Everything is an ad

A new approach to effective social media marketing

There was a time, not so long ago, when health systems were encouraged to interact on social media in a…well…social way. I remember a rule of thumb that went something like “Make 80 percent of your posts social and 20 percent promotional.” It made sense back when Facebook prioritized organic posts from brands and individuals more equally.

But that is changing. Facebook’s continual devaluation of organic brand posts means that everything a health system posts (without paying to promote it) goes a much shorter distance. And so, yet again, we have to rethink our approach.

Quality over quantity

To me, the approach that will be effective moving forward is to shift the focus to quality over quantity. I see us moving toward a world where health systems (and most other kinds of organizations) produce fewer but higher-quality content assets. I think we will transition from a world where we ask questions like “How will we meet our target number of social media posts this week?” to one where we ask “What can we do to break through the digital marketing noise?”

Answering that question requires a shift in mindset, and I’d like to suggest a shorthand way to summarize that mindset. It’s this:

Everything is an ad.

In this approach, we treat most of our social posts the same way we would treat a TV spot. That means we start with an understanding of the audience we’re trying to reach, the belief our audience holds that we would like to change and the new belief we seek to instill in them. From there, we develop concepts to nudge them toward the desired new belief. Then we create the ad: write the copy, develop the imagery and build a relevant call to action. Bonus points for developing a low-friction conversion path.

Before you give up

I know, this is a lot of work for one social post. And I know many readers are about to abandon this article because my approach doesn’t sound feasible. But before you bail on me, consider an important caveat.

If you’re shifting to an approach where quality is paramount, you no longer need to produce so much quantity. That means much of the time you’re spending to “feed the social media beast” can be redirected towards producing interesting content. It may feel a little scary to post less often, but since each individual post garners less and less exposure, you’re much more likely to reap positive business results by spending the extra time creating something people want to pay attention to. After all, creating great content is a pursuit much more deserving of your time and talents and you just might find it more fulfilling.