5 Things Children’s of Alabama is Doing Right on Facebook

“If you need a blessing, visit Children’s of Alabama,” says Rita Russell Daren one of the hospital’s 21,418 Facebook fans.

Children’s Hospital of Alabama is the 10th busiest pediatric medical center in the U.S. Located in Birmingham, this facility has been ranked nationally in 10 pediatric specialties including cancer, cardiology and heart surgery, neurology, nephrology and others.

But apart from healing children, Children’s of Alabama has also done very well using social media content on Facebook to successfully compete  for attention and relevance.

Here’s what Children’s fans are saying about them:

Facebook Recommendations

Childrens Fan Testimonial 5 Things Childrens of Alabama is Doing Right on Facebook
An employee provides a raving review of Children’s of Alabama
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Fans share their positive experience of Children’s of Alabama

The true character of Children’s Hospital is revealed in the collective positive experiences shared by customers, employees and other stakeholders.

Here are 5 awesome things that Children’s Hospital is doing on Facebook:

#1. Wall updated often

When people log in to Facebook, the first thing they see is their News Feed. Most of them don’t scroll down too far back to check what’s been happening since their last log in. By updating their Facebook Wall two or three times a day Children’s of Alabama ensures that most of their fans will see their content at some point during the day. This also improves their page’s Edgerank. Clearly, Children’s of Alabama is aware that:

“You’re only as good as your last post.”

#2. Fan-centered status updates

Childrens fan focused FB status 5 Things Childrens of Alabama is Doing Right on Facebook
Fan-centered updates give Children’s fans an opportunity to interact

Very often you find pages that post the same brand-centered content over and over again. This is just annoying to fans and eventually they tune out. But at Children’s of Alabama, a lot of their Facebook updates (like the one shown here) are fan-focused thus giving fans more opportunities to interact.

#3. Initiating relevant conversations

Childrens Facebook status 3 5 Things Childrens of Alabama is Doing Right on Facebook
Fans like and share Children’s content because it provides relevant information that resonates with them

Facebook users want and respond to relevant content. On their Facebook page Children’s Hospital gives fans a reason to interact with their content by discussing issues that their audience cares about.

#4. Including action-based incentives

Childrens Facebook status 1 5 Things Childrens of Alabama is Doing Right on Facebook
Content that drives fans to take action by giving away an incentive

By adding action-based incentives to their content, Children’s of Alabama engages fans, prompts them to get involved in their off-line activities, and ensures that they enjoy the experience as well. A win-win for everyone!

#5. Interesting images

Childrens Facebook status 2 5 Things Childrens of Alabama is Doing Right on Facebook
Interesting images receive more attention from fans than text-only status updates

Facebook is a picture economy. Users tend to like and interact with pictures more than with text-only status updates. Children’s of Alabama is doing a great job of mixing up their content by including interesting pictures of hospital events. Again, this encourages fans to like and share their content.

Key Takeaway

Children’s of Alabama is not only doing a great job of blessing the country with the highly specialized treatment of dangerous childhood diseases, they’re also using their strong Facebook presence to initiate social conversationscommand attention, retain relevance and keep audiences engaged. Other hospitals could borrow a leaf from Children’s of Alabama and learn how to create compelling social media content that enhances the collective experience of their users.

Over to you: How would you rate Children’s of Alabama’s Facebook presence? What would you do differently?

First Things First – Content Strategy Before Social Strategy

At the heart of social media is the desire that every consumer has to talk about something interesting, compelling and relevant and to share that information with his or her friends.

The question marketers must ask themselves is: “What makes my brand so interesting that people will want to talk about it and share it with their friends?” (Even boring brands have something interesting to say!)

You can’t succeed in social media if you don’t have something interesting to say.

At this point in your social media experience, you (hopefully) understand that social media marketing is not just about having a Facebook page or a Twitter profile.

Social media is the vehicle for communicating and distributing interesting stories (content) across the internet. In turn, readers share the content they think is compelling.

What does content strategy have to do with it?

The purpose of content strategy is to facilitate the consistent delivery of interesting stories. The end result is that you will attract and retain the attention of the targeted audience that you want to reach.

Imagine for a moment that you’re invited to pitch your business to a room full of potential investors. They’re willing to hear your story and let you persuade them with your ideas. How much time do you think you would need to prepare for such an opportunity? A week? A month? More?

The point is you’d be foolish to simply show up, stand on the podium and say whatever comes to mind.

And yet, most businesses do exactly that when it comes to social media. Given the opportunity to present their brand to an online audience of potential customers, they simply show up without preparing a compelling message.

What a wasted opportunity.

Preparation is important because social media is a very active space. There’s a lot to do and a ton of conversations taking place. It is a very distracting environment, and everyone has a very short attention span.

You have to figure out what kind of conversation you’re going to spark that will make people pay attention to you because in social media attention is very hard to get (or retain for that matter).

Your competition isn’t the guy or gal who sells the same stuff that you do. Your competition is every person, every brand, every church, every small business, every big technology company, every politician and every celebrity who has something interesting to say.

That’s why it’s important to have a plan (content strategy). And that’s why your plan must be put in place before you show up on any social media channel.

How do I approach my own content strategy?

As you brainstorm your own content strategy, ask yourself these questions:

  • What niche do I want to be known for?  Example: Chiropractor.
  • What are my customers’ challenges? Example: Back-pain.
  • What kind of content do they consume? Example: Articles and videos
  • How can I create interesting yet consistent content that will attract new customers and retain old ones? Example: Create a blog on my website showing them how to manage back injury and how to treat back pain (featuring both text and video).  Publish weekly.
  • When all is said and done, what business results do I want to achieve for all my hard work? Example: More clients and more sales.
  • How will I know if this stuff is working? Example: By periodically measuring how many new customers and how many new sales, I have made since executing my content strategy.

Do I need a social strategy to make this work?

Indeed, you can achieve your business objectives through your content strategy without social media marketing. For example, visitors using long-tail search terms (e.g. lower back pain or injury-related back pain) can certainly find your content through Google or Bing (although this doesn’t happen overnight).

However, social media marketing can help you distribute your content much faster and reach more people than your website. But, your social strategy doesn’t need to be complicated, and it certainly doesn’t need the help of a ‘guru.’ It’s simply a plan that will work seamlessly with your content strategy to help you achieve your business goals.

To do this, first understand how consumers behave online:

  • They meet in different places (Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, YouTube, Digg);
  • They read, share and discuss different content (blogs, videos, podcasts, music);
  • They evaluate brands based on content. “People buy products to accomplish something” ~ Clayton Christensen author of It’s the Purpose Brand, Stupid. A brand’s content needs to explain what that ‘something’ is.
  • They are connected with one another and influence each other’s purchasing decisions (e.g.GAP logo story)

In other words, online conversations are the new market place.

The conversation opportunity

Organizations that understand this behavior are able to communicate directly with consumers and influence their perception of their brands. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Think about where your customers are located online and join those communities.
  • Establish a listening campaign to figure out who’s doing the talking and what’s being said.
  • Consider how you will connect with the more influential ‘conversationalists’ within those communities. Do you need to create your own Facebook page or Linkedin profile? Or do you need to comment regularly on select blogs? Use these channels to interact with your community by asking questions (surveys), participating and contributing to conversations (comments/discussion forums) and sharing your expertise (your content).
  • Share whatever is going on in your offline world with your online community (pictures and videos).
  • Reach out to other bloggers (guest blogging).
  • Respond quickly to comments and feedback on your own blog.

Quick recap: Content marketing is enhanced by social media but can also survive without it. Social media on the other hand, would not be popular without interesting, informative or humorous content. Before entering the social media space, you need a plan to figure out how to deliver interesting content on a consistent basis so that you may attract and retain the attention of your target audience. That is your content strategy.

**Editor’s Note: This post first appeared on the Content Marketing Institute blog on May 9th, 2011. The original author is Patricia Redsicker.

How Social Conversations Uphold Your Influence

With over 600 million users on Facebook and consumers spending more time on social platforms, brands are now using these channels to connect and engage with customers in the hope of influencing their purchasing decisions.

But not everyone is happy about this.

Fear

As we speak many business executives around the globe are quaking in their boots at the thought of losing control of the conversation or exposing their company’s soft under-belly.

Unfortunately for them the business opportunity in social media is no longer in question. That ship has sailed. The challenge for them is to create a social business model that aligns with their organizational values in order to capitalize on the reality of today’s market place.

Opportunity

They can learn a lot from American Express – OPEN Forum for example is an online resource and social networking hub for small business owners and entrepreneurs to communicate and share ideas with one another.

The fact that American Express – a highly regulated financial services company – has not shied away from reaping the benefits of social conversations, is an important lesson for undecided brands. Every day through OPEN Forum they connect, engage and influence potential customers without openly discussing their product.

Wells Fargo is another pioneer in the arena of regulated industries and social media. Their blog too treads lightly on their product and instead focuses on connecting, communicating and solving customers’ problems.

The new market place

Social conversations have created a permanent change in the way companies do business. And every industry must take note – whether you’re selling to consumers or to other businesses – in retail, financial services, technology, health care and even government.

At first this will not be an easy jump. There will be many threats for sure and things will happen quickly.

But “…the first step is to dip your toe. Once you’ve done that you can begin to see where your company can, potentially gain some advantage.” ~ ‘Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies’, by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff

Over to you: How will you take advantage of social conversations to influence your customers?