JAMA Network Deploys Social Media Listening Strategy to Tune Communication Efforts: Tactics You Can Deploy Today

May 3, 2018

// By Lisa D. Ellis //

Love you, hate you, want something from you.

JAMA-Network-LogoWhen any of your patients have these or other strong feelings about you, chances are they’ll turn to social media and share their sentiments in a very public way to a very wide audience.

This makes it essential to stay on top of the latest comments posted online and to respond appropriately. In fact, how you respond to comments (good and bad!) about your organization on social media tells people a lot about your brand and your commitment to providing good care — both in the office and beyond.

Bad Reviews Offer Good Opportunities to Build Brand

Consider this: With the widespread reach of social media, these days a bad review — if left unchecked — can really hurt your business by stopping prospective customers from giving you a chance. Therefore, it’s important to be proactive in finding — and responding — to any concerns and complaints posted online.

Daniella Peting, JAMA Network

Daniella Peting, manager of social communications and digital channel strategy for scientific publications at JAMA Network

Further, while good reviews are always great to read, negative reviews also can be beneficial when you respond to them and turn a negative into a positive. In fact, savvy marketers understand that when someone criticizes you, this offers a great opportunity to reinforce your brand and put your best foot forward.

Creating a Listening Strategy

Daniella Peting is the manager, social communications and digital channel strategy for scientific publications, JAMA Network. In this position, she spearheads JAMA Network’s social media strategy and is developing a “listening program” for all JAMA journals.

In this article, we explore how JAMA Network navigates the social media landscape, and offer a roadmap you can follow to improve control of your organization’s reputation, fine-tune your communication strategy, and more.

Why This Aspect of Social Media Matters

“Social media is designed to be social. Many people are using it for a way to connect with a brand” and vice versa, Peting says. She explains that JAMA Network uses a multi-pronged listening strategy to manage the challenge of keeping on top of social media. It includes identifying frequency of conversations, social networks and/or sites where conversations are occurring, persons initiating or participating in discussions, and topics being discussed about JAMA Network and its publications. Doing brief checks regularly to stay on top of conversations and comments allows Peting to respond as needed. Then Peting follows up annually with a more in-depth look at where things are and if anything has changed in the past 12 months.

“This helps us find out what we are doing well, what we are doing poorly, and where we need to change,” she says. “A social listening strategy helps us identify where we need to focus our efforts, so we can provide a better experience for our audiences and a more manageable process for our team.”

JAMA Network also follows spikes in conversations and reacts as needed.

“Our audience is very verbal [especially on social media] about what they like and don’t like,” Peting adds.

Different Channels for Different Folks

She points out that JAMA Network tries to be strategic about whom it reaches, since its audience consists of different generations, including people who grew up on social media and use it as their main way of communicating, people who grew up with more traditional ways of communicating and have since learned social media and now use it heavily, people who are new to social media but becoming more familiar with it as a channel for communication, and people who prefer traditional ways of communicating, such as by phone calls and letters.

The category your audience fits in likely will define the channels they prefer using to communicate.

“Sometimes we have more mature individuals on Facebook and LinkedIn, while people who are newer to their career are more likely to use Snapchat and Instagram,” she says. “That’s where our listening strategy comes into play. It helps us discover where individuals are talking about our publications and allows us to respond in the platforms and manners that our audiences prefer,” she says. Some people may request a phone call, while others want an email, a private message, or a reply to a comment.

“We audit all of the social media networks and look at two years of data. We find some readers want us to post more, while some want us to post less. We ask people what type of content they want: topics, podcasts, videos, etc. We also look at the demographics to see who the audience is,” she adds. All of this information helps Peting and her colleagues make decisions on what, when, and where to post.

For example, she says, “We thought that our audiences would prefer vibrant photos in our posts instead of charts and graphs, but we were wrong. We learned this by monitoring the engagement of our posts.” This has been instrumental in guiding JAMA Network’s content.

“We also find that our readers like Twitter for events, but Facebook seems to be our best-performing platform for all of our journals,” she adds.

Further, Peting finds that readers’ activities range from tagging others to share a post, to asking health care questions, to asking questions about a specific article.

“On occasion, we’ll receive comments that require more immediate responses or require assistance from a subject matter expert, so we do our best to manage expectations by providing an estimated time frame and/or an alternative resource for the audience member as our resources — time, staff, etc. — are limited,” she says. This requires triaging, with a first message letting people know that someone will get back to them shortly. Peting says they also include a phone number and email so people who don’t want to wait can get in touch right away.

Starting Your Own Listening Program

For groups that want to follow JAMA Network’s example and listen for their own opportunities but aren’t sure where to start, Peting offers the following advice:

  • Invest in good people who know social media. If they also know health care, it’s an even better fit.
  • Make sure you have tools you need to do the job right. Usually two or three good listening tools can be helpful. Peting recommends Social Report, Hootsuite Insights, and Brandwatch. These are a few of her favorites, but note that many options are available, so organizations should do their own research to find the best tools for their needs.
  • Set up keyword searches in aggregators like Google Alerts and review your website traffic via tools like Google Analytics to see how people find your website and how social media influences that traffic.
  • Use social listening tools to see what trends are in conversations and locations to understand how to reach your target audience.
  • Use notifications in your tools to alert you to spikes in conversations so you can be proactive.
  • Make sure everyone in your organization touching social media accounts is trained by the PR team and cross-managed so you all send consistent messages and represent your brand.
  • Quality-check your social presence to make sure the look and feel of it matches your brand and is easily recognizable.
  • Be prepared to stay on top of your social media accounts regularly. “This is not a set-it-and-forget-it kind of strategy,” Peting says.

Listen to Conversations and Trends

“Remember that social media is no longer an add-on,” she says. “Today, it touches every part of your organization. Users expect it to be treated as a customer call center,” she adds.

“For the JAMA Network, when someone has an issue, it’s our job to be of service, and to find out how to help. Compliments are very welcome, but so are complaints,” she says.

Turning a Complaint into an Opportunity

Ajay Prasad, CEO of GMR Web Team, a California-based health care digital marketing and web design agency, helps his customers “listen” to their patients online and manage any situations where people are dissatisfied with an experience.

“To make sure that we do not miss any of the reviews that are posted on our clients’ social profiles, we use a review tracking tool by RepuGen [one of many such tools]. This tool prompts us about the increase in the number of reviews by using it on a daily basis. Accordingly, we check the profiles,” he explains. “This not only helps us to figure out if we have received new reviews on any of the platforms, but it also gives us an insight about the prevalent online sentiment about our health care clients.”

For instance, he points to a health care organization that received a bad review on Yelp from a patient. The organization responded on Yelp initially, then later picked up the phone and called the patient. This personal response ended up saving the relationship.

Some clients also use RepuGen proactively, to avoid a bad review on social media in the first place.

“RepuGen also helps our health care clients maximize patient satisfaction by asking for feedback once the patients leave the clinics. In case the feedback is negative, the provider/practice manager is immediately informed about it, so that they can take the required action to resolve the issue,” he says. This is part of an overall strategy to improve patient satisfaction and ultimately develop healthy relationships.

Lisa D. Ellis is a contributing writer for Strategic Health Care Marketing. She is a journalist and content development specialist who helps hospitals and other health care providers and organizations shape strategic messages and communicate them to their target audiences. You can reach her at lisa.ellis@strategicHCmarketing.com.