Social media is a tool that has been increasingly adopted by healthcare professionals, pharmaceutical companies and patient associations.

It has the power to create a strong, united community and creates an open line of communication for community action groups.

Heavy regulation in the healthcare industry has, however, led to a lag in social media adaptation for small and big players alike. Most, if not all, pharmaceutical companies and healthcare professionals are cautious when it comes to taking risks online.

Hootsuite’s 7-Step Guide to Social Media Success in Healthcare presenters, Strategy Director, Matt Noe, and Senior Analyst of Strategy, Mark MacDonald, of MEplusYou, explain the ins and outs of how social media is properly executed from a healthcare perspective.

The seven-step approach entails listening broadly, defining social personality, joining the conversation, leading the conversation, igniting and inviting participation, and, inspiring greater collaboration and measuring success.

Matt Noe refers to the dinner party analogy when learning how to properly implement and approach social media. That is, people don’t go to dinner parties talking about themselves, rather they listen to and try to understand the conversation before actively participating.

The same principal should be adhered to when creating brand personality. Companies need to find their place on social media platforms, have a strong understanding of what their brand represents, and then participate actively.

Being on social media is all about putting your brand/yourself out there and being a leader in your industry, being a mediator while creating a hub for active discussion.

The key to successful social media is the creation and implementation of a social media strategy and key message materials.

The strategy needs to address what customers and stakeholders expect from healthcare professionals and / or their representatives. It also needs to define the audience and understand how they too interact with the various social media platforms. Legal implications and potential risks also need to be assessed and an issues management plan needs to be in place for those times when things go wrong.

Content, of course, is crucial but needs to be created with active engagement in mind. Identifying the nature of the conversations to be had as well as with whom you’re having them, is absolutely necessary, so don’t be afraid to trial or test particular conversations to ensure audience interest.

It is one thing to set up a social media account and another to successfully engage users and create a community where they feel safe to like, comment and share content.

Engagement is also a useful way to measure performance. This can be done either by simply monitoring the page such as using insights tab on the back end of Facebook, or using sophisticated monitoring software like Brandwatch.

The great thing about being one of the last industries to embrace social media is we have the advantage of learning from others’ mistakes.

Social media is the way forward, however, to pave the way a restructuring of marketing resources and budget need to take place first.

As PR healthcare professionals, it is also our job to be aware of the guidelines set out by Medicines Australia, and to make sure all of our clients’ social media accounts abide by the code of conduct.

Bearing all this in mind, the reality is the social media landscape is just starting to make sense. This is just the beginning.