Monday, August 19, 2013

What Types of Content Should You Post on Social Media

Last week I spoke at a conference in lovely San Diego, CA. While only part of my presentation focused on social media, nearly the entire QA portion revolved around social media. The audience was really interested in getting detailed guidance on what to post on their social media pages to drive engagement.  I thought such tips would make a good blog post.

The first thing you need to know about social media is that it is social. To be social you must focus on creating conversations with people that build relationships. First, always remember that you are communicating with people on social media. People have emotions, desires, logic, and reason. If you really want to engage people, you must speak to people’s emotions, desires, logic, and reason. Obviously, every person with whom you engage will have different emotions, desires, abilities in logic and reason. There is one desire, however, that all people share and if you understand it, you can capitalize on it. I am referring to the desire for social currency.

The basic idea behind social currency is that, like money, the more social currency a person has the more the person feels they are worth. People want to feel important. People feel important when others listen. This applies even if the person is not the original source of the shared idea. Want proof? Take a look at Twitter. Why else are so many people sharing 3rd party blog and news articles? In short, people want to share information that will encourage others to listen. If a business wants to capitalize on this, the business must provide social currency to the consumer. Social currency is nothing more than information. But, it is the type of information that is important. People will engage with and share ideas that are new, innovative, controversial, unbelievable, and/or highly entertaining.

Just a few examples of where you can find/supply social currency include: curated news/blog content, whitepapers, interesting statistics, challenges, surveys, tips, spotlighting customers, free offers, contests, focus on causes, charities, and community, secrets, Easter eggs on a website (think about Google’s Easter eggs).

The important thing to remember with this is that you don’t have to create all this! Share content from complementing businesses/people liberally (obviously, avoid sharing competitors info). For example, if you see a great article somewhere, Tweet it, post it on your LinkedIn and Facebook company pages and encourage others in the company to like it or re-tweet it. In addition to sharing content others have produced, be sure that you are adding a sufficient amount of original content otherwise customers will have no reason to visit your site.

Whether the content is original or curated, social media posting must be strategic. Never post on social media just for the sake of posting. Every piece of content posted on your social media pages must point directly and clearly back to some aspect of your business such as a product, service, technical capability, or the company’s brand image.

The final consideration for social media is for conversation. Successful conversations require that people talk, listen, and reply… not just talk. Building relationships with people on social media is also very important. To build a real relationship, there needs to be a certain degree of ‘personal’ disclosure so people can get to know your business on a personal level. Clearly, this doesn't mean you should share individual’s very personal information. Rather, you should show the personal side of your business. A great example of showing a business’s personal side would be to post fun-filled pictures of the company picnic, holiday party, or other business-social or business-civic event.

In short, the content you post to social media should be diverse. It should give a personal glimpse into the company, allow for conversation, and feed customer’s desires for social currency while wholly supporting your business’s strategic goals. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Importance of a Small Business Website

I am shocked by the fact that so many small, local businesses do not have a website. The other day I wanted to find a hairdresser in my area and so few of them have any web presence. They have no websites, no Facebook pages – nothing to advertise their small business or engage customers. Why? I cannot believe that small biz owners don’t understand the value of a website, but perhaps they don’t. Here are some reasons why small business needs to have a website for those who aren't sure.

  • Websites give your business credibility in the eyes of customers. Businesses without a website in today’s tech savvy world seem clueless and disconnected from customers. Most people assume that “real businesses” have a website. If you don’t have a website you cannot gain much credibility as a good business.  
  • Websites engage customers, answer questions, and allow business owners to showcase their products and services. Customers want to check you out, they want to see what you have to say and a good website shows the customer that you want to meet their needs. A decent website can also help to improve your businesses efficiency. How many phone calls do you get where people are asking your hours? Or your pricing? Eliminating those calls by answering questions online, can free your schedule to focus on other things.  
  • Websites are inexpensive 24/7 advertising that help you grow your business. People search for local products and services at all hours, even after you have closed up shop for the day. After hours, how are people going to find your business, how are people going to learn about you, and how are you going to grow your business? 
  • Websites give you a voice. Let’s face it, review sites like Yelp can contain damaging reviews. Even one negative review amid half a dozen good reviews can really hurt a small business. A website gives you a controlled forum where you can brag about your capabilities. Plus, assuming your business can secure the right website address (your business name), linked with your local location – customers specifically searching your business are likely to find your website first.

Contrary to common belief, websites are not that expensive and can provide a great return on investment. While there will be an investment for design, purchasing the domain name (the website address) and hosting are quite affordable. Assuming you make your needs for ease and simplicity clear during initial design, you may be able to easily maintain the site yourself. It is, however, important to engage a professional for the initial design and set up. Nothing hurts a business more than a bad or unprofessional website that cannot be found on the internet.

Some Tips on Creating a Website

  • Hire a professional! Don’t attempt to do it yourself. A bad website is worse than none at all.
  • Choose an obvious domain name (website address) such as one that matches your business name. This will help local people find you more easily.
  • Your website should have a home page, services or products page, about us page, contact information, and hours of operation. Navigation from page to page must be clear and easy to use.
  • The home page must make it perfectly clear what your business does.  
  • Include content that visually engages customers and prospective customers such as pictures and or videos. Don’t go overboard, though. A busy website can be confusing and look unprofessional.  Text or written content must be clear, concise, and grammatically correct.
  • Keep the website and all content consistent with your brand. If you have a logo on printed brochures, use that same logo on the website. If your company is represented by a particular color, use that color on the website. If your business has a catchy tag line, use that on the website. Brand consistency is imperative in web design. 
  • Real customer testimonials are also a great way to help build trust with prospective customers. Don’t create fake testimonials and think people will believe it. If you cannot secure real customer testimonials – don’t include any at all. Faking testimonials will inevitably come back to haunt you.  
  • Use clear and easy to read fonts. Avoid cursive fonts and choose complimentary text and background colors. The font is easily visible through the background color. For example, if your website’s background is navy blue don’t use black text. Above all else, be consistent with font and style. Don’t go crazy with random bolding and colors.
  • Include a call to action on every page. A call to action tells the customer or prospective customer what to do next. A call to action can be as simple as something like “call us to schedule a consultation” followed by a phone number. You can also provide online contact forms or online appointment scheduling.
  • Make sure that your website is mobile. Nearly everyone has a smart phone these days. A mobile responsive design, meaning that the site will automatically adjust to any size devise (smart phone, tablet, desktop computer), is your best bet to make sure that you are accessible to everyone.
  • Don’t use Flash. Flash is not supported on many mobile devises and even some desktop computers. The goal of a website is to make it accessible by as many people as possible. Including technology that many no longer use will be exclusive.
  • Teach customers and prospective customers something that helps to drive your business. For example, if you are a doctor’s office include tips such as reminders that the patients should have a checkup every year. 
  • Drive local traffic to the site. If you are a small local business, be sure that your business information and website address are listed with Google’s Places for Business. This will help to drive local traffic to your site and to your business.  Create a Facebook page and encourage customers to ‘like’ you. This will help to spread the word about your business. Consider sponsoring a local kid’s sports team or charitable cause and include your website on their brochures, sports jerseys, etc.  

Monday, June 10, 2013

Important Read: An Old Lady's Poem

Today I got an email from a friend who recently finished nursing school and has accepted her first job working in the geriatrics department at a hospital. I can’t possibly be more proud of her. She will be a fabulous nurse – she’s always so patient and kind.

Having worked with the elderly for many years I gave her some advice and wanted to share it here because I think it is important for everyone to remember…

 I was just 18 years old when I started working with elderly patients at a surgeon’s office. They were often crabby and I couldn't understand why. As a kid of 18 years, I wasn't very patient… but I didn't understand. I was young and dumb and did not understand how much the elderly have to share.  That all changed when my mother, sick of my complaints about the nasty patients, gave me the following poem to read. 

Please take a moment and read this poem and please always be patient and kind to the elderly. Their knowledge and experience is more valuable than anyone can ever know.

An Old Lady's Poem, Anonymous
When an old lady died in the geriatric ward of a small hospital near Dundee, Scotland, it was felt that she had nothing left of any value. Later, when the nurses were going through her meager possessions, they found this poem. Its quality and content so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital. One nurse took her copy to Ireland. The old lady's sole bequest to posterity has since appeared in the Christmas edition of the News Magazine of the North Ireland Association for Mental Health.

... And now this little old Scottish lady, with nothing left to give to the world, is now the author of this simple, yet eloquent, poem traveling the world by Internet. Goes to show that we all leave "SOME footprints in time".....

An Old Lady's Poem

What do you see, nurses, what do you see?
What are you thinking when you're looking at me?
A crabby old woman, not very wise,
Uncertain of habit, with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles her food and makes no reply
When you say in a loud voice, "I do wish you'd try!"
Who seems not to notice the things that you do,
And forever is losing a stocking or shoe.....
Who, resisting or not, lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding, the long day to fill....
Is that what you're thinking? Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse; you're not looking at me.

I'll tell you who I am as I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, as I eat at your will.
I'm a small child of ten ...with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters, who love one another.
A young girl of sixteen, with wings on her feet,
Dreaming that soon now a lover she'll meet.
A bride soon at twenty -- my heart gives a leap,
Remembering the vows that I promised to keep.
At twenty-five now, I have young of my own,
Who need me to guide and a secure happy home.
A woman of thirty, my young now grown fast,
Bound to each other with ties that should last.
At forty, my young sons have grown and are gone,
But my man's beside me to see I don't mourn.
At fifty once more, babies play round my knee,
Again we know children, my loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me, my husband is dead;
I look at the future, I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing young of their own,
And I think of the years and the love that I've known.

I'm now an old woman ...and nature is cruel;
'Tis jest to make old age look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles, grace and vigor depart,
There is now a stone where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass a young girl still dwells,
And now and again my battered heart swells.
I remember the joys, I remember the pain,
And I'm loving and living life over again.
I think of the years ....all too few, gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last.

So open your eyes, nurses, open and see,
...Not a crabby old woman; look closer ...see ME!!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Efficiency in Scheduling Surgery

After the events this past month, I need to vent with a back-to-the-basics post.  Let me start by telling you what happened.

A relative of mine, we’ll call her ‘the patient’, had major elective surgery. About a month ago, the surgeon’s office staff told the patient that they would take care of everything. They said there was no paperwork for the patient, someone from their office would call the patient with a surgery date. Easy enough, right? NO, it inefficient.

When the surgeon’s office called to provide the surgery date, they didn't tell her anything but the date. That left the patient (and me) with multiple questions…pre-op clearance from other doctors involved in her care? What about taking medications prior to surgery? What about post-op care? How long will she be in the hospital? Does she need another pre-op visit with the surgeon? The surgical scheduler had to call her back after asking the doctor. How inefficient!

About two weeks later, the patient receives another call from the surgeon’s office asking why the patient hasn't had pre-op testing.  The patient explains that the hospital has not called her to schedule the testing. Only now, surgeon’s office tells the patient that it is the patient’s responsibility to schedule testing – the hospital will not call her. Unfortunately, the surgeon’s office did not have the correct telephone number for the patient to call and schedule. So, they instruct the patient to look up the phone number on the hospital website. Really? What if the patient didn't have access to a computer?

The patient calls the hospital and testing is scheduled. The hospital representative asks the patient if her insurance requires precertification. Of course, the patient does not know and ultimately calls me to ask what to do. I explained that her insurance, Medicare, does not require precertification and neither does her supplemental with Medicare primary. Since when do patients understand precertification?

From there much of the same confusion continues. But rather than boring with all the details, let’s look at the problems here.

First, the patient was not given anything by the surgeon’s office. No printed materials about the surgery itself, no instructions on what medications to take or discontinue prior to surgery, NOTHING. When questions like this arose, the patient (and family) had to call the doctor’s office to ask one-off questions.

Next, the patient was not given correct pre-op instructions regarding testing, clearance, etc. This resulted in the surgeon’s office having to call and follow about where the test results were and the patient having to call the surgeon to ask more questions. 

To the hospital: Seriously, do you really expect a patient to understand precertification? That’s YOUR job! BTW, you’re welcome for my consultancy on that topic – that’ll be $500 payable by the hospital.  

Ok, I am going to stop ranting now. Basically, everything about this situation was wrong. Now, let’s talk about why it was wrong and how to fix it. Here are the back-to-the-basics every doctor’s office MUST know:

Patients are scared. When a person is sick, they cannot think straight. They don’t know what to ask during their pre-op visit with the doctor; even the common sense questions don’t enter their mind because of fear. All a patient can think is “what if I die.”  As a healthcare worker, your job is 99% compassion and 1% everything else. Compassion is understanding how the patient feels and helping to ease the patient’s mind. Sure, you cannot promise that the surgery will be successful, but you can ease the patient’s mind by showing the patient that the surgeon’s office is in control of the administrative/business part of the situation.

Not only is this important for the patient’s piece of mind, but it is also important to your business. For most surgeons, word-of-mouth is their primary means of advertising.  Do you think that the patient I mentioned above is going to rave about her doctor after such hassle?

Healthcare is confusing. Patients do not understand the health part, let alone the business part. Precertification, billing, coding, etc. It is all outside of their world. Patients depend on healthcare workers to understand the business and help the patient; the same way you depend on your accountant to help you with the tax code. Think about it, if your accountant told you to call the IRS to get your answers, how long would it take you to find another accountant. Why is healthcare any different?

Time is money. Each time someone has to call to follow up or ask questions, something else (likely something profit generating) is not being done. If you do not provide the all the right information the first time, you are wasting time and money.

The solution is one word… Training. Doctors, Office managers, administrators, please teach your staff to recognize these three basic principles. Patients are scared, healthcare is confusing, and time is money.

A simple way to address these problems is to create and distribute patient-friendly surgery packets. The packets should contain information such as:
  1. Patient to-do check list with due dates: For example, the instructions might contain reminders like "Stop taking your Coumadin X days before surgery" or "See your PCP 2 weeks before surgery for pre-op clearance" 
  2. Instructions for complex pre-op to-dos: provide the patient with detailed instructions for things like bowel prep. 
  3. Easily understandable documentation about the surgery: Krames has wonderful, patient friendly booklets that can be purchased and distributed to patients. 
  4. Frequently asked questions: For example, "How are pre-admission tests scheduled?" or "when can I expect a call from the hospital to tell me when to arrive on the day of surgery?" and "what is precertification and what do I (the patient) have to do for precertification"
  5. Important phone numbers: These might be the hospital phone number, like for the pre-admission testing department.
  6. Reliable sources of on-line information: You know many are going to research, so make sure you guide them to good information like the Mayo Clinic or WebMD

These are not complicated to create. You can even create a fill-in-the-blanks template that is generic enough to use for multiple surgery types in Microsoft Word. Even the documents that are surgery specific aren't too hard as most surgeons only perform a handful of surgery types depending on their specialty. You’ll be amazed how such a small step can help to reduce phone calls and set the patient’s mind at ease. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Augmented Reality, Google Glass, and the Holideck

Ok, be forewarned… I am about to reveal my geekish side.

Growing up, my mother use to tell me that anything we can imagine can be done – maybe not today, but as we advance, anything imaginable can be done. You are probably thinking, wow, she has a cool mom… and yes I do. Few adults can brag that their mom is more tech savvy than they are. I suppose she is why I am so fascinated with tech today.

In light of the ‘anything imaginable can be done’ mentality, I grew up a Star Trek fan, wondering when (not if) the holideck would become a reality. For those not familiar, the holideck was a place on the Starship Enterprise where crew members could go for a virtual reality experience. The holideck created an entire virtual world of sight, sound, smell, and touch, designed according to the user’s preference.

Fast forward to the early 2000s and introduce sites like Second Life where a person can create and “live” in a virtual world through their computer. I admit that this was an interesting concept, but still weak in comparison to a holideck. Fast forward again to present day and introduce augmented reality.

Of late, I have become fascinated by Google Glass. Imagine it, walking around with glasses that fill in the gaps, connect people, and explain things.

While Google Glass is still in its infancy, I see so many possibilities for how technology such as this will transform the way we interact with the environment and the people around us.

I think, from this point it is only a matter of time before mainstream implantable devices create constant, bigger experiences; experiences that include sight, sound, touch, smell, and even emotion, as it collects data to continuously refine the experience.

Think about big data for a second. Think about all the places from which data is collected and how many more data sources will be collected in the future as more and more devises and people connect. This may include information about the population in aggregate as well personalized information, even real-time health monitoring. Think about how that information could be used to augment individual reality.

Not only would this change every person’s reality but something like this could have a huge impact on healthcare. Connected doctors and nurses may be able to receive real-time, individualized instructions for patient care. Doctors would have access to deeper, more detailed patient records including life-style information. How about real-time, personalized care instructions for patients? How about if a patient being able to know about predispositions to and/or extremely early signs of illness?

My mother was right; anything that can be imagined, can be created. I know that this could start a huge debate of the good versus the evil of such technology, but this post is just pointing out the interesting factor – not discussing the philosophical debate…So, those are my thoughts for today...

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