Health insurance companies have an uphill climb in the battle for online reputation management. Historically, the press has painted the picture of high rates, low payouts and difficult customer service for the insurance industry as a whole. Many companies have fought this reputation successfully but the damaged image lingers in the minds of consumers.
User-generated content (UGC) online is quickly growing as the major reputation builder or destroyer for products, services and the companies that provide them. Some companies are already taking action by responding to blogs, posts, comments and tweets directly, curtailing the wildfire of negative feed back. When negative comments are posted online, health companies in particular don’t have the luxury of letting them go unanswered. However, in such a highly regulated industry most are struggling with how to engage.
Online Reputation Management
Online Reputation Management (ORM) is the awareness, research and analysis of online content and it’s effect on your brand, and the preventative and reactive steps taken to control the outcome. While literally every company in business today needs an effective ORM plan, steps can be taken now to review and understand your current online reputation and help you analyze appropriate ways to influence it.
In the pre-internet age some believed that no news is good news but today that belief can mean an irreparably tarnished reputation and a significant decrease in sales. Legitimate problems, slander, and unanswered questions can negatively impact your bottom line even if you’re not aware of its presence as user-generated content spreads across the web.
At the very least, you’re missing valuable opportunities to interact directly with consumers and reinforce a positive image. Without that presence, consumers will turn elsewhere.
Steps to Take
By monitoring social media regularly, analyzing threads that pertain to you and utilizing online avenues to influence the result, you can successfully manage external effects on your online image and lay the groundwork for a positive reputation.
First, you must have a plan in place to monitor and track mentions of your company, products and services online. Perform regular search audits on your brand. Social media sites such as Twitter and YouTube have built-in search options to help you find new mentions pertaining to your company. Google Alerts will send you an email every time your name is mentioned in a blog or website. Social Mention allows you to search across all social media platforms for the most relevant results. Use these and media-site specific search tools to stay abreast of online comments.
Once you’ve established where users are talking about you and what you’re saying, you must determine what to respond to and how to respond effectively. Good mentions deserve your attention as well as negative press. People like to know they’re making a difference, so appreciate good comments, especially during waves of negativity. Analyze negative comments to determine if they’re legitimate, such as a bad product or experience, or if they’re simply slander. Problems should be addressed publicly and respectfully.
Slander should be addressed by politely requesting the poster to remove the comment or post your response as a follow-up. If the slanderer does not comply, turn the matter over to your legal team.
Create a plan for responding to UGC online. Have a clear system in place and make it known to all employees and vendors what they can expect from you in the event of negative press. Once you’ve identified the need to respond, simply hit-or-miss answers and inconsistent information will not benefit your company; it could in fact do more damage. Have clear roles defined for responders and hold them and yourself accountable for your reputation.
Your influence shouldn’t start nor end with responses to existing comments. Take control of your reputation by creating and regularly updating a blog, building brand awareness over social media outlets, and creating a community that you can control for consumers to discuss your products and services. Once a comment is made outside your own online sphere, you stand on the power of an established online presence and already have the forum in place for your response.
Your scope of influence should include your marketing team. A company that works together online and offline to create a strong brand will be recognized and respected by consumers. Ensure your marketing, legal, and customer service departments are aware and supportive of your online efforts.
The risk involved in ignoring your company’s need for ORM is significant, and the benefits of ORM might surprise you:
While it might not seem so important at first, user-generated content and it’s effect on your online reputation can be substantial enough to cripple even large corporations. By taking the time to plan and implement the above steps, you’ll successfully take the reigns of your online reputation back from the consumers.
Currently, healthcare websites offer limited information to consumers, and most aren’t anywhere near the top search engine results for consumer healthcare issues. Consumers are turning to millions of other service-based sites that rank high in search engine results, such as WebMD, for healthcare information where insurance sites not only fall short- they miss the mark entirely. Even sites like WebMD are beginning to be placed in second chair to Social Networking sites. Only a few health insurance companies have recognized and acted upon this need.
As a result, health insurance websites that focus on offering information will position themselves in the marketplace as invaluable resources for consumers. As more research is done over the internet to find service, quality and cost information of doctors, hospitals and insurance plans, the healthcare industry must respond and engage those demands- or be left behind.
Companies thus far have poured resources into the bread and butter of transaction-based online tools, but have failed to serve the customer or even bring them to the table. It’s long been established that the internet is information-based, and instead of that changing as may have been predicted, it’s holding true.
Consumers want accurate information tailored to meet their questions. Fortunately, healthcare companies have access to that information- but have yet to offer it in efficient, easy-to-use tools for the web.
WebMD’s physician finder has gained amazing popularity. Priority Health also has a Find-A-Doctor tool that rates the doctors in their network. Consumers will find even greater benefits as providers offer more specific and personalized information in a similar way. It’s not just a good idea- it’s the future of healthcare companies that want to position themselves for growth.
Engaging consumers with accurate, relevant data will not only meet consumer needs to be informed, but will create an online service level of trust in companies that take the initiative to offer more than they expect, with complete accuracy.
Engaging consumers online is as simple and complex as reading their minds. Thanks to the internet, that’s easy. Search engine data like Google Analytics show just that- what healthcare consumers are searching for. Social Media search sites like Social Mention provided insight into exactly what consumers are saying across the social web. Companies’ customer service records also provide exact questions consumers ask regularly that would be more cost-effective to answer online.
Combining these questions into one data-driven search tool is the answer. Consumers will find more information in one place and have their specific questions answered, which in turn increases company trust and consumer plan satisfaction, and causes customer-service costs to fall significantly.
As consumer demand for more then just a quote from health plan websites. Health plans will come to realize the valuable of being customer centric.
As the cost of healthcare rises, many agree the focus should be centered on the cost of care. One model that is being discussed in the Medical Home Model also known as patient centered medical home model. This model rewards physician for keeping patients health and out of the hospital.
The concept of the medical home has been kicked around for over forty years. Yet, the flavor the is currently being debated requires that both patients and primary care physician educate themselves. Regarding how this program would benefit all parties involved. Technology is a primary reason that even now this model could possibly be implemented.
A key to the success of this program is keeping patients highly involved in their care. One online resource that facilities patient engagement is howsyourhealth.org. This website educates patients and allows them to fill out an online health survey that becomes a starting point for their electronic health records. The website does not look like a web 2.0 site or for that matter a professional website that you would expect to see in 2009. However, over 100,00 people have used this site to provide medical information to their doctors. 695 of the users of this website are female and 33% of the sites users are over 50 years old.
While much debate will continue around this model, patients will continue to have an active role in the management of their healthcare and the internet will become the hub for both patients and physicians to exchange information.
Power is the ability to act or capacity to perform or act effectively. Power is most often used to control or influence. Without a doubt, Social Media has a great deal of power! Social Media is exerting a great deal of influence over traditional marketing, advertising, and communication channels. Social Media has also given a great deal of power to the average consumer as has been demonstrated time and time again. One single individual with a single post or tweet can change an entire company’s product offering, policy, or strategy. Consumers and individuals clearly understand the power of social media and they are not afraid to use it. On the other hand businesses have not gained power from Social Media as quickly as individuals have. Why is that It is because of knowledge.
Knowledge is defined as awareness or understanding gained through experience, observation, or study. The average consumer doesn’t need to have a great deal of knowledge to take advantage of the power of social media over businesses. All they need to know is that I state my case (whether it is valid or not) and if enough people hear or see it then businesses react and I win. This Power of Social Media is many voices (consumers) and the influence of one (business).
This formula works for consumers because it does not take much for a consumer to know what triggers a business to act. However, businesses on the other hand have to know the many triggers for the many individual consumers in order to influence them to act. For businesses there are many, many, many more data points to be collected and analyzed.
Knowledge is acquired through analyzing data. When it comes to Social Media this is called istening. In words that Marketing Execs and CEOs will understand, this is called Market Research, better put: Market Research on steroids. Instead of surveys or focus groups this is raw, uncensored potentially unsolicited viewpoints of real people. As you listen, you learn how to use Social Media to your advantage. Gaining power when you use what you have learned from listening.
What can you learn through listening to Social Media? Businesses can learn how to select profitable new markets to enter, create a Blue Ocean. Through Social Media, businesses can learn how to select and attract the customers who best match their organization. Businesses can also reduce the risk and severity of bad customer service claims. These are just a few of the many things that businesses can learn from listening to Social media. The next step is to put these learnings to use.
So to harness the power of Social Media you need to understand that many voices to become the influencer. For businesses this means that you have to get many voices to influence others that you feel are worth doing business with. To do this you must listen, learn and act. Contrary to popular belief, knowledge is not power. Power is the wise use of knowledge!
Axel Schultze, founder of the Social Media Academy wrote and interesting post outlining a common scenario that is being played out over and over again in corporate America. By doing a simple search on LinkedIn a company learns information that they use to their competitive advantage. The title of the post is A Social Media War Story
This article highlights the fact that businesses today are in need of two big things when it comes to doing business in this age of engage. Those two things are Insights into conversations that are taking place on the Social Web and Education on how to deal with the insights that they find.
For those who want to dabble there are plenty of free tools and hours worth of blogs that they can comb through. However, this does not scale for larger organizations. Larger organization will need to know what is happening not just on one single site, but what is being said anywhere about a topic of interest. Therefore, they will need to partner with organizations such as SOMA and ManoByte to help them gain insights, learn, and act.
When it comes to Social Media Marketing there is a lot of talk about the lack of measurement in the field. It has been said that Social media is one of the most difficult things to justify in terms of ROI because current analytics aren’t well suited to measure its data. Social Media Analytics are critical for the success of social media as a sustainable business communication platform. In my article What is Social Media Analytics I point out 8 levels of Social Media Analytics as being:
This article I would like to begin a dialogue regarding Level 1 Standard Reports. Standard Social Media Analytics Reports should focus on what conversations are occurring. This will help solve the problem of know what your customers or potential customers are talking about.
1) Post by keyword search - This should be a list of post that are found across the social web by keywords. Perhaps the most common report that can be easily found today by using Google Blog Search or Social Mention
2) Count of Tags – Each Social Media Post can be tagged by the author or others once a post has been identified in your search grouping how each post is tagged can be extremely beneficial.? You can identify tags from any post using the tag cloud generator.? The tag clod should be include in this standard report. The report should also include averages.
3) Keyword comparison – No doubt you are interested in more than one keyword. Therefore it would be good to compare which keywords are performing better then others. This would be similar to what you can find using Google??s Adsense Keyword Tool with the difference being that you are looking at data returned from your data collection process that was used for the other standard reports.
4) Posts by Person - Social Media Analytics Standard Reports must include who. Keyword by person and Tag by person. After all what is Social Media without the people.
Connect the Social Media Analytics databases
Through the use of the many search tools available you can perform a keyword search to find what is being said across the Social Web about what is of concern to your organization. This is the first step. Those who are serious about Social Media metrics for their organization are going to quickly come to appreciate that they are going to need a Social Media Data warehouse. There are tools that assist in the collection and reporting on of this information, however as I will discuss these tools though sophisticated do not complete the picture. All of this information then need to be tied back to your CRM (customer) and ERP (sales) databases.
In this article Social Media Analytics Maturity Level 1 – Standard Reports I mention 4 reports that should be included at this level. I will discuss what I feel should be included in the other levels later. Please provided much feedback!