Are You Overinvesting in Social Media?

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My career in advertising and marketing spans almost 30 years. During that time, I’ve seen a lot of trends come and go. Some of the advertising techniques that bit the dust were great ideas with poor execution while others were just so bad that I wondered how the creator got the concept past his boss. A few days ago, I heard a radio commercial for a furniture store chain in which the announcer said, “But wait, there’s more,” a phrase I had not heard in years and of which I was not sorry to hear far less. “But wait, there’s more!” is stale, it’s condescending and it’s cheap. Or is it? Perhaps this furniture chain did their homework and found out that this once ubiquitous phrase was popular for a long time for a reason: It worked. And perhaps they know that like fashion trends, advertising and marketing pitches always come back in style. In our rush to embrace social media by focusing our attention and budgets on our great desire to be “liked” on Facebook or to have the community atwitter about our latest tweet, we are forgetting the tried and true. Consider this: Earlier this year, IBM released a report showing that “shoppers referred from social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube generated only 0.34% of online sales on Black Friday — a decrease of more than 35% from the year before. Twitter literally contributed nothing (0%) to the revenue. Now contrast that with the impact of a phone call to a referring physician in which the radiologist is supplementing his report with a few non-scientific comments. Think about the last time you received a “thank you” note and how at the time you thought, “Very nice.” Now think about the last time you sent such a note to a referrer. Think about the last time you went out to the reception area to tell a patient that her results are negative. Your marketing campaign needs social media, but not for the reasons you may believe. You need social media to assist in the optimization of your website, to contribute to the perception that your facility is abreast of trends and to contribute to the vague but real notion of generating more “buzz.” But the direct line between a hearty social media campaign and more referrals or revenue is fuzzy, while some of the old-fashioned techniques are clearly responsible for your fiscal health. The lesson here is to embrace the new, but not at the expense of the old. If you are tracking the source of all your referrals, you can rely on that data to tell you where to invest your marketing dollars. Marketing is as much of a science as you want it to be. When you rely on your gut, or do something simply because everyone else is doing it and you “feel” the need to do it too, you are wasting money. But when you analyze the data that is at your fingertips, you make informed decisions that are more likely to result in success. Perhaps your social media program is generating referrals, perhaps it is not. The only way to know for sure is to track each referral and adjust your marketing effort accordingly. I’d love to tell you, “But wait, there’s more!” but this is the end of the column.
Steve SmithWith over 25 years of marketing experience — nine years as a former Vice President of Marketing for a leading health care marketing company — Steve Smith has consistently developed effective strategies to help fuel the growth of countless health care enterprises. Since 2007, he has specialized as a marketing and business development consultant to medical imaging facilities nationwide. Mr. Smith has been a featured speaker at imaging conferences and is a former member of the marketing subcommittee of the Radiology Business Management Association (RBMA). He has contributed marketing articles to numerous health care publications, including Physician’s Money Digest, Radiology Business Journal and more. Mr. Smith is the creator of “Ten Seconds to Great Customer Service™,” a medical imaging training program that provides easy-to-use tactical customer service support to staff.