red balloon

young-boy-on-phone

 

Photo credit: Emma Kim/Getty Images

My husband and I have had a running discussion, and it’s expanded to family and friends with kids around the same age as ours. Being the social media professional in our circle, I’m often asked at what age our kids should be using social media. How young is too young for social media?

Most member-based sites require kids to be at least 13 years old due to COPPA regulations, but is that still too young? Surprisingly many kids are often even younger than that and lying about their ages to set up profiles on sites like Facebook.

Check out my latest article for SheKnows for tips on when kids should start using social media, and some great advice from Common Sense Media.

 

image courtesy Scott J. Waldron via Flickr

image courtesy Scott J. Waldron via Flickr

 

I am often asked some version of this question on a regular basis: “Why does social media cost so much?” I’m also often asked lots of follow up questions about how to get the best deal on social media services. I get it, everyone (especially entrepreneurs) are looking at how to save a buck and minimize expenses.

My team and I have offered social media consulting and management services since 2005, which means that for 10 years I’ve seen freelancers to big firms (and everything in between) who have done poor jobs, so-so jobs and great jobs on handling social media for friends, prospects and clients. I’ve also had a few situations in which a prospect has handed me someone else’s proposal and asked me to meet or beat the price, which is always an enlightening experience.

So, here is what I have learned about the cost of social media services and how to get a great deal on a good job.

1. You will get what you pay for. If you are on a limited budget because you’re just starting out, you are probably better off using the amazing resources at your fingertips and Googling some social media tutorials, and using one or two social media platforms that you can manage well.

Why? Because good (did you read that? I said good, you want good, effective social media right?) social media takes a LOT of time. If you’re just looking for the cheapest person to do your social media you will likely end up with A) someone totally inexperienced, B) someone who will cut corners to make it worth their while, or C) someone who isn’t really committed and will post sporadically at best.

How could you entrust your brand to people willing to work for peanuts? You may find that your posts are inconsistent or nonexistent, they could be full of errors, or even worse if you’re working with an inexperienced social media professional they may not understand your brand or audience and inadvertently piss people off with what they post.

Don’t risk it, pay for a quality job or do it yourself until you can comfortably afford a professional.

2. Have a budget. Yep, social media costs money, unless you’re lucky enough to find someone willing to barter with you. Nothing makes it more difficult to work with someone than asking for a budget and being told they don’t have one. It tells your social media professional that you aren’t serious about your business or you are unwilling to be honest about how much you can spend (whether it’s a little or a lot).

Every real, established business has a marketing budget – social media should fall under that category. If you’re looking for some marketing dollars to throw at social media, look at what’s currently working under that category and cut what isn’t.

Be ready to shell out a (bare) minimum of $1000 a month to work with a freelancer on a very basic scope of work (and up from there depending on what you need and who you work with). There are a number of factors that are taken into account when determining your fees, including the amount of work you are asking for on a monthly basis, the expertise and resources of the professional or firm you are working with, and many people forget to factor in the fees the sites themselves charge for sponsored ads (which are a necessity these days).

If you’re working with a creative group you will likely be looking at 4 or 5 figures each month for effective social media that does what it’s supposed to do.

3. Be a GREAT client. I am personally usually willing to make a small concession on pricing for a GREAT client. What makes a GREAT client? A terrific attitude, fun subject matter, realistic expectations, trusting us to take the lead, getting back to us in a timely manner and someone who values my time. Basically, make my job easier.

3B. I’d like to expand a bit more on valuing time. You wouldn’t want anyone to waste your time, so don’t waste your social media professional’s time. If you work with a firm that charges by the hour, you can save yourself a bundle of money by calling or emailing only when it’s important. I have had clients who have reached out to us about broken printers (I wish I was kidding), personal problems and company infighting on the client’s end (yes, really) and to ask us to send them the same graphic files over and over again because they weren’t organized enough to save the files where they could find them.

Don’t get me wrong, no one should nickel and dime you for pleasantries or short, simple interactions, but inconsiderate requests, inappropriate requests, or requests that take a lot of time to fulfill will cost you more money. Respecting your vendors’ time will get you the best deal.

4. Plan well. Our most organized and successful clients either have an editorial calendar or ask us to create one for them. They understand the ebbs and flows of their business, we plan sales promotions and special offers well in advance, and then for the most part the client sticks to it.

Last minute rush jobs, repeated changes or tinkering, and asking for the same explanation more than once adds up – if it costs someone time, it costs you money. Be organized and stick to your plan, avoid last minute changes and you’ll minimize your social media management fees.

5. Understand why it takes so much time. This will save you lots of heartache when it comes to billing. You will either be able to contain your fees to something you can live with OR you will understand what is going into your investment in social media services.

You MUST get a contract in writing (and read it) and ask questions if you aren’t clear on what the scope of work includes. It is not OK to ask for everything you need all month and then freak out on your vendor about the amount of fees you’ve racked up. A good social media professional will explain how much time they believe your project will take monthly, and why.

For example, we spend a good deal of time researching studies, trends and timely news articles each month when developing a client’s content. Next, a copy writer has to actually write up all that content (typically a minimum of a post a day X the number of social media platforms + other things like blog posts, newsletters, print and web ad copy) and then a copy editor proofs all that content for typos, grammatical errors and brand / voice. We also have to get a client to approve that content, we have to post the content and then we monitor for comments, leads, questions and complaints (and reply to them, which can get complicated and time / labor intensive), and if anyone is talking about your business outside of our posts.

We also keep an eye on trending topics, cooperative marketing opportunities and what your competition is up to. We pull reporting each month to make sure we are offering more of the content that your audience likes and less of the stuff that isn’t working, and use reporting to develop contests and promotions. If you are running sponsored posts, or requesting graphic design (which go through a similar lengthy process to ensure quality and effectiveness), or requesting meetings, phone calls, new or different services or training, the time for those requests can add up quickly.

6. Expertise will cost you more. There are a zillion people out there who claim to be social media professionals. The expertise is what separates the boys and girls from the men and the women. More than just being able to write some cute posts, you want someone (or a creative group) who understands strategy and has experience with designing plans that include tactics that achieve specific outcomes.

The better the proven track record, the more expense involved. But look – if you know you’re going to spend some money and you want a plan that will work, you are much more likely to achieve your goals working with experienced social media professionals than keeping it on the cheap by asking your 17 year old nephew to Facebook for you in exchange for gas money. Remember #1 on this list? You get what you pay for.

More Food for Thought

Keep in mind that I focused on keeping costs down in this post. It is not unusual to spend $5,000-$10,000 or more each month on social media services, especially if you require ’round the clock monitoring, have lots of engagement, spend a lot on ads or need multiple social media professionals working on your platforms (say to provide customer service for example). If you happen to work in healthcare, law, finance, insurance or another regulated industry you will also pay more to work with a professional who understands advertising regulations and compliance for your industry.

Is this freaking you out? It shouldn’t. You are paying money to make money in the form of great branding, increased engagement and eventually conversions. Think back to the crappy feeling you got the last time someone wanted something for nothing from you. Don’t do that to your social media professional – you are asking them to help you make money, and that costs money. Be honest about what you need and what you can offer.

Have questions? Shoot me an email at jennifer at red balloon inc dot com.

Jennifer MaggioreJennifer Maggiore is a nationally recognized social media consultant, author and speaker. She launched her company in 2005, quickly expanding her business as one of the country’s first social media consultants.

Today, she and her team work with public and private companies throughout the United States, offering social media management, strategy and training services, including a specialty in HIPAA and NLRA consulting for healthcare organizations.

red balloon was named a Top 10 Marketing Firm in her home state of Arizona, Jennifer was recognized as one of 35 Women Entrepreneurs in Arizona Under 35, and she was most recently interviewed for the show Roadtrip Nation.

 

doctor

Photo by NEC Corporation of America via Creative Commons license on Flickr

 

If you’re a healthcare executive, you well understand the bottom line burden – growing or maintaining your patient base to create revenue, and minimizing expenses, often in the form of penalties and fines. Good news – there are many examples of social media being used in the healthcare industry to support those bottom line objectives.

There are three main categories of social media for healthcare, or as we refer to it here at red balloon, “The Social Media Trifecta” – 1) social media used by your marketing team for business development and outreach, 2) social media used by patients, and 3) social media guidelines that should be in place for ALL employees.

Your organization’s social media guidelines and training should encompass all three of these categories, both for business development purposes and to avoid violations. Read on to learn more.

1) Social Media for Your Marketing Team

Social media makes sense for engaging past, current and prospective patients. A recent study by Mediabistro found that 40% of survey participants indicated that information found through social media affects they way they deal with their health. Your organization has an important part to play in providing meaningful and accurate information to those patients through social media channels.

Many healthcare organizations are shooting from the hip, though, allowing untrained or inexperienced employees to post to social media channels on the fly. Social media processes should be documented and all in-house and outsource marketing members should be trained on those processes. Consider planning posts in advance to ensure posts are well thought out and error free. Have a second employee review all posts before they are published to catch grammatical errors, typos and potential violations (for example, identifying a patient by publishing a photo without written consent).

Bonus Tip: Have a plan for dealing with a complaint or negative publicity on social media before it happens (it will).

2) Social Media Used by Patients

Mediabistro also found that 18-24 year olds are twice as likely to use social media for health related conversations than their older counterparts. You can bet on explosive growth in the numbers of prospective patients looking for information about conditions and treatments, or looking to connect with those who have similar situations in the years to come. Not only should marketing employees be meeting these patients where they are (on social media!), social media may play a valuable role in health and well being.

A manuscript published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information had this to say: “During the last 30 years, researchers have shown great interest in the phenomena of social support, particularly in the context of health. Prior work has found that those with high quality or quantity of social networks have a decreased risk of mortality in comparison to those who have low quantity or quality of social relationships, even after statistically controlling for baseline health status.” Further, a study cited in the publication found that those with lower social interaction and less social support were 1.5 times more
likely to have a myocardial infarction (heart attack) and were twice as likely to be readmitted to the hospital than patients with strong social support systems.

We will continue to see leading healthcare organizations encourage patient use of social media, and integration of social media into the healthcare environment.

Bonus Tip: An interesting note on the use of social media for giving support – those providing support also benefited; according to the publication, elderly individuals who provided social support felt more useful and experienced fewer incidences of disability and mortality.

3) Social Media Guidelines for All Employees

There are a number of cases of HIPAA and NLRA violations in social media in recent years. Take the case of Kathryn Knott:

“Babysitting a 36 yo 30pillxanax overdose and holding the urinal for him is definitely what I wanted to do today #winninglikeVegas.” – Kathryn Knott, ER Tech via Twitter

In the fall of 2014, she and two friends were arrested for allegedly assaulting another couple. During the investigation, a treasure trove of the stuff you do not want your employees posting was found on her Twitter account. In addition to the post above, she also published photos of patients’ x-rays, one patient’s severed fingers and more. Unfortunately, this is not a unique situation, there are many cases of nurses, techs and physicians who believe that they are in the clear when posting photos or intimate details of their patients’ conditions as part of sharing their days on social media sites.

Your social media guidelines should align with your code of conduct, should clearly define protected health information (PHI) and provide examples of professionals who paid the consequences for posting PHI.

Bonus Tip: Not only should employees receive training on avoiding HIPAA violations in their personal social media use, managers should understand how to avoid NLRA violations (for example, reprimanding an employee for posting about wages or workplaces conditions on social media).

Have questions or need help to succeed with the Social Media Trifecta? Contact me and set up a complimentary 30 minute phone consult. We have packages to fit many budgets and to serve several scenarios including consulting retainers, social media management that is effective and compliant, and corporate training on avoiding NLRA and HIPAA violations. Contact me at 480-270-5395 or Jennifer@redballooninc.com

For a limited time, you can also download a complimentary copy of The Healthcare Executive’s Guide to Social Media, full of stats and case studies on how healthcare organizations are using social media and how to avoid HIPAA and NLRA violations as related to social media usage.

Jennifer MaggioreJennifer Maggiore is a nationally recognized social media consultant, author and speaker. She launched her company in 2005, quickly expanding her business as one of the country’s first social media consultants.

Today, she and her team work with public and private companies throughout the United States, offering social media management, strategy and training services, including a specialty in HIPAA and NLRA consulting for healthcare organizations.

red balloon was named a Top 10 Marketing Firm in her home state of Arizona, Jennifer was recognized as one of 35 Women Entrepreneurs in Arizona Under 35, and she was most recently interviewed for the show Roadtrip Nation.

KathrynKnottEmergency room technician Kathryn Knott was fired from Lansdale Hospital-Abingdon Health in Pennsylvania last year after complaining about patients on her Twitter account and posting pictures of them — including a severed finger — and in the process became a vivid example of how social media can go awry in health care. This and other incidents underscore the importance of implementing a social media policy.

“We can’t leave it up to chance,” said Jennifer Maggiore, CEO of Red Balloon Inc. in Phoenix. “Never assume employees will use the same good judgment that you would.” With the social-media revolution — Americans spend 510 minutes on Facebook a month on average, she said — compliance and privacy officers are considering how it implicates different laws, including HIPAA and the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Employers may assume that Facebook posts that bash or embarrass them are grounds for employee termination, but that’s not necessarily the case, says Minneapolis attorney Norah Olson Bluvshtein, with Fredrikson & Byron. The answer is it depends. If employees post a picture of themselves taking a bath in a sink at work, fire away, she says. “But other situations are more complicated,” with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) putting the cutting-edge fact patterns of social media through the prism of the 1935 NLRA. It probably doesn’t help that only one-third of health care organizations have social media guidelines, Maggiore said.

Front and center in social media use is the risk to patient privacy and potential HIPAA violations. Against a backdrop of respect for free speech, hospital and clinic employees are held to certain restrictions, says Nickie Braxton, privacy officer at Boston Medical Center. Health care workers may not mention patients or post photos of them on social media sites they use privately, she says. Employees may think it’s none of the hospital’s business because they use their own devices and personal accounts for Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites, and employees have blurred the lines sometimes between professional and personal. The superseding message: “What you learn in the hospital stays in the hospital,” Braxton says.

But it may sometimes seem like hospitals are talking out of both sides of their mouth. Hospitals have their own Facebook pages for communication and education, but they warn employees not to talk about their patients on their personal Facebook pages and, to some extent, the hospitals themselves. “On the one hand we are fostering the use of social media, and on the other hand we are saying, ‘you have to be very careful when you go on social media, and you can’t share patient information in any way or refer to patients in any way under threat of discipline,’” Braxton says. “It goes against the general cultural norm for employees who are so used to sharing their lives on social media.” In particular, nurses and other clinicians can form intimate relationships with patients and may be tempted to friend each other on Facebook or Instagram, she says. “The challenge is to help people understand there is a professional life and there is a personal life. In your professional life, you are expected to be friendly toward patients, but you are not expected to friend a patient,” Braxton says. “People come here not because we are friends but because we uphold a certain professionalism and standard of care that we are expected to maintain at all times.”

Pictures on social media are off-limits. Even when everyone has agreed to take pictures, there is still a risk. Maybe the patients misunderstood or changed their mind later, or unrelated patients in the background show up in the picture and they haven’t given consent, Braxton says.

Social Media Fires Up NLRB

Anonymous postings will not protect employees and physicians, a lesson learned in a blogger case, Maggiore said at a May 13 Health Care Compliance Association webinar. A Boston pediatrician, who was a popular, award-winning but anonymous blogger, shared his experiences in medicine. “People loved it,” Maggiore said. “Things took a wrong turn when he published blogs” about serving as an expert witness for the defendant in a wrongful death case. The blogger, known as “Flea,” revealed too much, she said. The blogger was outed in 2007 as physician Robert Lindeman, and he admitted it, according to The Boston Globe. “There’s no such thing as anonymity online,” Maggiore cautioned. People have the illusion of invisibility, and “that fans the fame of aggressive behavior.” Employees should be trained to post only items they can stand behind, she said. “Be proud of those posts, and if not, don’t post them,” she said. Employees also use social media to comment on hospitals and other employers, and how they react — firing employees for nasty posts, for example — may have consequences. The NLRB, which enforces the NLRA, may uphold the termination, or not, which means back pay for the employee and reinstatement. The NLRA applies to union and non-union workers, Bluvshtein says. Sec. 7 of the NLRA gives employees the right to discuss the terms and conditions of employment. It’s construed broadly, she says, and covers wages, other compensation and how their supervisors treat them. That means employees can talk to each other critically about management, she says. Social media is turning into a flash point with the NLRB, which is “heavily focused on social media firing cases,” Bluvshtein says. Here are a couple of examples:

American Medical Response: A paramedic was fired in 2010 after posting remarks on Facebook about her supervisor, Bluvshtein says. The paramedic wrote that “looks like I’m getting some time off. Love how the company allows a 17 to be a supervisor,” referring to a psychiatric-patient code. A colleague asked what happened, and the paramedic responded that the supervisor was being a jerk (using a vulgar word). “Chin up,” the co-worker said. The NLRB declared the paramedic’s termination unlawful, Bluvshtein says, because “employees have the right to criticize supervisors.” The NLRB protected her posts also because “her fellow employees posted support,” Maggiore said. “They voiced their frustration.” The lesson here, Maggiore said, is that managers and human resources are not grasping the fact that social media is another communication tool that’s often protected.

SkinSmart Dermatology: An employee was fired from the dermatology clinic after daring her supervisors to do it on a social media site, Bluvshtein says. The employee said the supervisors were full of it and seemed to be steering clear of her because she didn’t bite her tongue anymore. “She claimed the post was protected because she has a right to badmouth her supervisor,” but that was not upheld by the NLRB. “No co-workers joined in the criticism. To be protected, it can’t be a single employee,” Bluvshtein says.

Because social media is a popular forum to comment on jobs, Maggiore suggested employers ask their
employees to include a disclaimer with their posts. “The NLRB says you can’t require a disclaimer, but you may suggest it,” she said. The disclaimer can be very simple — “opinions expressed are my own” — and preserve the objectivity of the comments, whether positive or negative.

Boston Medical Center continually trains employees on social media, Braxton says. She distributes the policy, writes articles and does email blasts. “It’s not just about what you can and can’t do, but why,” she says. “It’s trying to let people understand the reasoning behind the rules.” Braxton attends meetings with the leadership forum — managers, executives and directors — to talk about compliance issues, including social media. “We have huddle cards sent every week to our hospital managers, which they discuss with their teams, and social media issues are on a number of them,” she says.

Contact Braxton at Nickie.Braxton@bmc.org, Bluvshtein at nolsonbluvshtein@fredlaw.com and Maggiore at jennifer@redballooninc.com.

Copyright © 2015 by Atlantic Information Services, Inc. Reprinted with permission from Atlantic Information Services, Inc., 1100 17th Street, NW, Suite 300, Washington, D.C. 20036, 202-775-9008, www.AISHealth.com

courtesy Pixabay via Creative Commons

courtesy Pixabay via Creative Commons

A couple weeks ago, I had the privilege of going on a field trip with my second grader to the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix. We spent the warm and sunny morning touring the grounds and learning about biomimicry. It was fascinating to discover how people have observed and gained insight from nature, copying the successful designs that have evolved over millions of years in the plants and animals around us.

Biomimicry is defined as a “new science that studies nature’s models and then uses these designs and processes to solve human problems”, according to biomimicry.net (which is a cool site when you have a few minutes to kill, by the way). Just as the name would suggest, biomimicry is taking designs that work in the natural word (bio), and copying and applying those concepts (mimicry) to our own challenges.

For example, we learned about a quiet, aerodynamic train that swiftly and silently cuts through the air, inspired by the long thin bill of a bird that can quietly dive into the water to catch fish without making a lot of commotion. Another example was how funnels are best for catching more rainwater, which can be likened to the shape of the agave plant. It’s shaped in a way that allows rainwater caught on the outside edges of its long broad leaves to trickle in and down toward the plant’s roots.

Last night I had a little light bulb moment when I remembered an article about social media brands mimicking people. It asserts that the most successful brands in social media are those with personality, that are self-aware, understand hyperbole and make clever jokes with followers. For example, Tesco Mobile has a personable and sometimes biting tone depending on the interaction, and Taco Bell talks to followers like a friend (see image). This got me thinking about biomimicry in social media. There are more and more brands successfully employing personality and acting like one of your friends than a brand trying to sell you something.

Can we take social media mimicking relationships further than selling? In an online article published by the Mayo Clinic, the importance of social support cannot be overlooked in the healing process: “Taking the time to build a social support network is a wise investment not only in your mental well-being, but also in your physical health and longevity. Research shows that those who enjoy high levels of social support stay healthier and live longer.” Unfortunately, developing and maintaining a social support system is challenging for chronically ill patients. Chronic pain causes fatigue and depression; mobility challenges can make it difficult to get out with friends; and some patients are geographically isolated from friends and family.

Could that real world social support system be mimicked through social media? Would patients benefit as much from the virtual support and social connections when healing if a hospital integrated social media platforms directly into TVs along with on-demand entertainment and education? Or by providing Wi-Fi and charging stations for personal electronics, or even social media training and moderated closed patient groups?

A manuscript published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information had this to say: “During the last 30 years, researchers have shown great interest in the phenomena of social support, particularly in the context of health. Prior work has found that those with high quality or quantity of social networks have a decreased risk of mortality in comparison to those who have low quantity or quality of social relationships, even after statistically controlling for baseline health status.” Further, a study cited in the publication found that those with lower social interaction and less social support were 1.5 times more likely to have a myocardial infarction (heart attack) and were twice as likely to be readmitted to the hospital than patients with strong social support systems. Also of note, those providing support also benefited, according to the publication, elderly individuals who provided social support and felt more useful experienced fewer incidences of disability and mortality.

Mimicking in-person friendships and support systems for patients is the next evolution of social media. While brands sounding more like people will be the future of marketing success for the foreseeable future, we can take the true usefulness of social media further. The intersection of technology and healing are just being explored, and the concept of virtual support systems mimicking in-person relationships has the potential to revolutionize the way we look at healthcare and getting better.

Email me today to be added to the advance release list for my forthcoming publication, The Healthcare Executive’s Guide to Social Media, jennifer@redballooninc.com.