Should Your Social Media Strategy Kiss Word of Mouth Goodbye?

flickr: greenplastic875

The other day a friend told me about this great social media resource, and I couldn’t help but think how ironic it was that I had heard about it via the oldest and most traditional form of communication – word of mouth.

As a social media strategist, I sometimes feel like I disappoint people. With “social media” in my title – people anticipate my strategies will always include a social media component. That is, after all, what social media strategists do.

But I never forget the second half of the title, “strategist.” If I did, I fear I would become like the clueless woman on the recent Sprint commercial who, although sitting across the table from her boyfriend, breaks up with him via text and then doesn’t realize how inappropriate it is.

Sometimes social media isn’t the answer and, many times, it isn’t the only answer. With more than 20 years in communication strategy work, I view social media as a new game-changing communication tool with great potential for advocacy, engagement and building and strengthening relationships. However, it is still a tool.

If you are planning your hospital’s social media strategy, be open to the strategy that best meets your goals – be it traditional or new media.

A bias in either direction can derail your strategy and you may make the mistake of using a shiny new tool because, well, it’s shiny.  This week, an anti-bullying public service campaign is kicking off in high schools and colleges. Shirts in Schools is supporting this event by encouraging students to wear pink t-shirts that say, “The bullying stops here.”

You can’t get much more low-tech, traditional “word-of-mouth” than a t-shirt wearing campaign on campus. It certainly isn’t a “shiny new tool strategy.” However, the power behind it comes from coordinating multiple campuses through Facebook in an effort to make a national statement.

How can hospitals use this same concept to strengthen local word-of-mouth campaigns? Consider the potential for combination campaigns for your community’s 10K health run, senior health fair; lice awareness in the schools or mammogram awareness campaign? How can you combine social media and traditional word of mouth to expand your influence?

A strong combination: social and traditional

  • For your senior health fair, ask permission from the speakers to record them and create a YouTube channel; then email all the retirement communities and senior centers in the area to make them aware of this new resource. Coordinate senior volunteers to staff a table at local places frequented by seniors or visit retirement communities. Equip your volunteers with laptops so they can demonstrate to other seniors how easy it is to access the information. Develop a handout that lists each speaker, topic and the URL to their talk.
  • For your school’s lice awareness and prevention programs, consider creating a video, slideshow or e-book so parents can see first-hand what they are looking for during those “lice checks.”  Work with local pediatricians’ offices and the school district to have them provide a link to the resource from their website and the school’s website. This can also be promoted through word-of-mouth by providing guest speakers at school PTA meetings and writing a feature for the school’s newsletter.

Combining new media with traditional media (and you can’t get much more traditional than word of mouth) can strengthen your influence and help you build stronger community relations.



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