Strengthen the Pharmacy/Patient Relationship through Social Media
In the past few years there has been an explosion in an entirely new form of media — social media. Today, hundreds of millions of people post information, share opinions and connect with each other online. People decide on their own messages and communicate as frequently and broadly as they desire.
For business owners in every industry, the emergence of social media can be scary, as it marks a loss of control in that consumers can say whatever they want online. While possibly scary for business owners, experts say that:
- Social media is not a passing fad. It is a fundamental trend that is altering how people gather and share information, how they communicate and interact, and how relationships are built.
- Social media presents new types of opportunities. Social media expert Charlene Li, co-author of Groundswell, one of the leading books on social media, has said that social media is not about technology; it is fundamentally about relationships. Since business is about relationships, there is an opportunity for community pharmacies to take advantage of social media to strengthen relationships with existing customers and create relationships with new customers.
“What all of the social technologies have in common is that they provide the ability to create and deepen relationships.”
— Charlene Li, Author of Groundswell
Who Uses Social Media
Contrary to what many adults believe, social media is not solely for teenagers. Adults of all walks of life actively use social media, as do a growing number of businesses.
- As of February 2012, Facebook, the most visited site on the Internet, has 845 million active users[i] and might pass 1 billion in 2012.
- The majority of Facebook’s users (54%) are over age 25 and 80% are over age 17.[ii]
- Groupon, an online couponing site, has over 115 million registered users.[iii]
- Twitter has more than 100 million active users.[iv]
- Yelp, an online review site, draws more than 50 million visitors per month to glance at the more than 17 million reviews on the site.[v]
With such astounding numbers and extraordinary growth, the conclusion is: many of your customers are using social media, as are competitors and other businesses in your community. Now and in the future, social media will be an important part of how businesses engage with and market to customers.
How to Use Social Media
Social media makes it possible for businesses to:
- Listen to what customers are saying. Today, customers talk about businesses behind their back. Don’t you wish you knew what they were saying about your pharmacy? Now you can. Online review sites like Yelp provide a forum for customers to share their experiences — and for you to see what they are saying. You can see what customers like and what they are complaining about.
- Engage in dialogue. Unlike traditional advertising, social media provides the ability to engage in two-way conversations with customers. You can answer questions, engage in online conversations, ask for feedback on new ideas, and share information. Through these interactions, relationships can be strengthened.
- Form communities. Social media involves forming online networks or communities where information, photos, news and other announcements can all be shared. Through online communities stronger bonds can be formed.
These are all capabilities and ways of engaging in conversations and strengthening relationships that weren’t possible prior to social media.
A Few Key Sites
Most social media sites are free and easy to use, and an enormous amount of information exists online about how to get started with social media. Here’s a quick primer about a few of the most popular sites and how community pharmacies might use them.
|Purpose||Sites and What They Are||How a Pharmacy Might Use||Additional Resources|
|Connecting and sharing information||FacebookSocial networking site where users post and share updates, photos, thoughts and information with “friends”|
|Connecting and sharing information||Twitter|
Site with user-generated reviews and rankings of local businesses
|Local marketing||Groupon Living Social Foursquare|
For Health Mart pharmacies interested in more information on social media, go to the Health Mart Operations Manual on McKesson ConnectSM.
Share Your Story
Do you have a social media success story? Do you want to share what you’ve learned with other pharmacy owners? If so, please share your comments below.