweet, Twitter is a great place for dermatologists to amplify your voice, accrue more influence, and extend your reach simply by leveraging this platform a few minutes each day. Here’s how to get started on Twitter.

Planning Phase

  1. Define your Goals – Decide what you are trying to achieve with Twitter. Your objectives should be specific, timely and measurable e.g. to grow your email list by 10% each month.
  2. Define your target audience – Apart from mere demographics you should have an in-depth understanding of your prospective patients’ health needs, challenges, frustrations, life-style goals and even their content preferences. This knowledge (gained through research) will help you to develop interesting content that draws them to you as a trusted source of relevant content.
  3. Understand how Hashtags work – A hashtag is a word or phrase prefixed by the pound symbol (#) e.g. #melanoma or #acne. It is a form of metadata tag used to group Twitter conversations into specific categories. Hashtags are becoming increasingly popular on Twitter as evidenced by the creation of the Healthcare Hashtag Project.

Create Your Account

  1. Create a Twitter account using the name of your business domain e.g. if your domain is, your Twitter profile should be @skindoctor.
  2. Write up a short bio or description of your profile using keywords that are both ‘Google-friendly’ and consistent with your practice e.g. skin care, etc.
  3. Include your location
  4. Add a link to your website
  5. Upload a logo or photo that is consistent with the branding of your practice
  6. Include an appealing Twitter background that complements your branding

Develop Your Tactics

  1. Follow selectively – focus on people and brands that add value to your business. Use tools such as Twellow or Tweepi to help you find relevant followers on Twitter.
  2. Use Twitter lists – A twitter list is a curated group of Twitter users that is based on specific characteristics. You may create your own list or subscribe to lists created by others. Here’s a step-by-step guide for using Twitter lists.
  3. Use time saving tools – Tools such as Hootsuite and Buffer are complementary to Twitter because they help you manage your account and save time.
  4. Budget your time – allocate about 30 minutes each day to Twitter marketing. Within that time use your favorite tool (see #3) to schedule tweets, monitor conversations and ‘listen’ to what others are saying about you.
  5. Stay on-topic – It’s easy to get distracted on Twitter if you’re not focused. Stay on topic and ignore any conversations that are irrelevant to your practice. Lists and hashtags are effective in helping you stay on topic.
  6. Engage in conversations with others by asking or answering questions, recognizing and thanking people who share your content and so on.
  7. Add  “Follow me on Twitter” buttons in the top-right corner of your website, newsletter, email signature lines and all other digital marketing properties.
  8. Create great content that engages your target audience. And don’t forget to share other people’s content too, particularly when it is consistent with your own brand’s messaging.

Monitor your Progress

  1. Regularly check your mentions (@mentions) to see what people are saying about you
  2. Use Google analytics to see how much traffic is coming to your website from Twitter.
  3. Learn, Adjust, Repeat – be prepared to experiment with new tactics to learn what works for your practice and what doesn’t. If something isn’t working, be prepared to let it go, modify your strategy and keep testing for new opportunities.

What do you think? Twitter has become quite an impressive platform for promoting healthcare and medical brands. As a dermatologist what has been your experience so far?

Image Credit: by mkhmarketing, Flickr, under Creative Commons License

***This article was first published on Dermatology Times on February 1st, 2014

6 Content Curation Tips for Delivering Maximum Value to Your Audience

Do you curate content from other sites on your own blog?

If so, you’re probably doing it one of two ways. Either you’re just posting excerpts (not the whole thing!) of other people’s articles and including a link back to the original source (this is actually called content aggregation).

content curation_2

Or you’re posting excerpts of other people’s articles and adding your own commentary to provide additional insights and context to the article (true content curation).

The first method offers some value to your audience in the sense that you’re doing a lot of the heavy lifting on their behalf thus giving them a quick resource for keeping up to date with relevant content. In exchange they rely on you to point them in the right direction for content on a particular topic(s). See as an example.

The second method offers even more value (to your audience and to you!) because adding your voice and unique perspective to the curated article tells people why the topic is important and also positions you as a trusted thought leader and expert in that area.

If you’re curating content on your website, here are 6 best practices to ensure that you’re delivering maximum value to your audience:

  • Make sure the excerpt from the original source is not too long
  • Include your own commentary to give insight and guidance to your audience
  • Turn off your ‘no-follows’ – the no follow attribute on hyperlinks tells search engines not to give SEO credit to the site you have linked to. Don’t use no-follows on links to the original publisher.
  • Make your commentary longer than the excerpt because it reduces the amount of duplicated content and is thus better for SEO value.
  • Re-title the article so that you’re not competing for the same title on search engines.
  • Share only the thumbnail size of the original image unless you have permission to share the full-size image

For more content curation tips check out Curata’s blog.

6 Tips for Using Content Marketing & Social Media for Any Doctor

Are you a doctor who’s interested in learning how content and social media marketing can help grow your practice?

For decades doctors were able to get away without investing too much money in advertising or marketing. Then when the Internet changed everything, many of you started to use (and are still using) costly methods of online advertising to market your practices e.g. banner ads.

The problem is patients have completely tuned out to some these tactics and developed chronic cases such as banner blindness.

According to Pew Research, today’s patients are increasingly turning towards the Internet to find information (not advertisements) about symptoms, treatment and support. That means if you want patients to find you when they go online, you need to be involved in content marketing and social media.

Facebook for Medical

And in case you’re wondering how social media and content marketing are related here’s what you should know…

Both are about educating people, answering their questions, and sharing interesting news about your practice. When you do this primarily on your blog it is content marketing

But there’s more.

Social media promotion is critical to online content marketing success. Because there are millions of users on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other social sites, it is very likely that people who need your medical expertise (yet don’t know that your blog exists!) are hanging out there.

The best way to reach them is by taking the stories that you’ve posted on your blog and placing them in these sites.

It’s that easy?

Well, yes and no.  Yes, because once you have all your content ready, all you have to do is promote it on your social media networks. But preparation is key.

Social media is a very active space. There are a lot of interesting conversations taking place at the same time and since your target audience has a short attention span, they can get distracted very easily.

The challenge for you as a doctor using social media, is that you have to be more interesting and more creative than the other people or brands in your target audience’s network!

How do you that?

Here are 6 content marketing and social media success tips for your medical practice.

#1. Blog Regularly

If you don’t already have one, develop an editorial calendar to help you blog regularly and consistently. Remember too that social media content benefits from planning and regular updating.

You need to plan for the interesting stories that you will share on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest. Of course many of these stories will be inspired from your blog, but once in a while you may also need to add other content (photos, video, podcasts etc.) to engage audiences within those specific networks.

#2. Tell Awesome Stories

Use your blog to tell stories about your industry, practice, people and events. Each story should be unique and interesting enough to create appeal and draw new audiences on Facebook, Twitter and other social sites that you use.

Human-interest stories are very popular on social media. As a doctor, you have no shortage of such stories although you have to be careful not to violate patient privacy. Patient stories help to illustrate how your practice is impacting people’s lives, and thus generates more interest from other online audiences.

#3. Execute well

Even though 99% of patient stories are interesting by default, how you execute them on social media is very important.

For example on Facebook and Pinterest, posting visually appealing and well-edited photos will go much farther than posting links to your blog. On Twitter you will need different executions skills such as how to craft a compelling tweet with 140 characters, or how to use relevant hashtags to make it easy for people to find your content.

Every social media platform is different. It’s important for you to learn those environments and leverage their unique features to reach a wider audience with your message.

#4. Include location

One of your primary marketing goals is to attract more patients to your practice. So start by creating or updating your Facebook page, Twitter profile and Pinterest account and adding your physical location and your contact information.

When patients come in for their appointment, encourage them to ‘check-in’ to your location using Facebook Places.

Checking-in on Facebook has the same effect as word-of-mouth marketing. When a Facebook user sees (on her Newsfeed) that her friend (your patient) has checked into your location, she’ll be curious to learn more about your practice and will probably click through to your Facebook Page for more information.

#5. Work on your ‘About’ section

The ‘About’ section of your Facebook page should be optimized with keyword rich names, categories and descriptions. The words you use to describe your practice should reflect the natural conversational language that your audience uses. This will increase the likelihood of appearing on Facebook’s Graph Search results.

Similarly, the ‘About’ page of your website should not just focus on keywords that match the medical conditions you treat, but also on answering questions that typical patients would ask. Think about some of the common questions that your patients have asked in the past and update your About page with content that provides those answers.

#6. Consider contests, promotions & giveaways

Contests, promotions and giveaways are very effective ways of acquiring new clients via social media. Because contests can produce outstanding results, it’s important that you make yours stand out by offering a prize that will create excitement and enthusiasm among your audience. Giving away a free iPad has nothing to do with your practice, so don’t bother.

You can give away a relevant product with a ‘limited time only’ message to create a sense of urgency and interest. Avoid giving away free services as this might encourage people not to buy until they find out if they’ve won. To ensure high participation encourage Facebook fans to submit photos of themselves, or share stories for a chance to win.

Your Turn:

Which of these content and social media tips have you used to market your medical practice? Please share your experience in the comment box below.

***Original article posted on Dermatology Times

Social Listening: Consumers Don’t Like It and What Your Brand Should Do About It

It’s common for companies to listen to conversations on social media. This way, they can understand consumer opinion about brands, products, and services.

companies listen to social media conversationsThe problem is consumers don’t like it.

A 2012 study by JD Power and NetBase shows that 40% of consumers think social listening intrudes on privacy, even though this is “social media.”

False Expectations?

The question is should users even expect to have online privacy in the first place?

Last summer Google basically told a federal court that people who care about privacy should not use their service and as Molly Wood, executive editor at CNET subsequently pointed out:

“Google reads your e-mail, knows what’s in your calendar, looks at your photos, and knows who your friends are, and that’s just via its in-house services. When you include the breadth of its search, Google knows everything about you that’s public information, from your address to all your online profiles, to your marital status and much, much more.”

I think part of the misunderstanding between consumers and marketers is that they look at privacy differently. Marketers spend a lot of time online – researching, studying and trying to understand how vast amounts of online data can be used to improve services.

But consumers aren’t as informed (no disrespect) about online data and how it’s used. Most of the time, they’re just afraid that their personal information is being used for something “covert” and they don’t like it.

But I want to have my cake and eat it too!

What’s interesting is that consumers want it both ways. They don’t necessarily want brands listening to their conversations, but they definitely expect them [brands] to respond if a consumer has a complaint!

consumer opionion about social listening

Consumers have different and often conflicting views on social listening

There is no magic formula to help brands figure out what to do. What’s clear though is that marketers have to act in such a way that consumers are persuaded about the benefits of social listening.

What’s a brand to do…?

At the end of the day it’s all about respecting the customer, always getting their permission and going out of your way to explain why you need specific personal information from them. Here’s what social listening should look like:

  • Don’t just listen; understand the full picture before you respond.
  • Consider the context of online updates and conversations – your response should always satisfy consumers’ expectations.
  • Engage with the intention of delivering mutual value i.e. better experience and incredible customer service.
  • Demonstrate how listening builds relationships, rather than simply ‘intruding’ on consumers’ conversations.

The benefits that come from social listening end up flowing through to consumers as well. Marketers should therefore be bold about educating their customers and explaining how online conversations are used. This not only builds consumer trust, it also alleviates fears based on lack of knowledge.

What do you think? How should marketers behave in order to leverage the benefits of social listening? Please leave your feedback in the comment box below.




The Key to Success with Sponsored Content

The use of sponsored content (also known as native advertising**) is on the rise, though not many brands understand exactly what it is, how it works, or who is currently using it.

Sponsored content is content (e.g. blog posts, articles, Facebook posts, videos, tweets and Infographics) written (or co-written) by a brand (say SAP) and published on a publisher’s domain (say for the purpose of acquiring new audiences.

an example of sponsored content on

Sponsored content is interesting, engaging, quality content NOT a marketing message. It should add value to the user’s experience (i.e. entertain, educate, enhance communication etc.), and always, always line up with the reader’s expectations on the publisher’s site.

It should also be labeled clearly as originating from the brand or sponsor and not the editorial team of the publisher. Here’s a great example of sponsored content on Forbes.

Why use Sponsored Content – The challenge

In recent years consumers have developed a severe case of “banner blindness.” The banner ads we’re used to seeing alongside regular website content are suffering from consumer suspicion, doubt and even contempt.

Hence marketers have been forced to reconsider the way they advertise since they’re not reaching the audiences they want to.

The opportunity

Sponsored content is more aligned with the media that today’s consumers are used to. It provides brands with an opportunity to engage with consumers using a more relevant message and without losing credibility.

According to the State of Native Advertising 2014 report authored by Hexagram and Spada, the most popular reasons why brands and marketers use sponsored content are:

  • To provide a more relevant message to audiences (67%);
  • To increase consumer engagement (63%);
  • To generate awareness or buzz (62%);
  • To create word of mouth advertising (48%);
  • To combat “banner blindness” (43%).

Who uses Sponsored Content?

The Hexagram report indicates that 62% of publishers offer sponsored content opportunities to advertisers; 41% of brands use sponsored content, and 34% of agencies work on sponsored content campaigns.

Done right sponsored content can benefit both the publisher and the brand. However there’s one rule that should be followed to ensure an effective campaign.

The Rule

Brands must put the needs of their audience first and avoid pitching at all costs.

This forces them to think of creative ways of relaying a brand message without resorting to old advertising tactics that consumers hate and don’t interact with anyway.

When sponsored content is done right it tells a fluent story that is highly appropriate and useful to consumers. Somewhere within the story, a brand message is “tucked in” so tactfully that the reader’s experience is not disrupted with a pitch – like this IBM article published on Forbes.

If this can be achieved then consumers will receive and engage with relevant messages, and brands will invest more with publishers.

Some Final thoughts…

Some brands are not comfortable with the concept of sponsored content – they worry about blurring the lines between editorial and paid content, which could jeopardize consumer trust. This is understandable.

But at the end of the day, as long as readers are getting the kind of content they want and not complaining like in this case, and as long as there’s transparency about the origin of content (e.g. ‘Sponsored Content’ or ‘Brought to you by…” or something similar) then brands have nothing to worry about.

What do you think? I’m interested to hear your views or experiences (both good and bad) about sponsored content.

** Editors Note: Though some people might argue that “Native Advertising” and “Sponsored Content” are two different things, ‘The State of Native Advertising 2014’ report indicates that most (53%) marketing professionals define native advertising as ‘sponsored content.’

How the Media Covers Digital Health Topics

The digital health revolution is empowering people to better track, manage, and improve their health.

And the tools are there – smartphones, wireless devices, desktop apps, patient portals, and many more – all able to monitor, analyze, and report health data on an ongoing basis.

But where do people go to discover what tools and technologies are available to help them manage their health?

Well the Internet is a leading source of information. Pew Research indicates that 85% of U.S. adults use the Internet, and 72% of those get their health information online. But do people look for information about digital health on traditional news media outlets like CNN, Foxnews or NBC news?

And if they do, what kind of information do they find once they get there? In fact while we’re on the subject, how much of the digital health conversation do traditional media outlets cover anyway? Is it helpful and productive or is it biased?


How traditional news media outlets cover the topic of 'digital health.'

How traditional news media outlets cover the topic of ‘digital health.’


These are the questions I sought to answer when I embarked on an amateur study. My hope is that it will spark some interesting conversations or better yet, yield some insights for real research by experts like Susannah Fox.


I chose three top news websites [based on popular ranking] including, and Huffington Post. In each case, I went to the news site and did a search for ‘digital health’. Then I reviewed two articles from the first page of SERP and made an evaluation of the site based on:

  • Volume of ‘digital health’ articles published (on the first page of SERP);
  • Indication of various perspectives;
  • Reporter’s bias;
  • Presence of any misinformation;



  • Volume of articles published: Out of 10 results on the first page of SERP there were 8 articles covering the subject of digital health.
  • Indication of various perspectives: Headlines about digital health were either positive or neutral. The content indicated that CNN has a generally favorable view of the subject. However they also did a good job covering both the pros and the cons of digital health e.g. some of the cons discussed were privacy issues, fear, suspicion, etc.
  • Reporter’s bias: Bias is a hard thing to evaluate especially when you’re not trained to spot it. But some statements, which seemed to indicate some bias caught my eye. For example:

“There is a realization that consumers want, and need, products to connect them with their physicians, their medical records, and with relatives who are helping to manage their care…”


“In the not-too-distant future, you’ll receive a full diagnosis and cure from your smartphone before you have even realized you’re unwell.”

  • Presence of any misinformation:  Here’s an interesting statement from this article:

“ Our informed insight will mean that the doctor’s role will change. They will become coaches, rather than a source of initial diagnosis.”

I’m no expert, but the idea of the doctor’s role changing to that of a coach is pretty absurd. And even if there are apps and devices that can diagnose disease, such technologies empower the patient, but don’t necessarily diminish the doctor’s role.


  • Volume of articles published: Out of 10 results on the first page of SERP there was 1 article covering the subject of digital.
  • Indication of various perspectives: Based on the one digital health article available on Foxnews, the headline of that article i.e. ‘6 Technology Trends That Will Change Your Family’s Health’ was neutral. The content of that article did not reveal any opinion or perspective but simply reported the facts.
  • Reporter’s bias: The reporter doesn’t offer a personal viewpoint about digital health except to say, “…as technology continues to evolve, digital health tools will play an even bigger role in how we stay healthy and fit.”  This reads more like a statement of fact rather than a personal perspective.
  • Presence of any misinformation: In discussing the ubiquitous nature of mobile health apps, the reporter quotes technology enthusiast, Robin Raskin who says, 

“The next time you go to your doctor, you may be just as likely to get an app as an aspirin.”

Embellishment? I think so. The comparison of apps to aspirin is like apples to oranges. To suggest that a time will come when aspirin and apps will be interchangeable is misleading since most apps don’t even treat illness in the first place (that’s why many of them don’t need FDA approval).

#3. Huffington Post

  • Volume of articles published: Out of 10 results on the first page of SERP there were 10 articles covering the subject of digital.
  • Indication of various perspectives; Most HuffPo headlines covering digital health were neutral except for two, which showed a favorable perspective i.e. “5 Digital Health Trends of 2013: Turning Lemons into Lemonade” and “The Long-Awaited Revolution: Digital Health Innovation.”

Also statements such as, “The year 2013 is an exciting time to have a brain indicate that HuffPo is incredibly excited about the digital health conversation. They do a great job covering all the opportunities digital health has to offer, but unlike CNN there is little mention of problems, challenges or people’s concerns.

  • Reporter’s bias; In addition to having a one-sided approach to this conversation, HuffPo regularly makes bold statements that leave no doubt in a reader’s mind what side they’re on.

Statements such as this, The technologies that are emerging are super-exciting, but it’s going to take a sea of change in attitude to make patients (and their doctors) get involved in self care,” seem to be scolding the skeptics.

And others like this, I believe 2013 will bring a higher form of capitalism in health care…I am excited to be a part of that process and a witness to the creativity and innovation of a difficult market,” firmly establishes their position.

(By the way among the articles sampled from HuffPo, there is no disclaimer that says, “The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.”)

  • Presence of any misinformation; There was no noticeable presence of misinformation on Huffington Post.


Traditional news media outlets cover the topic of digital health differently. Some have an overwhelming interest in the subject (e.g. Huffington Post) while others don’t seem to think it’s a very important one at all (e.g. Fox News).  This tells you which media outlets are committed to telling the story and which ones aren’t.

None of the media outlets appear to have a negative view of the digital health revolution. However CNN did a great job giving equal attention to both the pros and cons of digital health. Huffington Post gave the subject more positive coverage than any other media outlet while Fox wasn’t swayed one way or the other.

There were some misleading statements on both Foxnews and CNN, although these didn’t appear to indicate a blatant intention to mislead.

In any case, it would be great if all leading news media outlets took this conversation seriously and gave it the full attention it deserves. There needs to be more coverage of all sides of the story not just the rosy side. I also think it’s OK for reporters to have an opinion about the subject, but the publication should make it clear whether they endorse that opinion or not. Finally, any kind of misinformation (no matter how insignificant) can cause readers to lose trust in a publication.

Over to You

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this subject. Based on your experience, how do you see news media outlets covering the digital health conversation?

Most People are Consumers Not Creators of Social Media Health Content

Happy New Year and best wishes for 2014!

I thought I’d kick off the New Year discussing an interesting online trend – that most people are consumers rather than creators of health-related social media content.

I believe this is a pertinent discussion because as more healthcare organizations pursue larger online audiences, it’ll be increasingly important for them to understand the content habits of these audiences e.g. who are the creators vs. the consumers of content; where do they hang out; and why do they behave the way they do.

This type of persona insight is incredibly useful in helping healthcare marketers to segment and target their audiences more precisely.


Has the social web turned people into mere consumers of content?

So let’s get started.

In the beginning…

Historically (i.e. before Web 2.0) online health information seekers went to organization-sponsored websites (which were largely static webpages) to find what they were looking for.

Of course online content wasn’t democratized to the extent that it is now, where virtually anyone with a computer and Internet access can easily create or share their personal thoughts and ideas on the social web.

In fact the Internet was not originally created as a communication tool for social interaction – this is a more recent development.

What changed?

As people’s activities and communications on the Internet increased, it seemed useful to have more information about their social relationships. Hence the web evolved into a more social space rather than a technical one – it is now designed to help people share ideas and work together.

For example according to Technorati, there are nearly 1.3 million blogs online, 13% of Internet users have a Twitter account (140 million), Facebook has over 1 billion users, and by next year (2015) it is estimated that the number of organizations and people who use social media will reach over 3 billion – 3 billion, that’s almost half the world’s population!

To put it simply there’s a staggering number of people (73% of U.S. adults) using social media.

What about health-related social content?

When it comes to health-related information or discussions, a study done by the Journal of Medical Internet Research showed that people are more comfortable consuming and sharing rather than creating content.

For example the study found that only 15% of respondents created online information while 30% to 40% reported consuming health-related social media content e.g. online rankings or reviews of doctors, hospitals and medical treatments. Take a closer look:

  • 41% of people consult (i.e. consume) online rankings and reviews of doctors, hospitals or medical treatments;
  • 31% consume social media content for health-related information;
  • 10% contribute (or create) content by posting reviews of doctors, hospitals, drugs and treatments;
  • 15% post a comment, question or information about health or medical issues on a blog, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, a website, or an online discussion forum.

The lack of active participation in health-related social media conversations is quite intriguing.

With so many people logging onto their social networks every day, how is it that most aren’t taking advantage of the inherent value of “social” media i.e. participating and contributing to online conversations. Instead they prefer to be passive listeners merely passing on information to their friends.

The study suggests a couple of reasons for this trend:

  • People have less encounters with doctors and medical professionals these days so they don’t have too many personal experiences to share;
  • People might feel incompetent about health-related discussions preferring to leave such discussions to the “experts”;
  • The third reason is my own – I think most people just don’t have the time to commit to content creation (even something as simple as leaving a comment) – it’s just one more thing they’d have to curve out time for from their busy schedules.

Among those who consume health-related social media content, women, young people and those suffering from chronic illnesses are at the top (no surprise there!).

However the latter group is more likely to contribute content since they have real-life experience living with a chronic illness, which makes them feel more knowledgeable and competent about expressing their opinions.

I have two things to say about this.

One, I think it’s great that those who suffer from chronic illnesses are willing to discuss their medical conditions and experiences, in the hope of helping someone else who is going through a similar situation.

What this tells me is that each patient is an expert, in the sense that he or she has a completely unique experience of living with a particular illness. Hence their contribution to online health-related content is equally valuable, to that of doctors, medical professionals and other ‘experts’.

Two, there are way too many people out there (90%) who aren’t contributing to the conversation. Is it that they are mere spectators, or are they waiting for the opportune moment to join the discussion. I’m not sure.

What I do know is that healthcare marketers must figure out a way to ‘draw out’ and engage these bystanders if they hope to segment and target audiences appropriately.

I think one way to do this is to invite willing content consumers (e.g. those women, young people and the chronically ill) to contribute user-generated content on organization-sponsored blogs. It seems to me that they’d be more likely to draw other users like themselves into the conversation.

Over to you

What do you think? Has the social web turned people into mere consumers rather than creators of health content? How can we change this trajectory?