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Hospital marketers need to think like graphic designers

Posted Feb 09 2012 8:37am

by Jenn Riggle

A picture is worth a thousand words--especially when it comes to social media.

Hospital marketers have typically relied on words to create content and build brands. However, times have changed, and marketers need to think more like graphic designers and focus on images.

While it may seem like a drastic shift, it actually follows a basic tenet of good journalism: Don't tell me, show me. So it really shouldn't be surprising that the hottest social media trends today have a strong visual component. Let's consider four: Pinterest, Infographics, SlideShare and YouTube.

Something between visual social bookmarking and scrapbooking, Pinterest is a virtual bulletin board, where users create "boards" where they "pin" items to share. The only caveat is that items need to have a visual component, such as a photo or graphic, in order to be pinned to a board. Launched two years ago, Pinterest's been named the breakout social network of 2012 and saw the number of unique visitors to the site grow 400 percent from September to December 2011.

So why should healthcare marketers care about Pinterest? Since its users are predominately female, it's a great way to reach women, who are healthcare decision makers for families. Only a handful of healthcare organizations currently engage on Pinterest, so there's a real opportunity for hospitals to become a great health resource for people. But you better move fast--the word is getting out.

Hospitals can use Pinterest as a content curation tool to pull content from different parts of the web to help with education and patient engagement. They could be creating boards about exercise for their orthopedic or physical therapy groups or creating boards for chronic diseases (e.g., diabetes and heart disease) that compile recipes, success stories and exercise tips.

However, Pinterest can difficult to search, so it's important for hospitals to promote their boards through social media .

Research shows that people spend more time using social media than going to church, talking on the phone, sending email or exercising. In this age of information overload, we're bombarded with information, all the time. Maybe that's why infographics have become all the rage--they use graphics to provide a user-friendly way to present of information, making it easily understood at a glance.

But it's important to note that all infographics aren't created equal . Successful infographics entice people to share them with others. Therefore, they need to present new and interesting facts and be visually compelling; so be sure to have a professional designer design them. But it's not enough to create a great infographic--people need to see it. Lee Odden offered some great recommendations about how to promote your infographic.

Commonly referred to as the "YouTube of Presentations," SlideShare is the largest professional content sharing community. It allows organizations to upload PowerPoint presentations onto a social network where they can be easily shared. SlideShare may have flown under the radar in healthcare because it's been focused on the business community.

However, with the growing popularity of infographics, this may change. Infographics, like this one entitled " SlideShare is the Quite Giant of Content Marketing ," can be divided into slides and posted onto SlideShare. This provides another opportunity to reach people and provide them with health information.

Hospitals have embraced YouTube as a way to post videos that position their physicians as experts, discuss new medical procedures and showcase patient testimonials. It's has a huge following. The latest statistics report that it has 800,000,000 users (about the same as Facebook) who watch 3,000,000,000 hours of video a month.

Needless to say, a big part of YouTube's appeal is the visual nature of streaming video. YouTube recently enlarged the thumbnail images very slightly, and that change alone increased clicks to the watch page by 2 percent .

The takeaway: Next time you're developing a press release or marketing brochure, think again. In the age of information overload, strong visuals are needed to encourage people to act. Maybe there's a better way to tell your story.

Jenn Riggle is an associate vice president and social media leader of the Health Practice at CRT/tanaka. She has 20 years of public relations experience in issues, such as healthcare marketing and public relations, social media in healthcare, national media relations, and strategic communications planning. She regularly engages in social media, both on Twitter (@riggrl) and frequently blogs about social media and healthcare issues for The Buzz Bin , a PR and marketing blog.

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