Addressing the Digital Habits of Consumers and Health Care Practitioners

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by DJ Edgerton (@wiltonbound)

Thinking back just 20 years ago, there were a limited number of communication options: the phone call, the letter, the fax. A persons digital habit though not thought of in that way was limited to television or radio, save for a few early adopters exploring computer technology. Today we have a staggering breadth of communication and digital tools, but are they making it easier to communicate?

Not necessarily. Peoples digital habits vary across generations and locations, making it tricky if not impossible to come up with a one-size-fits-all communication strategy. You can have the right message, but if it is delivered through the wrong medium you wont achieve your intended results.

It is critical to understand how different audiences are using various social tools and digital technology, determine what they expect to get out of it, and then tailor message delivery accordingly. By addressing the digital habits of consumers and health care practitioners, marketers and other communicators can ensure messages reach their intended audience, deliver value, and inspire action while getting a better return on their communication investment.

A good place to start is by looking at different demographics. Millennials and Baby Boomers are both social media and technology aficionados as is evident by the saturation of users, but their digital habits and expectations differ.

Millennials are less likely to use email, saying its too slow or cumbersome. However, Baby Boomers are likely to react positively to email communication such as a newsletter delivered to their inbox. Having not grown up in a world of brevity and online distractions, they might have more patience to read something longer than a 140-character tweet or short text messages.

While social media is ubiquitous, there are communication nuances that need to be taken into consideration. Millennials or Gen Y are comfortable with the rapid pace of social media, but they may not respond to a friends text messages or Facebook post immediately for fear of appearing “un-cool or without anything better to do. Yet, they expect companies to respond immediately to their inquiries. Meeting this expectation requires regular monitoring and designated social media experts to ensure timely responses.

Same-day or next-day feedback across all digital communication platforms is a fairly common expectation. However, older adults who are still navigating new technologies and social platforms may appreciate an auto-response that acknowledges their inquiry or lets them know when to expect a response.

Also, even though both groups may be avid Facebook users, what they expect to get out of socializing in that manner can vary. For example, younger users may use the “like function to demonstrate association with a brand, celebrity or particular thought. Cool by association is a popular currency with this demographic and what their friends say and do is likely to be influential. Older people are also influenced by peer experience, but they may expect something in return, such as receiving a coupon as a reward for their participation.

A younger audience may place greater value on interactivity, which is why games are appealing to many digital users. Even while watching TV, many people are surfing the Web or looking for places to interact as they multitask. If youre seeking to capture the attention of younger workers or patients, consider integrating apps and other tools that encourage interactivity into the marketing mix.

As smartphone and tablet adoption continues to escalate, paying attention to mobile habits is also important. Healthcare practitioners today can access health records or electronic prescribing applications right from their handheld. Tech-savvy physicians may present patients with an iPad while they wait to be seen to help them learn more about their condition or treatment. Those practitioners catering to a geriatric community might have more success forgoing digital communication altogether and using more traditional outlets such as printed pamphlets and newsletters.

With an expanding set of ways to reach your target audience, its essential to consider digital habits and demographics to determine the best mode of communication. Television advertising, comprehensive websites, online newsletters, video, email, mobile or social networks are all viable platforms. However, ensuring success requires addressing the digital habits of your audience.

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3 Responses to Addressing the Digital Habits of Consumers and Health Care Practitioners

  1. Jason Boies says:

    Nice piece here, DJ.

    You’re right about the younger demographics wanting an instant response from companies now in the era of Twitter. I’m quite guilty of that impatience myself now.

    If you’re going to have a presence on social platforms like Twitter, you had better be prepared to monitor it around the clock. Having a presence yet not engaging is worse than not being there.

    Good to see more articles making note of the fact that the older (Boomer) generation is indeed using social media and mobile in increasing numbers. I believe the 65+ demographic is currently the fastest growing demo for Facebook. That’s of particular interest to healthcare and pharmaceuticals, as a fair amount of their target audience will fall in that group.

    Good breakdown here.

    Cheers

    Jason Boies
    Radian6 Community Team
    @Radian6

  2. Thanks for the comment, Jason.
    As someone who constantly uses (and works within) social networks, but who falls firmly in GenX, I, too want fast answers from those use social media platforms for their businesses. And I really liked that DJ touched upon Boomers (and older), because I think we often leave them out of the social media conversation. And we can’t do that in pharma.

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