Chris Boyer: Healthcare Social Media Rockstar


If you’re in hospital marketing, you have to know Chris Boyer. Chris understands the shifting landscape of healthcare marketing. As he says, “Digital is the glue that binds together an organization.”

You can hear Chris every week on his Touchpoint podcast with Reed Smith, but for now, learn more about Chris’ background, his predictions for where we’ll be as an industry in 2020 and what trends he’s keeping his eye on now. Some of his key points include our need to:

  • Get a 360° view of our customers
  • Build better models for digital marketing integration
  • Choose the right tools and use them consistently

AL: Tell me about your background.
CB: I got into healthcare and hospitals well over a decade ago and was on Twitter when it first launched. In fact, I even had a Friendster account!

In one of my first jobs, I learned how to use digital for hospital and health systems by running a blog that focused on hospital online marketing education. We produced educational videos and content that helped hospital marketers understand emerging social media channels and how to use those in the hospital marketing setting.

After that, I worked for Inova as their social media director for 5 years. I then joined the team at Northshore-LIJ (now Northwell Health) as their Associate VP of Digital and Marketing. My last position was at a digital marketing agency working on digital strategy and online patient experience. Now I’m a freelance consultant helping hospitals understand all of their digital touchpoints and how they can use those to improve the patient experience.

AL: What do you think are the major challenges facing organizations in terms of their digital planning and marketing?
CB: Well, the first challenge is that digital has advanced so far and so significantly in the last 10 years. There are so many tools now. With that large toolset that’s available and with the challenges hospitals are facing now with finding and keeping patients—what tools are right for the right people? How can we reach the audiences we want to reach?

Second piece, now that we’ve built this sophisticated technology delivery system: How do we support that with the right content? Resources are really important when you’re looking at personalization, for example. Marketing automation is powerful if used properly; it can make content relevant for the right audience, but you can get lost if you segment too much. The other danger of segmentation is that your content needs become increasingly complex.

Third, in adopting so many tools, a lot of strategic plans are created and expensive software is purchased. But then these things sit on a shelf and gather dust. As a hospital marketer, and I know this firsthand from being on the inside, we usually spend our time putting out fires instead of being able to focus on using our tools strategically.

It’s like a cheetah that first sits on the rock, looking out across the savannah deciding which animal to chase. We need that time on our rock to plan. But we never seem to get the time to anticipate what’s next. We just are constantly chasing what’s in front of us at that moment.

AL: What other trends do you see that make you hopeful for the industry?
CB: Oh I see many. I’m encouraged to see that organizations are starting to understand:

  1. Segmentation: We are realizing we can’t sub-segment to the point that it’s no longer meaningful. Becoming too relevant can sometimes make us irrelevant.
  2. Audience characteristics: They are developing sophisticated personas. We see organizations using CRM tools and marketing data. They’re trying to get a better understanding of their customer segments. This is exciting because they are using actionable data to drive decisions.

AL: Where do you see us in 2020, Chris?
CB: Here’s some of what I see happening:

  1. Integration of all of your digital efforts: Because of the demands of our jobs, and complexity of our tools and the needs of consumers, organizations need to build a digital model that’s interoperable—integrating your website, social media, email and other MarTech tools. Then, we need to create content that’s portable and mobile that can go into any of those platforms. When people are communicating with your organization, we want to make sure we’re covering all the touchpoints.
  2. Knowing your audience: Hospitals will spend more time understanding who they’re communicating with; persona development is key. But often, personal development is very one-sided. We need to spend more time figuring out if our content is resonating with our audiences. Social gives organizations a great opportunity to determine if there’s positive reception or not. In the future, hospitals will begin using that feedback and many other types of feedback to integrate into crafting their overall patient experience. That means they’ll truly start getting a 360° view of their customers.
  3. Breaking down the siloes: In whatever ways you can. Marketing is no longer just marketing, communications is no longer communications. Digital is the glue that binds the organization, so spend time with your patient experience staff, foundation, population health, patient education and the clinical side of the organization. Healthcare marketing is evolving to address ALL the ways patients interact with your system.

Want to learn more about Chris? Check out his website and definitely tune into the podcast. You’ll learn about the landscape in healthcare marketing right now—plus Reed and Chris are a pretty entertaining pair.

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