A Shoe-in Strategy: Building Adoptable Healthcare Social Media

The Olympics are over, but if you watched any of the races, or even just the opening ceremonies, you probably remember Nike’s neon shoes worn by many of the top athletes.

Nike wasn’t an official sponsor of the Olympics, and so its marketing opportunities were limited by Olympic rules, yet it pulled off one of the most memorable marketing campaigns during the Olympics in what writer Shareen Pathak dubbed the “neon-shoe ambush.”

Pathak published a post in which she interviewed Nike’s global creative director for the Olympics Martin Lotti. During the interview, Lotti shared insights into Nike’s Olympic success­–insights that could be adapted to kick-start the development of social media efforts in hospitals or healthcare clinics.

Before I share the insights I gleaned from the Lotti interview, let me just acknowledge what some of my regular readers must be thinking … “In her last post she writes, ‘When we think social media is only a marketing tool, we make a mistake,’ and now she’s holding up a marketing case study as a means to improve healthcare social media?”

Although it sounds like a contradiction, the five insights gleaned from Nike’s marketing approach, when applied to healthcare social media, actually present a strong patient-centric strategy. Social media tools developed through this process stand a better chance of being meaningful to patients and easy to navigate. In other words, patients may actually adopt and use them.

Start planning early and don’t expect overnight results

Pathak quotes Lotti as saying, “At the end of Beijing we started discussions about what we were going to do for London.”

Don’t let the pressure of developing a social media program push you to cut corners in preparations. If you roll out a tool that isn’t well developed, patients aren’t going to use it, and your time and efforts will be wasted. If you’ve already experienced a false start, use it as a learning experience as you continue to refine the development of your program.

Involve experts and build from the inside out

Call in your physicians, nurses, technicians, and patients to help bring your social media technologist and marketing team up-to-speed on key issues and keep them involved as on-going resources.

Lotti’s background is in industrial engineering, which may explain why he first focused on the user experience and grew his campaign from the inside out. In healthcare, focusing first on your patient experience will enhance their satisfaction and help to build strong affinity among communities from the inside out.

Seek first to understand … with the understanding that it may take long hours

During the Games, Lotti reported spending 14-hour days in the Athletes’ Village seeking feedback from Nike-sporting Olympians and convening impromptu focus groups.

In healthcare, we must seek to understand our patients, their expectations of interactions with physicians and other patients, their desire for family/friend involvement, their concerns about privacy, and their needs for support. Healthcare social media tools must stand up to patient scrutiny of ease of use and usefulness or their adoption will be short-lived or they will fail to be adopted altogether.

Design with your hospital’s unique signature

In the past, Nike gave Olympians shoes that matched their outfits. This year they used the neon color that had tested well in focus groups and that Nike had adopted as its signature color.  Again, they got feedback every step of the way, used something unique to them and stayed consistent.

In Pathak’s post she quoted Kent Grayson, professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, who said, Nike “used marketing assets that belonged to them alone.” In designing social media tools, ask yourself what does your hospital or clinic do especially well that your patients are asking for? Then match those two touch-points to design a useful and adoptable social media tool.


In her post, Pathak writes of Nike’s neon shoe marketing campaign, “The result was a wave of attention that could well end up in marketing textbooks for its simplicity and effectiveness.”

Think of the applications you use on a daily basis. Why do you choose to use them? Usually because they make your life easier and are useful to you. Those two attributes equal simplicity. Introduce simplicity into your social media program and you’ll increase the level of adoptability.

How we help

Hive Strategies helps health systems create HIPAA-compliant online communities for better health, lower costs and greater loyalty.

2 replies
  1. social media marketing
    social media marketing says:

    I agree with the point that Don’t let the pressure of developing a social media program push you to cut corners in preparations. If you roll out a tool that isn’t well developed, patients aren’t going to use it, and your time and efforts will be wasted.
    Nice post keep it up!


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