Hospitals, labs with outreach programs, and reference labs need to begin to market themselves more aggressively using social media, blogs, and their web sites (see: Why and How Hospitals Should Market Themselves to Consumers on the Web). I recently posted a note about how the University of Michigan has appointed a director of social media (see: The University of Michigan Hires Social Media Director at $100,000 Per Year). This is becoming a common theme among non-profit institutions. A recent article in the New York Times provides additional insight about the use of digital media in the promotion of the new movie called Hunger Games (see: How ‘Hunger Games’ Built Up Must-See Fever). The clinical labs, healthcare, and the entire diagnostic industry have much to learn from this.
The dark art of movie promotion increasingly lives on the Web, where studios are playing a wilier game, using social media and a blizzard of other inexpensive yet effective online techniques to pull off what may be the marketer’s ultimate trick: persuading fans to persuade each other. The art lies in allowing fans to feel as if they are discovering a film, but in truth Hollywood’s new promotional paradigm involves a digital hard sell in which little is left to chance — as becomes apparent in a rare step-by-step tour through the timetable and techniques used by Lionsgate to assure that “The Hunger Games” becomes a box office phenomenon when it opens.... While some studios have halted once-standard marketing steps like newspaper ads, Lionsgate used all the usual old-media tricks — giving away 80,000 posters, securing almost 50 magazine cover stories, advertising on 3,000 billboards and bus shelters. But the campaign’s centerpiece has been a phased, yearlong digital effort built around the content platforms cherished by young audiences: near-constant use of Facebook and Twitter, a YouTube channel, a Tumblr blog, iPhone games and live Yahoo streaming from the premiere.
Everyone in the diagnostic and healthcare industry should take a look at the last sentence above relating to how social media have been the "centerpiece" of the marketing campaign for this new movie. Clinical labs need to think about what information can be posted on their web sites or on Facebook/Twitter that would be of interest to their physician clients or patients. Keep in mind that most healthcare consumers have almost an insatiable appetite for information about lab testing and particularly, among older patients, about cancer and cardiovascular disease surveillance. Lab directors only need to look among younger employees to find enthusiastic advocates for social media. Harness the energy of those with sophisticated writing skills to help market your organization at very low cost.
One of my favorite examples of a dual-use web site that has value for both physicians and patients is that of ARUP that offers a set of lab algorithms for the diagnosis of disease (see: ARUP Offers Lab Algorithms for Disease Diagnosis Support). You can take a look at this useful tool yourself (see: ARUP Consult: The Physician's Guide to Laboratory Test Selection and Interpretation). By dual-use, I mean that the algorithms were obviously developed to assist ARUP's physician clients in selecting the appropriate tests to order from the lab. Nevertheless, they are also available for anyone surfing the web so that I suspect that many healthcare consumers also use them to obtain valuable information about their own heath and diagnostic work-ups.