Social is no longer an experimental strategy

Social media has proven itself a critical element of most communications efforts.

Social media has proven itself a critical element of most communications efforts. This is so for a number of reasons. Social media is among the most efficient global accelerators of a campaign message. It is used to build online communities, create online experiences, and stimulate online interaction among people unlikely to interact otherwise. For me, however, the hidden value of online communications is its ability to encourage the desired action offline.

The overarching business objective in many of our efforts in the healthcare arena is to stimulate a change in behavior. Whether it is to follow a type 2 diabetes-healthy diet, seek information about a clinical trial, attend a local event, or ask the doctor about symptoms or a new medication, our endgame is an offline activity that happens in real time. Social media is one of a mix of tactics that completes the communications transaction.

Using digital engagement to pull through offline elements of a campaign is not only cost-effective; it can also offer a satisfying experience for the end-user. Interacting with social media makes people feel connected. This is especially true among seniors. There is not a single older person I've talked to who uses Facebook to stay in touch with a daughter-in-law or grandchild, or casually says, “I learned this on the Internet,” who doesn't feel a certain satisfaction in the feeling of being in tune. 

This was supported in a recent survey of 15,000 women conducted by Women's Marketing Inc. and She Speaks about women's use of social media. Among the findings is that 30% of women queried said social media has made them more social offline. While many, 48%, say that social media makes them feel delightfully connected and a little over-stimulated at times, a similar sized group, 42% said they just felt positively in touch.

Leveraging the good feelings generated by the online media to stimulate a healthy behavior or next step is the job of the offline communications tactic. Finding the right balance here is no different from working out whether or how much of the focus is national and local. The blend is determined by the objective, the nature of the audience, and the message and the goal.

Devising a strategy that connects the power of social media to the desired offline action as well as the alchemy of the mix is what yields the most effective programs. 

Sandra Stahl is a partner at Jacobstahl.

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