Humanizing Social Media for Meaningful Connections That Matter

By The SHSMD Team posted 09-13-2021 05:39 PM


Social media platforms have connected us in a way never known prior to the digital age. However, some of the positive aspects of social media have gone by the wayside.

Vanessa Ames, Chief Creative Officer and Strategy Officer at Decode Advertising, says there are two big missteps brands take with social media: inconsistency and inauthenticity. “A few years ago, we took this ‘fake it’ path. We were using social media as walking promotional ads and really talking about ourselves and why we were special—and not in a good way. It's like bragging. It's a one-way conversation.”

In healthcare marketing, this approach often misses the mark with audiences. “In healthcare, we want to be seen as experts; as thought leaders in the field. Because of that, it's easy to become so cold and mechanical with how we do social media. When we're talking about the latest equipment or a surgery or new studies and research, that doesn't necessarily resonate,” explains Suzanna Smentowski, Marketing and Digital Content Writer at Henry Ford Health System.

There’s no one “recipe” for how often healthcare systems should be posting on social media platforms. But, healthcare marketers can find an appropriate consistency by being tuned into their audiences’ engagement.

Building Purposeful Relationships

As Ames states, relationships are not built on one-way conversations. Rather, solid relationships are rooted in strong value exchanges. Two examples Smentowski cites are the recent Olympics and Twitter activity by popular fast-food chain Wendy’s.

“With the Olympics, brands have been able to capitalize on [the human aspect of athletes] by sharing their humble beginnings, their family, their home life, their personal struggles. That's what we're able to relate to,” she notes.

Wendy’s is creating conversations by dipping into the “Twitter-verse” with quick-witted responses—sometimes to posts that don’t even mention the company. “This elicits responses from other users; gets people engaged. It starts a conversation. It gets people talking. Even if they're roasting someone online, it creates humor. It creates conversation,” adds Smentowski.

If You Build It, They Will Come… But Will They Stay?

It’s important to note that for these types of campaigns to be successful, brands need to dedicate time to relationship management. Initiating conversations—and responding to them—are both critical pieces of a healthcare brand’s social media strategy.

“You can't just post something and forget about it. It's extremely important to have a strategy going into every post on how you're going to respond,” shares Ames. “If you can grab their attention—and engage with them—they’re much more likely to come back to your website, or your social media platforms, and engage with you in the future. It’s the spark of that first relationship moment.”

Learning More:

  • To learn more about how healthcare brands can better humanize the social media experience, join Ames and Smentowski at the Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development (SHSMD) annual conference in San Antonio, September 19-21. Their session on Monday, Sept 20, “Humanizing Social Media for Meaningful Connections That Matter,” will cover key best practices such as these, as well as topics like messaging and the different types of content brands can deploy via social media channels.
  • To register for the conference, visit
  • To listen to an in-depth conversation on this topic with Vanessa Ames, Chief Creative Officer and Strategy Officer at Decode Advertising, and Suzanna Smentowski, Marketing and Digital Content Writer at Henry Ford Health System, please click here.
Suzanna Smentowski
Marketing and Digital Content Writer at Henry Ford Health System
Vanessa Ames
Chief Creative Officer and Strategy Officer at Decode Advertising


09-15-2021 02:02 PM

This is why we focus the majority of our organic social media content around stories - patients, staff, providers and partners. Our brand journalism team is the engine that provides the bulk of our content. They produce many articles each year that highlight the impact our health system has on the lives of people in the communities we serve. People engage with stories. If we want to promote something, we generally use paid social.

09-15-2021 01:16 PM

I absolutely agree that conversations on social should be meaningful and two way. Looking a private messages, I can tell what our audiences are looking for and use the insights to create content that is meaningful.

The Olympic and Paralympic stories are a great reminder that stories do matter on social. I share a good amount of patient and family stories on our social channels and find that content is was gets the most engagement and reach.