What social media can do for you

What social media can do for you

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Sep 01, 2010

By the close of 2010, social media budgets will increase from 5.6 percent to almost 10 percent of total marketing dollars spent, forecasts the American Marketing Association. By 2015, the expected expense doubles. Clearly, the use of social media for business marketing is growing. What is not clear for many businesses is how to use these new platforms effectively. In this article, I'll share a case study of how to promote your practice online by supporting a worthwhile cause.

Set goals and get started

Using social media isn't always as easy or obvious as it seems. Trust me, I just set up a blog and Twitter, Linked-in and Facebook accounts. I thought the hard part would be setting up these platforms. Now that I have them, I realize it is much harder to map out a solid game plan for using them. I've also learned that with social media, the best way to learn is to just jump in and do it.

Social media platforms are constantly changing, with almost daily updates to the available features, options and rules. That's no reason to delay getting started, though. No matter what changes in the social media space, we have control over one "sure thing" — our own goals.

Some social media goals you might consider include building awareness of your practice, building your hospital's reputation and increasing the number of pet owners who choose your practice. If you're using social media for marketing, then your goals also include helping people find your practice online. The most popular way people find businesses online is through search engines, such as Google and Yahoo.

Google is the most popular search engine in the world and the one that pet owners are most likely to use. Although Google closely guards its search formula to prevent fraudulent marketing practices, experience shows that mentions of your practice on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other legitimate social media sites can help push your website up higher on a search engine's results list. In other words, the buzz you create about your brand counts. So do the links you forge with other websites and social media sites.

This begs the question, "Who is talking about you on social media?" If the answer is "no one," then your challenge is to: 1) create information worth sharing; 2) create a "starter" list of loyal fans to share it with; and 3) promote it with e-mail, handouts and mentions (posts, tweets, blogs) on all of your social media sites.

Consider cause marketing

One way to create buzz for your own practice is through cause marketing. Raising awareness or funds for a good cause (other than your own profit) can help you build relationships with others interested in those causes. It gives you something to talk about on your social media platforms besides blatant promotion of your own services, which doesn't go over as well. Research shows that cause marketing puts your practice in a positive light, increases awareness of your hospital and also inspires good feelings from current and prospective clients. Best of all, you will be doing something to help your community that you and your hospital team can feel good about.

Once you've determined the cause you want to support, you can talk about it on several different social media platforms. For example, if you want to let people know that you are having a special benefit to help your local animal shelter, you could blog about it, tweet about it, mention it on your Facebook wall and send e-mails to all of your friends. You might even make a YouTube video, with the permission of the shelter, to display shelter pets for adoption and to talk about the benefit.