Breaking Through the Noise

Optimize your share of voice to grow market share

As a healthcare marketing leader, you know how noisy the competitive landscape can be. As the industry shifts toward a consumer-centric healthcare marketplace, it seems every hospital and health system is vying for the same patients—and they all have advertising dollars devoted to buying the largest megaphone.

In today’s hyper-connected world, consumers are bombarded by advertising messages at every turn; one estimate suggests consumers are subject to 3,000 to 5,000 messages each day. Healthcare is no exception, so what is your strategy for determining reach, frequency, and key messages to best position your healthcare organization? After all, if you’re in the orchestra, it’s better to play the trumpet than the piccolo.

Amplify Your Voice for Bigger Gains

Clever ads alone rarely produce sustainable results, so the relationship between your ad buying strategy and your market share growth should be treated with care. It is important to understand the correlation between share of voice (SOV) – defined as your organization’s percentage of the total media buying in your industry for a specific time period – and share of market (SOM), which is your percent of the total revenue for that same time period. You probably already know your market share, but your SOV can be more complex. Knowing your SOV relative to your competitors, however, can be critical to your strategic advertising efforts for top-line growth.

The Nielsen Company published research that sheds light on this relationship between SOV and SOM. They found that with everything else equal, you are more likely to gain market share if your SOV is larger than your SOM. This “excess” share of voice is shown to have a very direct effect—an increase of 0.5 percent additional market share when your SOV is 10 points higher than your SOM.

Of course, rarely is the math that simple. The same research found that a lot of factors play into this, including the size of your brand, whether you are the brand leader in your industry or a brand “challenger,” and of course, the level of sophistication in your creative campaign. If you are the brand leader, for example, a 10-point differential can net you as much as a 1.4 percent market share boost.

Even with multiple variables, savvy healthcare organizations can still make this research work for them. Dave Beckert, a media planner, gives this advice:

“Smart marketers investment spend (SOV slightly exceeds SOM) to some degree to deter attack. To show major gains in SOM, you must create or exploit disequilibrium … using advertising spending as an offensive weapon, based upon an analysis of the competitive situation.”

Use the Right Tool for the Job

As the former VP of Marketing for a major academic medical center, I cannot overemphasize how necessary it is to have competitive market data driving strategic recommendations for media planning and creative concept development. In addition to providing the foundation of those recommendations, I needed the competitive data to secure support for the marketing and advertising budgets I proposed. The only problem was that collecting a comprehensive market analysis of competitors was incredibly arduous and time-consuming.

Now, that’s no longer true. The need for robust competitive market data is still great, but the work that goes into creating those market profiles is not, thanks to an innovative product called ad atlas+.

ad atlas+ for smarter healthcare advertising (screen capture)

Click to enlarge image and learn more.

Custom designed for hospitals and health systems, ad atlas+ packages comprehensive competitive market profiles into a single interactive tool, empowering you to view and compare what competitors are saying in your local market with only a few clicks. ad atlas+ lets you watch competing television spots, click through banner ads, hear radio promos, view print ads and more. Additionally, ad atlas+ provides a market analysis of each hospital’s key positioning messages, SOV and ad spend. These analyses provide much-needed clarity and the competitive advantage to aid in capturing a larger SOV for your healthcare organization.

I recommend ad atlas+ because it was designed for healthcare marketers by healthcare marketers, and it offers meaningful insight to guide healthcare advertising strategies. You can finally answer such questions as, Should we be buying magazine display ads? and Will that many TV spots even make a difference? ad atlas+ gives you the power to see your local market differently – and when you can stand up and see who is playing in the orchestra, you can finally decide if you need to pick up a louder horn. If you’re a healthcare marketer, that should be music to your ears.

Julie Amor is the Chief Strategy Officer for Dobies Healthcare and has more than 20 years of experience elevating healthcare brands. Share your thoughts with her by tweeting @DobiesGroup or by commenting on our Facebook page.

Measuring Your Facebook Marketing Efforts

Track Insights to See What Connects with Healthcare Consumers

Facebook InsightsResearch shows healthcare consumers look to social media for health information – and more than 40% take action based on health advice they find through social media. And that’s not just the younger demographics – for example, a 2013 Florida poll of adult internet users revealed that more than one third (36%) of individuals over the age of 50 have used social media to find and share health information. If done right, social media marketing and advertising can provide worthwhile opportunities to increase reach and engage individuals.

Facebook is an effective tool for reaching multiple demographics and provides meaningful insight to monitor the success of your messaging. Clicking on the Facebook Insights tab will give you a nice overview of how your posts are performing, including information on page likes, post reach and overall engagement. Here are a few insights to consider when using Facebook to engage with healthcare consumers:


Reach—or the number of people who are served your Facebook post, both organically and through paid advertising—means actual people, not impressions. In other words, if one person sees your organization’s Facebook post 30 times, it counts as one person reached, not 30.

You can find information about the people your Facebook posts are reaching by clicking “People Reached” in the People section of your Facebook Insights:

Monitor reach with Facebook Insights

You can reach people organically for free, meaning individuals will naturally see your post when their Facebook friend(s) “like” or comment on your post. You can also use paid posts — which include advertisements as well as boosted posts — to expand your audience based on your budget and number of active users in your specified target area.


Another important insight to track is engagement, or the number of people who “like,” comment, or share your organization’s Facebook post. You can see the breakout of engagement on a post itself or under the Posts section of Facebook Insights. This statistic is also included in the total number of “clicks” on your post (unlike traditional display ads, in which clicks usually indicate the number of users sent to your campaign’s landing page). If you want to track clicks to your landing page, you can use a custom URL in your post like you would with a display ad.

Monitor engagement with Facebook Insights

Likes, Comments and Shares

You will receive notifications (either by email or directly to your Facebook account) for “likes,” comments and shares on your health organization’s paid and unpaid posts. Facebook breaks down paid “likes” as those that occur within one day of viewing your paid post or 28 days of clicking on your paid post. So, even if an individual doesn’t get to your Facebook page directly by clicking your paid post, you can still monitor his or her activity with Facebook Insights.

Monitoring comments and shares on your posts provides great qualitative feedback. Responding to viewer’s remarks creates meaningful dialogue and shows consumers you are listening.

Negative Feedback

Facebook also monitors negative feedback, including the number of times a user hides your post, reports your post as spam or un-likes your health organization’s Facebook page. If you notice negative feedback, take action to understand and alleviate or correct the matter responsibly. Sometimes negativity is caused by an issue that can easily be resolved if addressed professionally and in a timely manner. If ignored, it may lead to bigger issues.

Monitor negative feedback on Facebook

As digital media becomes more and more integrated into our everyday lives, healthcare marketers are getting increasingly comfortable using it as a tool to engage with consumers. By monitoring insights such as reach, engagement, likes, comments and shares, you can adapt your social media marketing efforts to better reach and resonate with your target audience.

Healthcare Websites: Giving Patients What They Want

Healthcare Marketing: WebsitesSo…what do you think of our new website? We hope you like it as much as we do, because if we don’t provide a helpful, informative and visually appealing experience while you’re here, then we’re just wasting space, plain and simple.

This is especially true for hospital and physician practice websites. These sites should be current, easily accessible resources for the eight in 10 internet users who seek health information online, but generally speaking, they’re not. Studies show many of today’s provider websites are mediocre at best. Why? Because these patient-facing sites don’t offer much when it comes to patient-friendly, patient-focused information.

What they do tend to offer in abundance is hospital- or practice-centric ‘About Us’ content. While it’s okay to provide an overview of the organization as a local patient care provider, that’s really not why people visit the site, especially when it comes at the expense of information patients really need, like whether their insurance will be accepted, what forms they’ll need for a first-time visit, which floor the lab is on, whether they can get a certain procedure at your facility, how to reach their specialist by phone, and so on.

Bottom line: the most successful healthcare websites put patients first. Why disappoint when you can ‘wow’ people instead? Making your site patient-friendly involves varying levels of complexity and expertise, but here are some things to consider that won’t require a complete overhaul:

  • Be accessible to everyone. Offer concise content at a high school reading level – no long, jargon-heavy paragraphs. Make sure it’s a mobile-friendly site, because one in five cell phone owners in the U.S. today have used their phones to look up health-related information. Offer bilingual content if English is a second language for many of your patients, and accommodate people with disabilities like visual impairments that limit web accessibility if you can. Thanks to a wide variety of plugins, extensions and widgets available for today’s most commonly used content management systems, these tasks are often not as difficult as you might think.
  • Make sure search engines can – and do – find you. Plugins for search engine optimization (SEO) are a dime a dozen these days. It helps to have key words and phrases in your content, but that alone is rarely enough to make you a top match in searches. Deploy SEO strategies to ensure people find you when your content answers the questions they’re asking.
  • Keep it fresh. Stale, outdated content engages no one. Be sure to update your site with new developments relevant to patients, like upcoming health promotions, new doctors and services, extended appointment hours and so on. And if one or more of your physicians is willing to blog in layman’s terms on key medical topics and news, we say go for it!

By the way, online videos are also a great way to provide truly engaging content that users can access and absorb with ease. But that’s a whole other blog topic – read more here.

And finally, in terms of design, here’s your new mantra: No Clutter Allowed. Apply the same levels of neatness, logic and organization to your site as you do at your facility. Remember, your website is often your first chance to make a good impression, so use it wisely. Put the needs and interests of patients first.

Real-Life Lessons in Social Media and Healthcare

Last week I attended a social media panel discussion moderated by Carol Dobies at the KCHCS Fall Conference. The three panelists, who represented two hospitals and a local firm that monitors, measures and analyzes digital content, shared their experiences and expertise with online patient interaction. Together they provided some important takeaways for healthcare organizations looking to expand their online presence. Highlights include:

Listening should be a key part of your social media strategy, and your efforts should go beyond the content you generate. It’s easy to know what people say directly to you online, but are you also watching what they say about you? “Sites like Facebook and Twitter are great for engagement, but that’s not where Google searches send people,” according to panelist Aaron Weber of Spiral16. “It’s critical to know where people land and what language they encounter when you come up in a search.” A valid point, considering 92% of adults online use search engines, and nearly 60% report using them daily, according to recent research by Pew Internet.

Healthcare-specialized SEO and marketing firms understand that patients search and read content from multiple sources (Yelp,, Wikipedia, etc.) in addition to the messages you’re putting out there. The key to establishing meaningful patient engagement online is an effective mix of SEO tactics, highly targeted direct marketing and social media strategies that encompass your entire digital presence. Read more about the importance of listening to patient comments from HealthLeaders.

Back up your strategy with social media policies. Social media policies govern your use of social media, from employee access to procedures for triaging patient comments (negative and positive). Front-line employees are the face of your organization, so if you’re comfortable letting them post and interact with patients online, it’s your choice to allow it. In order to protect your brand image and ensure total compliance with all patient-privacy laws, however, usage policies should be clearly articulated and enforced.

In fact, panelist Shawn Arni of Children’s Mercy Hospital advises two separate policy documents: one for page admins/hospital use and another for employee use. For example, staff members are not allowed to post or share anything during work hours. Regardless of how well-intended any given post may be, if it’s made by patient-facing staff in the middle of a shift, it can be perceived as interfering with patient care.

Needless to say, there are many factors to consider when developing social media use policies, but having the right rules in place is well worth the effort. Panelist Belinda Rehmer of Lawrence Memorial Hospital (LMH), agrees. As the hospital’s Community Relations Social Media Lead, she speaks from experience, and LMH’s social media policy has been used as a best practice example by many other hospitals in Kansas.

Studies show that people with the low levels of social interaction have high rates of mortality. With so many networking tools now available online, the obvious question for healthcare providers is how can we use social media to engage patients in ways that improve health? We welcome all input on the topic, so if you have insight to share about patient engagement and social media, let us hear from you!

Engaging Patients through Social Media

Later this week, I will moderate an interactive panel for Kansas City Healthcare Communicators Society.The topic: How to Deploy Social Media to Improve Patient Engagement. With expert input spanning a wide range of social networking tools and best practices from our healthcare marketing panelists, the session promises to provide an eye-opening look at what it takes to continuously engage patients online.

Here are highlights from colleagues in the healthcare social media field:

Two-fifths of adult internet users in the U.S. have read someone else’s online commentary about health. Many thanks to Susannah Fox and her colleagues at Pew Internet & American Life Project, who published a report earlier this year revealing that 80% of internet users search online for health information, and a growing number rely on the internet to connect peer-to-peer. Among the findings:

  • Symptoms and treatments dominate health searches (66% and 56% respectively).
  • 44% of internet users look online for information about doctors or other health professionals.
  • 25% of adult web users look online for people with a chronic illness.
  • 24% have consulted online rankings of doctors and hospitals.
  • 20% look online for people with similar health issues.

There are 140 uses for your 140 characters if your healthcare organization tweets. Phil Baumann, a social media strategist and advisory board member for Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, studied the challenges and opportunities available for providers via Twitter. In the end, he identified 140 different healthcare uses for Twitter – an oldie but goodie for those in need of ideas when it comes to tweeting for and about health.

More than 1,200 U.S. hospitals are now actively using social media sites. And that number is climbing every day. Thanks to Ed Bennett, web operations manager at the University of Maryland Medical Center (and also an advisory board member for Mayo Clinic social media), we have better insight into the scope of social media use among hospitals. Here’s the latest breakdown of the number of hospital accounts/pages per social networking site:

  • Facebook: 1,068
  • Foursquare: 946
  • Twitter: 814
  • YouTube: 575
  • LinkedIn: 566
  • Blogs: 149

If so many healthcare providers are putting it out there on so many sites, it must be simple, right? Wrong. We all know representing an organization via social media is much more complex than managing personal accounts, so it’s important to know what you’re doing behind the scenes. Fortunately, help is out there, like this list of 20 Excellent Social Media Networking Resources for Health Professionals, compiled recently by HealthWorks Collective.

I’m looking forward to a thought-provoking discussion by our panelists this week. We will update you with the biggest takeaways and lessons learned next week.

SHSMD Word Cloud Finds the Focus of Today’s Hospital Strategists and Marketers

In our last post, we talked about word clouds and their practical uses beyond the blog. This week, we’ll continue that discussion in lieu of our recent discoveries at SHSMD Connections 2011, an annual conference hosted by the Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development. The event was a meeting of the minds from all levels of hospital communications, and the word cloud was our way of learning more about what’s on their minds.

SHSMD attendees participated by entering today’s hot topics into our word cloud app. You can view the results here. But what do the results tell us about the directions and challenges hospital marketers face as we head into 2012?

The most commonly used phrase was “physician strategies,” with “social media” coming in close behind. Many hospital strategists are looking for effective ways to engage with physicians and patients. While social media continues to grow as a cost-effective way to expand reach and frequency, strategists are struggling with how to reconcile professional relationships with online social platforms—and even how to get people to “Like” or “Follow” their hospitals in the first place, let alone leverage that affinity. It’s a challenge many of today’s healthcare marketers must untangle, and clearly engagement is the name of the game.

Other issues taking center stage for healthcare marketers include:

Direct marketing – promoting what works to grow market share.

Brand building – on-target messaging in the midst of health reform and ACO debates.

Market-driven plans (and plans that drives markets) – thinking strategically and delivering creatively.

• Better returns – demonstrating improved ROI and ROE as direct results of marketing efforts.

If your marketing initiatives don’t include solid strategic planning in the areas described above, you’re missing opportunities to enhance relationships, grow in volume, improve your brand and more.

What about you—what’s on your mind in healthcare marketing today? If you didn’t share with us at SHSMD, feel free to do so in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.

Word Clouds Put the “Fun” in Functional for Marketers

You’ve seen them on blogs as handy visual aids that spotlight keywords from page content. Word clouds make it easy for web surfers to determine if any given blog or post interests them enough to keep reading. But for marketers, word clouds offer communication tools that can be used outside the blog as well.

At their most basic level, word clouds make text on a page look more exciting than, well, text on a page. You can use them to convey data and information in a way that breaks the mold of standard presentation formats like slides, spreadsheets and pie charts.

Looking for a creative way to share marketplace feedback to your executive and board leaders? Instead of a report with lengthy quotes and testimonials, consider presenting a word cloud that displays what consumers are saying in one quick, easily digestible image. Information that’s easy to absorb at a glance resonates more with readers.

Word clouds can also help you take a keen look at the content on your website, particularly if you’re not employing search engine optimization tactics. In seconds you’ll know exactly what words appear most frequently on key pages. You can use the results to assess whether or not you’re communicating what you want—and don’t want—to say. Try the same thing with key pages from your competitors’ sites to compare and contrast key messages.

And speaking of your Internet presence, do you know what’s being said about your organization online? Word clouds are a great way to determine if your online press is positive and aligns with your key messages. Google your organization or a specific topic, then enter text from the search results into a word cloud app. You’ll get an instant visual representation of your online image and what it says about you.

Your consumers and employees have suggestions for improvement – do you know what they are? Word clouds can help you figure it out. Just as they can be used to draw attention to your strengths, they can also uncover weaknesses. Without making it public, try making a word cloud to zero in on specific areas needing improvement.

There’s no shortage of word cloud generators available online. Look around on sites like Wordle, Tagxedo and Word It Out (to name just a few). Pick the app you like the most and discover what it can reveal about your marketing and communication efforts. Why not start right now? It’s easy, it’s creative, and it’s fun.


i-Devices Help Docs Deliver Better Care

After I purchased my first smartphone more than a year ago, it wasn’t long before it became an invaluable part of my daily life. So when I ran across an article asking how healthcare workers ever lived without their iPhones, iPads and other portable, “smart” technologies, I was far from surprised.  But while I mostly use my smart phone for news updates, Google searches and social media, many healthcare providers are using mobile devices to improve their practice.

A recent survey found:

  • Among physicians currently using mobile devices in their practice, 56 percent said the devices expedite decision making.
  • Nearly 40 percent said the use of mobile devices decreases time spent on administration.
  • Forty percent of physicians said they could reduce the number of office visits by 11 to 30 percent by using mobile health technologies like remote monitoring, email or text messaging with patients.

The study also found patients are eager for mobile healthcare as well:

  • Thirty-one percent of consumers are willing to incorporate an application into their existing mobile phones to be able track and monitor their personal health information.
  • Forty percent of consumers are willing to pay for a device and a monthly subscription fee for a mobile phone application that would send text and e-mail reminders to take their medications, refill prescriptions, or to access their medical records and track their health.

As a healthcare marketer, I welcome this trend as it provides yet another vehicle to help physicians reach patients where they live, work and play.  As a patient, it seems it’s only a matter of time before I’m using my smartphone to manage my health in addition to my social life.

The Internet Says I Have WHAT?!

We’ve all done it:

We suffer from a sniffle that lasts a bit longer than usual and we’re off to a search engine to self-diagnose our mystery illness. Depending on the search results (and our levels of persistence and paranoia), either we are comforted that we’ve simply contracted the common cold…or we’re convinced that we’ve developed a CSF leak and the fluid that surrounds our brain is escaping through our nose!

Those of us who believe the second diagnosis are likely falling victim to cyberchondria:

“… the unfounded escalation of concerns about common symptomatology, based on the review of search results and literature on the Web.”

And as health content on the Web continues to grow, we risk becoming cyberchondriacs with every Google or Bing search query.

To help curb cases of cyberchondria, some believe it is the responsibility of the search engines to provide results the public can trust. While I agree the search engines play a role, I believe the solution begins with healthcare marketers and Web writers. We have the responsibility to work with physicians, nurses and other medical professionals to produce complete, accurate and understandable information for the search engines to deliver to the online community. Studies show this kind of quality information is not always available for certain conditions, which leads medical experts to warn against relying too much on the Internet for education.

Ultimately, however, it falls to healthcare consumers to do their part.  While it is important to be vigilant advocates for our health and make an effort to educate ourselves, we must be prudent in our research, both online and off, and remember to balance our findings with the first-hand opinions of medical professionals.

Texts and Tweets for Haiti

In the wake of the earthquake that devastated Haiti on January 12, social media is proving once again to be a powerful tool for sharing information and raising funds in times of crisis. Check out these stats:

  • Three days after the earthquake, 3% of all blog posts were related to Haiti’s earthquake.
  • By January 15, the American Red Cross’ Twitter account had gained more than 10,000 followers.
  • By January 22, 42% of Facebook users in the United States had donated money or goods to aid Haiti relief  –  23% of these donors did so via text message.
  • More than $25 million has been raised for the American Red Cross’ relief effort in Haiti through $10-donations made by simply texting HAITI to 90999.

These figures help reinforce the belief that people turn to social media not just to consume information, but also to connect and engage in meaningful ways with organizations and each other.