Google+ Communities: What Healthcare Marketers Need to Know

Are you on Google+? Does your healthcare brand have its own Google+ community?

I don’t know if it’s necessary to state the obvious. But I will.

Social media fatigue is killing healthcare marketers (well, figuratively speaking). Think about how many social networks you belong to. How much time you invest in them each day. Each week. Each month.

When a new one comes along do you look forward to jumping on board or do you dread the idea of ‘yet one more thing’ that you have to do?

Personally I don’t buy the idea that your brand’s digital footprint has to extend to every social media platform on the web. It is exhausting to your marketing team.

But I do think you should be thoughtful and strategic about the social media platform(s) you choose to engage in. Understand that they are not all created equal, and that some platforms are better at doing certain things than others. This is particularly important for healthcare marketers whose social media efforts are strictly controlled and scrutinized.

Community building

But let’s say for example you want to build a thriving community around your healthcare brand.

Quite frankly I haven’t come across any social platform that does a better job than Google+ Communities (No, not even Facebook groups!). On Google+ you can join a community as a brand. You cannot do that on Facebook.

On the downside (at least for now) there’s a bit of a gender imbalance. Google+ is heavily male-oriented but if your products or services appeal to men (e.g. strength training, muscle building exercises, treatments for hair loss etc.) then you should have no problem warming up to the crowd.

What is a Google+ Community?

A Google+ Community is an online forum where you meet and interact with people on topics that interest you. Any Google+ user can start a community on any topic they like. Communities can be public or private, and others may join by invitation or by moderator acceptance.

Leveraging Google+ Communities

In the past having a Google+ account gave brands an upper hand in terms of search and content visibility. However a brand page could not follow, link-mention or even comment on a user’s posts unless the user had that business in his or her circles in the first place. This made it a little challenging for healthcare marketers to grow their online communities.

But now with Google+ Communities brands have a greater opportunity to reach more people and extend their influence. Here’s how:

#1. Integrate and invite the world!

Anyone with a gmail account can join Google+ and your online community. So tell everyone you know through your website, email list, other social networks and offline interactions that you have a Google+ community.  Tell them them what the purpose of your community is, and invite them to join you there.

#2. Participate ‘as a brand’  in other communities

Find other Google+ communities that are relevant or complementary to yours and join them. Then become a useful contributor there by adding valuable insights and interesting ideas to their conversations. Don’t be shy about inviting them to your community as long as it’s not against their rules and not over-done.

#3. Use your Google+ community for ‘social care’.

Social care is customer service via social media. These days people are more likely to use social media rather than call a 1-800 number to get in touch with a call center.

Leverage this opportunity by handling questions about your products or services on your Google+ community and ensure that complaints are resolved promptly. Go a step further and invite experienced members to pitch in and help answer questions from other members. Heck if you find that they’re adding value to your online community, go ahead and make them a moderator!

What difference does it make?

A lot.

Google+ communities are what Facebook and Twitter would be like without their limitations. It is the ability to categorize your relationships and congregate with people who are passionate about your brand. It is both social media and communal living. For a healthcare marketer it is being able to interact directly with people who have raised their hand and said, “Yes, I want to be associated with you.”

For a step-by-step guide on starting a Google+ community, read this article.

Your turn: Do you have a Google+ community? What is your impression so far? Please share your thoughts in the box below.

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