Time for pharmacies to get "social"

April 15, 2011

Using social media to promote their businesses can give independent pharmacy owners the competitive edge.

Key Points

From keeping us in touch with friends and family to reconnecting us with former colleagues, social media have changed the way we interact. Recently, brand and business pages, from Facebook pages for local grocery stores to a Twitter account for Snickers candy bars, have been popping up on popular social media sites.

What does all this mean for independent pharmacy owners? It means that community pharmacies now have an opportunity to promote their businesses online with an added level of personalized interaction that many competitors cannot match. To accomplish this in an environment where customers already congregate is an unprecedented opportunity.

From time to time, there is media buzz about businesses that have "gone viral" using Facebook or other promotional social media tools. That kind of social media success may seem easy.

These 5 universal best practices can maximize potential for social media success and help to earn an online audience's respect, business, and referrals.

Share engaging content

Good content strikes a balance between adding value to the community, engaging your audience, and promoting your business. Consider the types of information you would share with patients in your store; social media should be an extension of that relationship. A few ideas:

Remember the importance of "quality over quantity." Posting 1 engaging update is better than churning out several of lesser value.

Build a content bank

Develop a content calendar around timely or seasonal topics. For example, focus on allergy information as spring approaches, outdoor health and safety in summer months, and flu prevention in the fall. This allows you to strategically plan the subjects you'll be posting and maintain a balance between marketing messages and useful, engaging information.

Build personal contacts through public interactions

Being "social" and engaging is what will resonate most with your patients. Remember, the people you build relationships with have the ability to endorse your business to their online networks and connections. When customers post comments to your sites, be sure to respond quickly - ideally within 24 hours - to show that you value their communication.

Be transparent and authentic

Let your personality come through in your online communications, just as you do when patients visit your store. This will reinforce the unique attributes that distinguish your business from your competitors' businesses.

Commit

The most critical components of social media success are time and dedication. While it's rare for social media success to happen overnight, follow these steps to minimize the time and resources necessary to maintain your social media presence:

Your store's personality and local reputation are unique attributes that none of your competitors can duplicate. Social media can showcase them and extend your reach in a very cost-effective fashion.

Jay Williams is vice president of marketing, retail pharmacy, Cardinal Health. He can be reached at jay.williams@cardinalhealth.com
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