All posts by Mo Fink

Social Media – A Waste of Time in the Health Industry?

The availability of information at the click of a mouse has spawned a generation that goes online for explanations for the aches and pains that plague them. Often, these same users use the internet as a tool to locate and contact health professionals that can provide treatment.  It is, therefore, essential for Doctors, Hospitals and Clinics to incorporate social media into their business plans. It has been shown that more than 40% of consumers say that the way they deal with their health is directly affected by information obtained on the internet through social media.

The Mayo Clinic, a healthcare giant, boasts of more than 800,000 followers on Twitter and half a million “likes” on Facebook. This traffic resulted from the clinic’s 2010 establishment of the “Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media”, a department created to determine how social media could be used for the benefit of the organization. In its Mission Statement the Mayo Clinic states that “individuals have the right and responsibility to advocate for their own health, and it is [The Mayo Clinic’s] responsibility to help them use social media tools to get the best information, connect with providers and with each other, and inspire healthy choices.” Googles reports that with the launch of its social media campaign the Mayo Clinic podcast acquired 76,000 listeners.

As with any product being marketed, brand recognition of a healthcare provider is essential. Regardless of the advertising medium – a roadside billboard, an ad on the Yahoo homepage or a TV commercial –distinctive images, an appealing logo and eye catching colors must be employed to promote the product or service. When marketing a service in the healthcare arena an area of import often overlooked is the need to build trust between the patient and the doctor. When those in need of treatment can communicate directly with a doctor through social media, a particular brand can quickly gain the reputation as the ‘go-to’ company in its field. This doctor/patient communication also promotes transparency and ensures trust between doctor and patient. Through social media the Mayo Clinic was able to substantially increase its influence in the field of healthcare.

Google further reports that Youtube videos increase traffic to hospital websites by 119% annually. These videos, replete with patient interviews and “feel good” stories, convert traffic to leads because they have a personal touch and a human quality that can only be conveyed through film.

Health Watch estimates that penetration of the health industry to mobile devices is as high as 87% and that 19% of smartphone owners have at least one “health app” on their mobile device. Does this mean that health care providers need to develop an app to stay in the game? Not necessarily. What this trend does say, however, is that it is important to increase the direct communication between patient and doctor, building that trust, to effectively market to the health community, and that communication should be directed not only at the computer monitor, but at the mobile device as well.


Titan – The Man Behind a Marketing Revolution

In the biography Titan, Ron Chernow tells the story of John D. Rockefeller, the man who built Standard Oil of Ohio in the late 19th century. Before Rockefeller, people in the United States relied on wood for cooking and heat, and whale oil for light. These materials were expensive to extract and inefficient for generating power.  In contrast, petroleum products were easily and cheaply obtained. Chernow argues that the emergence of the railroad allowed industrialists to transport goods on a national level.  Until the railroad tracks were laid across America, items could be manufactured and sold to the local consumer. With the advent of the railroad, oil, drilled and refined in Pennsylvania, could be sold and transported across long distances. Hence, Standard Oil of Ohio, by controlling the railroads, could monopolize the petroleum industry.

Similar to this ‘sales revolution’ made possible by the railroad in Rockefeller’s time, the emergence of the 20th century internet created a market for items that were heretofore distributed nationally to be sold to wholesale and retail consumers overseas. The market was once again expanded, increasing from the confines of national sales to an international market.

Today, a merchant promoting the sale of his product on the internet can take advantage of another commercial revolution taking place in the in the 21st century. Companies can market to potential buyers on their mobile devices.

Until recently, a marketer had to market a product online by hoping that the consumer would sit down at his PC, surf the net, and see the product being offered. But today, as consumers have their cell phones in hand, the marketer can target the customer and achieve instant results. An added bonus that accrues to the salesperson is his ability to track users based on GPS location. In addition, mobile devices allow for a more personal interaction through direct dialogue via SMS. By targeting ads to the mobile phone, the owner of a given website can track a user’s response instantly, allowing the marketer to analyze and understand the behavior of the cell phone owner and to improve the seller’s standard of service.

Best of all, mobile communication offers the potential for an advertisement to go viral. Mobile users tend to share good content with friends and family, and they can to do so with the click of a button. This offers the marketer more exposure with less effort.

This all sounds good in theory, but does it hold true in practice? In fact, according to a study conducted by, four out of five modern consumers – a staggering 80% – use their smart phones to shop. Furthermore, reports that 70% of mobile users took action and bought a product after a mere hour spent on the internet. This is three times faster than the same results realized on a desktop or laptop computer.

That consumers shop with their mobile devices comes as no surprise. In early 2014, CNN reported that Internet usage on mobiles devices and tablets surpassed that of PCs. CBS news added that 75% of Americans admit to surfing the Internet while in the bathroom, granting the marketer an additional opportunity to reach the consumer at time that used to be reserved for other activities

Rockefeller became a Titan because he recognized that a product – in this case refined petroleum products – could be manufactured locally and sold across the entire country. He expanded the availability of goods to a larger audience. With the advancement of technology, this trend continues today. The Titans that will emerge in our generation are those who take advantage of the trends and recognize advances in how their goods and services may best reach the consumers.


Future Shock

‘Overchoice’, or choice overload, is a term introduced by author Alvin Toffler in his 1970 novel Future Shock. The word describes a unique problem that faces consumers in the post-industrial age. Each year, advancement in technology offers more and more products to shoppers. On its surface, the increase of options for a potential buyer would seem to be a positive development. Closer scrutiny, however, reveals that an abundance of options breeds indecisiveness. Given the plethora of choices, customers are unable to choose the product the best suits them. The buyer grows uneasy and unhappy. Often the consumer refrains from making any choice at all. This, points out Toffler, is the irony: “freedom of choice” ultimately becomes “unfreedom.”

The vision proffered in Future Shock is not far off from today’s reality. The question every marketer asks is “how can we go about extracting expendable income from responsible consumers?” Or, as articulated by Phineas T. Ratchet in 20th Century Fox’s 2005 animated film “Robots”: “how do we go about sucking every loose penny out of Mr. and Mrs. Average Knucklehead?”

Offering a variety of choices to the consumer is an important component in making a sale. However, the marketer must also facilitate the decision making process. In modern society, most people lack the discipline Harry S Truman exhibited when he stated, “there’s always a decision ahead of you that you’ve got to make, and you don’t want to look back. If you make a mistake in one of those decisions, correct it by another decision and go ahead.” Society enjoys having options, but at the same time, people are paralyzed by indecision and suffer from second guessing.

With the advent of the internet, Tofler’s “overchoice” proves overwhelming to the internet consumer. Today, any product is available to a consumer through his internet browser. Multiple websites offer numerous products that offer the same results with only slightly different nuances. For fear of making the wrong choice, a potential buyer will often close out his browser without clicking on any purchase at all. Should the marketer to make the decision for the customer by offering only one option? I think not. Rather, the web designer should offer just a few options while creating the perception that far many more options are being presented. It is in this way that the marketer can crush on any fears that buyers have of making the wrong choice, while, at the same time, making them feel that they have the “freedom of choice” they so desire.shutterstock_144375991


At the start of President Obama’s second term in early 2013, the White House promoted the use of the hashtag #SOTU to reference and comment on President Obama’s State of the Union address. Twitter’s @Gov account, a page that “provides updates…tracking creative & effective uses of Twitter for civic engagement…” later released the following data: during the president’s address, #SOTU was tweeted 766,681 times.

The frequency of these tweets fluctuated. As expected, the number of tweets spiked when the President touched upon a controversial topic. What is more interesting than the actual number of tweets is the data that provided a breakdown of the most popular hashtags tweeted by region and at what point during the speech the hashtags were used most. For instance, when Obama mentioned America’s graduation rate, the engagement of the #education tag shot up, particularly in the states of Nevada, Wisconsin, Michigan, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Many tweets were recorded from #budget, #energy, #jobs, and #healthcare. These results show a definitive relationship between the concerns of people from different states and the political topics addressed by The President.

The Washington Post reported that the US government reviewed #SOTU to study the thoughts of The American People with regards to the proposed extension of payroll tax cuts. Assuming an average annual salary of $50,000 per household, it was estimated that a failure of Congress to extend the cuts in payroll taxes would result in a reduction of $40 for every paycheck. The White House launched #40dollars that asked, “What does $40 per paycheck mean for you and your family”? CNN reported that within 45 minutes of its post, #40dollars was trending worldwide at approximately 6,000 tweets per hour. This huge influx of tweets over the short time period demonstrated how significant this issue was to the American people.   This campaign helped secure passage of the payroll tax extension after generating more than 70,000 tweets and in excess of 10,000 Facebook posts.

When a hashtag is “trending” it means that it is, at the moment, one of the most popular hashtags being used. A list of the trending hashtags is visible on the sidebar of the Twitter home page, and is constantly updated to display what is trending at that exact moment. While it is true that the list only monitors hashtags used on Twitter itself, it is fair to speculate that the trending topic on Twitter is also being tossed about on other social media platforms.  Some tags trend for less than a minute. A quick response to a trending topic on Twitter can allow a user to reach a massive audience with little effort and no advertising fees.

Support for this idea can be evidenced from a report on that confirmed that when the lights went out in New Orleans during the third quarter Super Bowl XLVII, Oreo immediately tweeted an ad using #blackout, a hashtag sure to attract the attention of the thousands of other Twitter users using the same tag. In an interview following the successful advertising campaign, the sandwich cookie’s social media team bragged that they had fifteen staffers, (copywriters, strategists, and graphic artists) each with a finger on the send button, waiting to capitalize on anomaly that may occur during the Championship game – a great play, a wardrobe malfunction, or, in this case, a blackout. The cost of such an operation may seem excessive, but it is peanuts compared to what Budweiser or Lays was shelling out to run a short advertisement on Game Day, especially when taking into account what some clever employee of Nabisco found, taking advantage of a pregame survey: approximately 36% of Super Bowl viewers planned to consult a second screen during the game.

In general, statistics have shown that hashtags drive engagement. On average, tweets with hashtags show 12% more engagement through retweets, favorites, and responses than those without. Tweets with both a hashtag and a link have demonstrated to have the highest engagement.

Because a marketer can come up with a particular hashtag as a brand name identifier, it is possible to run cross-platform campaigns by use of hashtags, truly making the hashtag “the global connector of the social web.” If a seller is going to use a particular hashtag for their product, it is essential that the tag be easy to spell, input and remember. In order to promote its further use, the tag must be consistent with its message.

Another marketing strategy that utilizes hashtags would be one that targets a specific audience. “People want to connect with people who have common lifestyles,” suggests the blog titled Wishpond. “To market to your people, think about your demographics’ lifestyle and hobbies. Then seek out well used hashtags to include in a few of your updates. [For example], Discount Tackle Online [a company that sells fishing gear] uses common hashtags like #trout and #flyfishing on Google+. The post shows up in both hashtags streams, which gets their update seen by people who follow the fish related tags, or even search for them on the site.” reports that for a 30% discount in an advertising fee, Esurance – a web-based auto insurance company – ran a 30 second ad immediately following Super Bowl XLVIII. When viewers were advised that one lucky person who tweeted the hashtag “#EsuranceSave30” within 36 hours of the Superbowl would receive a $1.5 million prize – the Twitter community exploded. Within seconds, 200,000 tweets came in using the hashtag #EsuranceSave30, and an additional 2.1 million flooded twitter over the following three days. The brilliance of this campaign, in retrospect, is obvious- while companies like Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola, and Hyundai targeted viewers during the game, Esurance used their dollars not only to generate media attention, but to place the Esurance brand at the fingertips of millions of Americans. While Twitter itself has not been able to successfully drive sales, it provides a slingshot from which an internet marketer can reach millions of users and cast his product across multiple platforms, the real goal of the internet marketer.


Marketing on Reddit- An Impossible Task?

There are many internet communities on the web, but none are as expansive and popular as Reddit, boasting an Alexa traffic rank of 21 in the US and 54 globally (as of 6/12/14). Furthermore, Reddit has a remarkably low bounce rate at 24.5% where the average bounce rate for content sites, (according to Google Analytics), lies somewhere between 30% – 50%. But what truly makes Reddit unique is the profile of the user it attracts: people who are surfing the net for nothing specific hoping to read something interesting and entertaining. If utilized properly, Reddit can be an invaluable tool for marketers looking to promote a product on the web. hosts user submitted content on its many different boards, known as subreddits. Visitors to the site can create an account and choose to either contribute to an existing thread, create a new thread, or up/down-vote threads and posts submitted by other users. It is also possible for a visitor to simply browse the site without creating an account. With some time and effort, a user can create a new “subreddit”, a new community within the Reddit universe that focuses on specific content. The “subreddit” allows users who are looking to engage in a particular topic to access threads whose content they are seeking.

For example, /r/AskScience, is a board that allows a person to ask experts pertaining to various areas of science and math. The subreddit /r/funny gives users the opportunity to share anecdotes and entertaining material, while /r/IAmA features celebrities and other high profile individuals who interact with the Reddit community. Other subreddits host discussions relating to politics and news, self-improvement, technology, entertainment, heavy and light-heated discussions, and offer general advice. Because anyone who is a member of the site can create a subreddit, there exists almost 500,000 unique subreddits, each one geared toward a specific niche. The number rises daily. Users can also use their homepage to subscribe to specific subreddits thereby allowing them to better control the posts that appear on their page. Subscribers to the more popular subreddits number in the millions. Given the significant number of accountholders on Reddit, a marketer using Reddit to promote a product can easily corner a significant amount of people interested in his products or services.

But here is the rub. As the Reddit website has evolved, it has formed a unique culture replete with its own slang, inside jokes, and internet celebrities. Users on Reddit display little patience for self-promotion. In addition, the individual subreddits, moderated by their creators, are adverse to spam. As such, assaulting a subreddit with spam will quickly result in a ban as the moderators work to maintain the highest possible quality of the subreddit upon which they have expended so many hours to build and maintain.

Reddit does provide a paid service that allows you to advertise without the possibility of being banned, but even if you were to target the right audience, it is doubtful that it would result in more than limited success. Instead, I would suggest using Reddit in the way it is designed. Instead of forcing an ad for a natural cream for relief from muscle-soreness that will reach the 66,000 subscribers to /r/bodybuilding, I propose the creation of a new “subreddit” that will promote discussions surrounding the relief from muscle soreness. Because you moderate the subreddit, you can cleverly introduce, with impunity, the elixir you are looking to sell and a description of how it works.

Reddit posts that garner up votes are interesting and well-written, filled with rich content and a list of sources. One would not spam his own subreddit with a line stating, “Hey, visit this link to check out this natural alternative to pain pills.” Rather, one could be creative and lead the conversation by saying, “Maybe there is a natural, “side effect” free alternative to the pain medication being prescribed by doctors.” After some discussion, the marketer can gently introduce his link to his audience. In this way the marketer would not come off as obnoxious, screaming for people to visit his page. While it may be  obvious that you are promoting your product,  Reddit does not prohibit the self-promotion of your blog or your product provided others users do not complain that you are inundating them with spam.shutterstock_171401612

Why didn’t anyone like my post?

Common lore teaches that Facebook allows the user to connect with people he once knew while Twitter provides access to people the user wishes to know. While this is a gross over simplification of what these two different, but very similar, virtual communities are used for, it is true to countless individuals cruising on the information superhighway.

The click-through rate (CTR) of a site is a way of determining the success of an online advertising campaign. The CTR is defined as the ratio of the number of clicks on a link to the number of times the ad is displayed.  Facebook generally has a much lower CTR than most major websites, at an abysmal 0.04%. In layman’s terms, this equates to four clicks for every 100,000 pageviews. This may be attributed to the reality that Facebook friends utilize the site primarily for social interaction rather than to view the content on a page. In contrast, Google, boasts a CTR of 8%, 8,000 clicks per 100,000 views.

This phenomenon is not unique to Facebook.  A similar statistic can be observed on Twitter. If an advertiser’s window CTR on Twitter is above a mere 0.5%, he is among the most successful advertisers on the site.

Does this mean that companies looking to market through the internet should ignore social media and focus elsewhere? Not necessarily.

With the exception of throwing colossal amounts of money behind an online advertising campaign during the Superbowl, there is no quick and easy way to gain huge amounts of followers. However, it is important to realize that an advertiser is far better off with a small audience who listens than a large one who does not.  In the latter case, the amount of followers is just a number without understanding. While it is vital to build a large audience when marketing through social media, it is absolutely essential to have an audience that is paying attention to what you are attempting to relate to them.

A seemingly infinite number of pages are competing for the attention of one consumer, and it is important to ensure that your company rises to the top. How? Facebook and many other social media outlets employ algorithms to determine what content is shown to a page’s followers. In general, when something is posted on a Facebook page it is only shown to a small percentage of the page’s followers. In order for the rest of the page’s followers to see the post, this small percentage of users must interact with it first through likes, comments, and shares. Only then will the exposure of the post be maximized. By having followers who interact with your page, your ad will reach an audience that understands, that desires, and that needs what you are offering. It is clear that the ‘quality’ of the followers that you attract is much more important than the quantity.

Throwing an unsolicited ad in front of millions of bought followers leads to the following truth: it is unlikely that followers who are genuinely interested in seeing the content of a page are ever going to see it on their newsfeed. Yet the argument for a social media platform to support a filtered newsfeed is also strong. Twitter does not screen any of the content that shows up in a user’s newsfeed. The pattern of users following many pages can be attributed to what is today called FOMO- a dreaded “Fear Of Missing Out” on the newest trend. Because most of these users follow many pages simultaneously, the likelihood of them seeing something posted a few hours before is unlikely.

Therefore, it would seem that separate approaches to marketing through Facebook and Twitter are needed. In the case of Twitter, a social media platform that does not filter its newsfeed for its users, the volume of posts is most important. The advertiser must hope that a follower happens to be online when the ad is posted or it will be buried in the other pages the consumer is following. When advertising on Facebook or other platforms that filter newsfeeds, it is imperative to have quality posts that users will feel motivated to like, comment on, and share so that the content of your page may be read by as many people as possible.shutterstock_164596421