Today’s guest post is from Carol Roth. Carol writes Unsolicited Business Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, solopreneurs and small-business owners, at CarolRoth.com You can find her on Twitter as @caroljsroth.

To say social media is on fire right now would be like saying that chocolate is tasty — a total understatement. However, when something is so in vogue in the realm of business, it often leads to a lot of misunderstanding and misuse, as well as wasted time, money and effort.

You may think this story borders on “TMI” (too much information), but it is really the perfect illustrative example of a social-media strategy gone wrong.

A few weeks ago, I was making my yearly checkup appointment with my gynecologist (the TMI part) and was put on hold while they were checking potential dates. While I was on hold, one of those automated phone messages came on, and a booming man’s voice said, “Be sure to head over to Facebook and become of a Facebook fan of Dr. Gynecologist and the gynecologist practice!”

Now, privacy issues aside, I cannot imagine how much free time I would need to have on my hands to want to become a Facebook fan of my gynie. The whole thing seemed absolutely absurd to me.

The point is, not every social-media strategy is going to be appropriate for every type of business. Plus, before you can pick a social-media strategy, you have to think of your customer and what the value proposition is for them. Social media is a way to engage customers, not to give your business a “shout out.”

If the booming voice had asked me to sign up for their e-mail list so I can be kept up to date on the latest wellness strategies for women, they would have been offering me a relevant potential benefit. I may not have done it, but at least I would have considered it, and I would have noted them offering something of value to me. Or, they could have offered for me to join a discussion group on preventative medicine, provided discounts on future prescriptions or asked me to join a free online seminar on nutrition — all things that would be focused on me as a client instead of Dr. Gynie trying to be a rock star.

So, before you rush into any social-media strategy, think about your customers — who are they and what needs and wants are you fulfilling for them? Then you can figure out social media and other online strategies to meet those customer needs. This is the best way you can ensure an actual ROI on your social-media investments.

Image credit, FANDER09, via iStock

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16 Responses to “What my gynecologist can teach your business about social media”

  1. Torrie says:

    You make such a good point. It's all too easy to jump on the social media bandwagon without really considering what's in it for your potential friends and fans–ignoring the all important question of WHY should they care about what you have to say.

  2. robbirgfeld says:

    Indeed. Carol makes some great points here…and I think marketers are starting to take note. Rather than just the typical, "follow us on Twitter" or "join us on Facebook" messages served up as a postscript, I'm seeing more purpose behind the messaging. The tough part, of course, is figuring out what that value might be–and that's probably going to need to more than, "and win an iPad."

  3. Heather says:

    Great article. I agree totally and call it Social Discretion. Cheers!
    My recent post Social Discretion

  4. Marianna says:

    Interesting point, but is this only a bad strategy because of the type of doctor she is? My son's pediatrician has a facebook fan page, and we think it is wonderful. We get great information, which we can easily share with others, in a place we already frequent. For us, this was a great approach. Is it different because she is a pediatrician?

  5. Carol Roth says:

    @Marianna:
    The question I would have for you is why did you become a fan of your pediatrician? As you allude to, he is providing some content that is useful to you and somewhere along the way that was communicated to you. My point in the article is that instead of thinking from the customer perspective (as many call it "What's In It For Me" as the customer) and communicating the customer benefits, all that was asked was to be HER fan- no reason, no benefits, nothing that I, as a patient, had any interest in.
    Carol Roth

  6. David Harlow says:

    FYI see presentation: Health Care Social Media Legal Issues and Strategy Webinar – athttp://j.mp/sHtw0

    You need to figure why you're doing this, so you can focus on the right tools, and you also need to focus on how you're doing this, so you can stay out of trouble.

  7. Great article Carol. What kills me about this story (from a marketing guy point of view), is that –they had you–. You we're waiting on the phone, listening to every word, and contemplating the pitch. There's not a marketing person in the world who wouldn't kill to have this exact thing: 15-30 seconds of your undivided attention. And they dropped the ball by not thinking, even for a second, about what you would want as a consumer. That's an expensive, wasted opportunity.

  8. Daniel Ghinn says:

    Thanks for sharing the great example, Carol! I agree with @textandshout and others here. All they had to do was to think of any compelling reason at all why you might want to even 'head over' to their Facebook page (let alone 'become a fan'), and mention it. But let's be fair on the practice – maybe they couldn't think of any reason why you might want to.
    My recent post engagementstrat: RT @JNJComm Lifescan launches new home for Global Diabetes Handprint on Facebook” target=”_blank”>http://bit.ly/ay8mu8

  9. [...] social media, you have to consider which kind of marketing campaign works for your customers. Visit smartblogs.com for more of Carol Roth’s article Filed Under Uncategorized Leave a [...]

  10. Saw this today, and could not agree more. I find myself thinking this all the time – if I didn't want asynchronous information from whatever the business was before social media, why do I need it now? I don't need to follow Chipotle on twitter either!
    My recent post 5 Vintage Marketing Rules Worth Collecting

  11. Karen Rocks says:

    Great point of view article, Carol. Sometime medical practices don't see things the way their patients do.
    Many medical practices are now feeling the pressure to participate in social media. Although many do not have the resources or knowledge to pull it off appropriately. Many are taking what I call the Ding Dong Ditch approach. They get your attention and then when you open the door expecting to see/communicate with someone, there is nothing there. Many Facebook sites are like that where it's not a conversation, but a billboard advertising their practice.

    There are so many ways to connect with patients and practices need to evaluate their best options of what their patients want, not what they think they need. Great advice from comments on here. I think in time medical practices will figure out what works and what doesn't.

  12. Angela says:

    Great article, thanks for sharing and why I think most of us PR folks need to stop rushing to create pages and be more strategic in what content we put out there :)

  13. Rhonda says:

    I totally agree, Carol! I wish more people would read this article and follow your advice :)

  14. Mike Stenger says:

    Fantastic point! Right as soon as you said "Facebook fan page", I just shook my head. I highly doubt that gynecologist has too many "fans" as that's something you don't exactly want to be public. Would be like some guy being a fan of a local porn shop or strip club, not too good.

    And I'm glad you brought that not all social media strategies are going to be the same. There's a misconception that it's a one size fits all solution when it's really more of a what size fits you, customized solution. Btw, @unmarketing sent me :-)
    My recent post The Power of Win, The Impact of Fail

  15. Mike Stenger says:

    Fantastic point! Right as soon as you said "Facebook fan page", I just shook my head. I highly doubt that gynecologist has too many "fans" as that's something you don't exactly want to be public. Would be like some guy being a fan of a local porn shop or strip club, not too good.

    And I'm glad you brought that not all social media strategies are going to be the same. There's a misconception that it's a one size fits all solution when it's really more of a what size fits you, customized solution. Btw, @unmarketing sent me :-)
    My recent post The Power of Win, The Impact of Fail

  16. Hi Carol,

    And, this post also proves the power of a sassy headline to invite engaged readership. Way to hit it out the of part on this one Carol!

    Nancy Juetten
    My recent post Do You Love to Save on Admission Fees to Cool Social Media Match Making Evets? Let Me Make it Easy For You