Social Networking Your Way to Better Healthcare Business Relationships

With everyone walking around with a smartphone or tablet, tweeting, updating, posting, sharing quite possibly 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the time has never been better – it’s never been easier – to jump into social networking. And looking at it from the healthcare perspective, there has never been a better time to share ideas, give opinions, pontificate, or sound off on the variety of healthcare issues we have to talk about today.

The opportunity is better than ever to create thought leadership by starting or joining in online conversations, and personal branding is easier than ever before in terms of tools available to help you spread your message and increase your exposure.

So with that being said, I’ll share a bit of my story as to how I’ve used social networking to create a personal brand, and open myself up to opportunities and business relationships that I might otherwise not have been exposed to.

My favorite social network is Twitter. I like it because it’s quick – 140 characters seems to be about my limit. I was very late to the Facebook party, and got on it only because at the time I couldn’t manage a brand page without a personal account. I still think Facebook can be a major time waster, and so I use it only to share news of my family with other family members and close friends.

Anyhow, my Twitter addiction really started during my second maternity leave. I spent a lot of time in a rocking chair, figuring out how to keep up with my professional colleagues while I was out of the corporate loop. I began to gain a small following, began doing the mommy blog thing, and went to a networking event or to just to keep myself relevant.

When I went back to working full time, my boss was gracious enough to go with my idea of using Twitter as part of our B2B healthcare marketing program. And this is where my brief story gets somewhat tangled, because at this point, my personal and professional social networking became very intertwined. I had my personal Twitter account, two business accounts, two Facebook pages, and personal and corporate LinkedIn accounts to manage.

At first I was what you’d consider a lurker. I hung out on Twitter and in various LinkedIn healthcare groups just to see how they worked, what the rules of etiquette were. Then as I got more confident in my knowledge of the industry, I began participating – posting comments, responding to people’s tweets, hoping that I sounded knowledgeable. And my following continued to grow. I began noticing that as I started sharing more healthcare-related content, more healthcare-related folks started following me.

I have a journalism degree from the University of Georgia, so I was creating blogs and articles for Porter Research and Billian’s HealthDATA, and sharing them out through my professional and personal social accounts, which also gave me some street cred. Eventually, I had unsolicited offers to blog for I jumped on that because it lets me flex my writing muscles, and reach an audience I might not otherwise get in front of. My activity, and especially my consistency within healthcare social networking continues to open up opportunities for me.

Now, all this wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t love what I’m doing. I love the opportunity social networking affords me to educate myself about healthcare, and especially to turn online relationships into real-life encounters.

So, as I mentioned, I have a favorite social network, and I believe one of the keys to successful social networking is using the platform that best aligns with your goals and desired audience – the social network that suits your tastes. Start with one that best suits you, your goals and the audience you’re trying to reach. Whether you’re just trying to educate yourself about a certain part of your industry, looking to connect with peers and other thought leaders, or perhaps even looking for new opportunities, make sure the social network lines up with your objectives. Start small, be consistent in your approach and in the folks you correspond with.  You’ll notice your personal brand evolving, almost organically.

About the author

Jennifer Dennard

Jennifer Dennard

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.