Today’s healthcare consumers expect more than ever. This dynamic is driven by many factors, including the frictionless customer journeys they experience from vendors in other industries; easy access to online health information and a growing array of care options; and a pandemic that has created a major shift in how goods and services are accessed and delivered.  

As Associate Editor Jeff Lagasse noted in a Healthcare Finance article about the importance of branding in healthcare, “The opportunity for brand in healthcare is driven by the challenge of increased consumer choice. That’s something to which hospitals and health systems haven’t typically been accustomed.”

In such an environment, healthcare institutions can no longer assume that a long-standing presence in a community will be enough to attract prospects or previous patients to their doors. 

Instead, it’s more important than ever to understand what consumers want and need—and then show how you’re uniquely meeting those needs with messaging that aligns with your brand. Social listening is one way to do it. 

What is social listening?

Social listening is a technique for determining consumer sentiment by “listening” to common themes and trends on social media platforms. To do so, you can follow a chosen topic on social media—which may be your brand—and then analyze the related conversations and mentions to see how you can either improve the patient experience within your health system, or determine factors which should be integrated into brand strategy. 

Some experts differentiate social listening from social monitoring, even noting that confusing the two can be a “costly” mistake, as noted in a recent post from Insights for Professionals: “Social listening goes a step further than monitoring. It’s the process of looking past the numbers and thinking about the customer mood and sentiment that lies beneath this data. If you conduct social media monitoring but stop short of social listening, you could be depriving yourself of opportunities and risking reputational damage by failing to acknowledge people’s thoughts and feelings about your brand.”

Who should you listen to?

One of the values of social listening is the collective wisdom of the crowd. As Sprout Social notes, “Because of social media, brands have increasingly easy access to some of the largest crowds available—But before brands can start using insights from their social crowd, they need to make sure the crowd they are sourcing from is indeed wise.”

Sprout Social cites four criteria that are important for social listening to be effective: 

  1. Diversity—which helps to ensure you’re listening to different perspectives from a variety of sources. 
  2. Independence—which means that the thoughts and opinions of those you’re listening to aren’t influenced by others. 
  3. Decentralization—to ensure you’re listening to sources from a variety of geographic locations. 
  4. Aggregation—by using a scalable method to gather and analyze the mountain of data available within all those consumer insights. 

How can healthcare systems make the most of social listening?

Healthcare providers know the importance of active listening and empathy to help patients feel valued and to ensure their concerns are being addressed. In this context, social listening provides the perfect opportunity to do so on a much grander scale.

By using this technique, providers can better understand what types of needs patients and prospects have—and then provide the specific information required to address them. In this way, you can help to establish your thought leadership and expertise, which will help your brand to stand out from competitors who aren’t doing the same. 

Additionally, when patients mention recent experiences with your brand on social media, you’ll have a better idea of what’s working and what’s not. By addressing concerns immediately, you’ll demonstrate that you care enough about patients to listen both during the episode of care and after it’s finished. That can go a long way toward building trust and maintaining the hopefully-stellar reputation of your brand. 

Since continual listening on multiple platforms would be both overwhelming and unrealistic, many social listeners make the most of the variety of social listening options available. This post from Forrester provides a nice overview of things to consider when searching for the platform that will best meet your organization’s needs. 

Contact us today to learn how we can help elevate your healthcare marketing strategy.