Is social media more important than traditional advertising in today’s healthcare arena?
Her comments gave me pause because while I am a huge advocate of social media, I’m a much bigger advocate of integrated brand communications. However, I can certainly understand her perception because I do write about social media a lot. I think it’s important, and I think a lot of people are still trying to figure it out, so it often seems topical. I think social media is an amazing addition to our marketing communications tool box, but it’s certainly not the holy grail that means we should give up tried and true advertising methods that continue to work.
I’ve also been seeing a lot of articles lately that try to prove the value of social media over advertising. I really don’t get it. Why is it a war? In my not-so-humble opinion, I think both social media and advertising have a key role to play. Just about everyone, starting with your intern, understands the value of a media mix. Social media is just another part of the mix. All media tactics have the opportunity to reinforce each other, making the whole plan more effective than each individual piece on its own.
Let’s look at some key comparisons and discuss:
Engagement vs. impressions
Social media success relies on engagement vs. advertising’s traditional number of impressions. Engaging one-on-one with individuals can help you deliver custom content that interests them. But don’t forget you need to make an initial impression to drive awareness and get them to engage with you in the first place.
Quality vs. Quantity
With traditional advertising, we often measure reach. With social media, one might measure the quality of each individual interaction. Again, though, when you’re launching a new service line or trying to steal market share from a key competitor, quantity can still be paramount. You still need to reach a large number of people to generate leads and build a database with whom you can communicate through social media or other one-to-one tactics such as e-mail.
Constant vs. Sporadic
While traditional advertising often uses a “flighted” strategy, it’s important for social media communications to be ongoing and consistent every day. One of the reasons I love social media is that it allows you to extend your budget. The reason most of us flight our advertising has a lot to do with limited resources. Social media can “bridge the gap” between flights, and it can deepen relationships with people who first engaged with you because they saw your advertising.
Social media allows you to monitor what people are saying about your brand, and you can participate in the conversation in an authentic, relevant way. It can also provide great feedback that can influence your future advertising strategy. The best advertising hooks people in an emotional way, and the best brands build on positive perceptions that already exist among their target audiences. Social media interaction is a great way to close the loop, so to speak.
In summary, I’d like to say this. Let’s stop arguing about which one is better. Social media is awesome. It allows us to build deeper relationships with patients and prospects than ever before. But advertising is not dead. In order to get people to engage with us in the first place, we have to build awareness and trust. Advertising does a great job of both.