Social Media Strategy Means Knowing How Online and Offline Connect

Flickr: J_O_I_D

At the university where I teach we have a bulletin board near my office where students pose a weekly social media question and then invite passer-bys to write their responses. It’s a way to engage those who may not be engaged in social media to consider it. (Yes, there are a few social media hold-outs, even on college campuses.)

The latest question the students posed is, “In 2007, Facebook had 20 million U.S. users. How many users does it have today?” One person wrote on the answer board, “Does it really matter? Instead of going online, try reading a book, dancing or singing.”

It was obvious to me that the person who wrote the response wasn’t engaged in social media. How could I tell? Not because I disagree with the sentiment. (I love engaging both mind and body in face-to-face activities.) I could tell because of the disconnect this person made between “online” and “offline” activities. In practice (and as proven by research), there is a strong connection.

Social media fosters face-to-face opportunities. For example, when our neighbor was running for school board, he invited us to a neighborhood gathering via social media. We recently planned a birthday party for a colleague and used social media. My daughter plans hockey outings with friends and study sessions with classmates using social media.

Building connections. Fostering relationships. Sharing information. All those activities encourage more face-to-face activity. This is why social media can be a powerful tool for hospital marketing and a catalyst for establishing interest in sponsored activities.

Consider a hospital that wants to make strong connections with young families and begin raising awareness of childhood obesity.

  • Perhaps your nutritionist is willing to speak at local PTA meetings about packing healthy, kid-friendly lunches.
  • You could locate the schools’ PTA Facebook pages and begin to make connections. Create healthy, kid-friendly lunch menus with accompanying shopping lists and post them on your page (then forgo handouts at the PTA meetings and encourage parents to check out your Facebook page for the information).
  • Partner with a local farmers market to offer coupons on your page (and announce this using social media tools). Have hospital representatives at the farmers market hand out reusable lunch bags and have your nutritionist available to offer ideas and advice.

With these strategies, you start with social media and move to face-to-face connections. By doing so, you can position the hospital as a strong community contributor with a staff who cares about children’s health and are generous in sharing their expertise.

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