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Social Media ROI for Hospitals and Health Marketers

Posted Dec 21 2009 10:03pm

interval_coverThe topic of social media return-on-investment (ROI) continues to be popular as both innovators look to justify their efforts and laggards look for excuses. Compared to more tried-and-true marketing campaigns, the return on investment involved with social media can be hard to quantify.

Think Interval has contributed to the conversation with their white-paper, “Yes We Can: Measuring Marketing Performance for Hospitals and Health Systems.” It reassures health-care companies that while setting up consistent and useful measurement standards can be a difficult and time-intensive project, establishing a system of gauging marketing results in an SM environment is not only possible but crucial. They recommend a three-tiered system of “Marketing Performance Measurements.”

Financial Metrics provide the traditional ROI. How much money has your campaign brought in versus how much it cost? Financial metrics, if you have them, are the easiest to draw conclusions from, but getting them can be difficult, often requiring customer and patient actions to be tracked over long periods of time.

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Action Metrics lack the bottom-line punch of financial metrics, but still deliverable measurable, concrete results. For example, a hospital offering a free booklet on the risks of arthritis can measure the amount of requests for the information. Often these actions can be roughly equated with a financial outcome. Any campaign that can’t efficiently provide a financial metric should take care to track as many actionable angles as possible.

Attitudinal Metrics simply measure the attitudes and opinions of a selected audience. These could be the results of surveys, polls, focus groups, interviews, or even anecdotes. While these can be a useful gauge of what people are saying about you, it is important to keep in mind that attitudes often do not correlate with behavior. As a result, attitudinal metrics are usually the least useful of the three.

With definitions of what you can measure in hand, the paper goes on to discuss how to measure the success (or lack thereof) of a campaign. The first step, the micro-level, concerns figuring out how to measure the results of specific marketing activities. To quote the paper, “your goal is to answer the question ‘Did this campaign work?’ with a definitive ‘Yes, and here’s the evidence to back it up.’” The report offers a fairly detailed run-down of what you should be measuring as results vs. actions, and how exactly you should look at these results. First, define what actions you will be taking. An action can be anything, the paper says, from a simple one-sheet brochure to an expensive television spot. If your metric is your end-goal, then try to include as many activities in this metric as possible. Open-houses, phone reminders, promotional websites-it all counts.

Make sure to set an objective (for example, “200 new appointments this month”) and take note of your current baseline (”75 new appointments last month”) to compare the results of your campaign to (”225 new appointments”). Make sure to look into the relative results of previous attempts to boost the same or similar branches of your organization, and make sure the source of your metrics and whose responsibility each aspect of the campaign falls to are also noted.

I’ve written in the past that at Kru we think social media ROI needs to be based on the purpose of your social media efforts. For example, if you are just using social media to “listen” then maybe ROI is no more necessary than calculating ROI for your current client focus group efforts. But if your goal is to engage people to get them to buy your product or visit your website then hard ROI metrics are possible and should be pursued.

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