In mid 2010 when I started to seriously study social media and how it could be leveraged for the healthcare industry, there were some things that just jived and those that simply didn’t fit.
Around that time there were a number of tools developed that were focused on determining the sentiment of conversations about brands. Brand sentiment analysis tools were all the rage back then and a lot of effort was put into being the best, real-time monitoring tool. We also saw companies like Klout emerge that had developed proprietary algorithms that determined who influenced brand conversations. I remember seeing a few of my social media savvy friends killing themselves to increase their K+ scores. I even joined in and struggled to get to a 27 (defined as a Socializer).
I soon realized that despite my rise from Snooper to Socializer, I really was influencing nothing. I just had a score and that was it. So I ditched Klout and stopped chasing my score uphill. Having done nothing since for 2 years, I checked my score. I’m now at 46 and I have no idea what that means.
Back to 2010. I came across a depiction of the social graph. What it showed was that 80% of consumers are in the long tail of the social graph. Furthermore, the probability of converting consumers to an action increases as you cross to the long tail.
I have little doubt that most of these people do not have Klout scores and really have little interaction or influence on brands. It struck me that we have to focus on the long tail and not go chasing the tiny group of Klouters that the brand sentiment enthusiasts fall over themselves to court and, ironically, influence.
Fast forward to early 2011. A really smart guy from Google called Paul Adams was presenting his theory about how people are connected online. Paul subsequently moved to Facebook and published his book called Grouped. If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it. It’s very easy to read and quite short. In a nutshell Adams posits that we are most influenced by our strongest ties, our family and close friends. Adams research shows that the average person has just a few strong ties.
When considering the conversations we have about our health, outside of the healthcare professional setting, we are most likely to share with or be influenced by our strongest ties.
This seminal work fundamentally changed the direction that my team at Liquid Grids and I took in our mission to develop a highly scalable social marketing platform for healthcare.
When we started analyzing social media healthcare dialogue, we noticed very few mentions of brands. In fact, today we have analyzed over 650 Million public healthcare posts by over 100 Million unique consumers. Less than 2% of these posts mention a brand.
Fast forward to 2013. If 80% of consumers are in the long tail, where they are more likely to be converted, then the burden on brand teams is to engage them in a way that doesn’t just focus on the traditional opinion leaders or Klouters. Their circles of influence simply don’t extend to enough strong ties that we consumers have. They are no doubt important and not to be ignored but must not be the only strategy. There’s no way that a healthcare franchise can significantly move the needle enough just going after these very small groups of Klouters.
In order to have a real conversion impact we must focus our efforts on getting as many impressions in front as many consumers as possible that share common health concerns. If it is relevant, they will likely share it with their strong ties. That is really potent and is the heart of delivering contextual content that empowers healthcare consumers.