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How can you use social media to make your company more approachable and successful? You engage with customers, answer questions and speak to their concerns, and act like a human.

That's true whether you're a B2B software company, a retail brand, or even a hospital. 

We talked with Brad Haller, Social Media Specialist at Mercy, a health system in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma, about how Mercy manages its social presence to better serve customers — in this case, patients.

Check out this week's new episode of the Marketing Cloudcast — the marketing podcast from Salesforce — to hear Brad's ideas about how social media is changing to refocus on the customer experience.

If you’re not yet a subscriber, check out the Marketing Cloudcast on iTunesGoogle Play Music, or Stitcher. Our podcast was recently named a finalist in the Content Marketing Awards for Best Podcast of 2016!

Take a listen to Brad's episode here:

Here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Brad about how you can develop a more customer-focused approach to your social strategy. 

1. Adapt, because social is always changing.

The only constant in social media is change. This year alone, we've seen Snapchat overtake Twitter in daily active users. Facebook Live has changed the game in how marketers distribute content on the world's #1 social network. And new social networks are always just around the corner. According to Brad, more than any other type of marketer, social media marketers "have to ride the waves. You have to adapt.”

There's no right or wrong way for your audience to use your social channels. You may find that one month, more questions or complaints are coming through one channel than another. You may find one channel suddenly is getting less reach than you're used to. It's your job as a marketer to staff your social media presence appropriately, research how your audience prefers to engage with you, and roll with the punches.

2. Take on a learner's mindset.

Social media algorithms and audience expectations are always changing, so the learning never stops. You might consider yourself an expert in your company's social strategy, but if you step away for a few months or even weeks, the day-to-day game may have changed — so it's important to always maintain a learner's mindset.

Brad says, “We are learning daily. That’s what we do in social media.” And with every message published, you have more opportunities to keep learning: Brad's team asks, "Was the message right? Should we have tagged someone? Was the time of day right? Who was eating dinner?” After each post and at regular intervals, check the results and decide how to move on from there.

3. Focus on the people, not your own goals.

On social, marketers need to remember that we're talking to people just like ourselves. Brad says his team has refocused its content to incorporate more real-patient stories on Mercy's social channels.

What does a patient need to hear right now? What will make them feel more comfortable? What information does a hospital employee need to be able to access quickly and easily? 

For example, Brad has discovered that Mercy's audience yearns to hear true and hopeful stories of healthcare in action. “The primary goal right now is people. Smiling faces. People overcoming adversity. Someone’s whose life has changed because of our service.” Realness counts in social media. What type of real human stories will resonate with your audience?

4. If your content invites responses, be ready to respond.

A lot of the content Mercy shares on its social pages is touching or inspiring. Mercy is inviting people to read and have an emotional response — so it can't turn a cold shoulder when people begin commenting and sharing in return.

Brad says, “You have to be ready. Because if you approach it from the human level, you have to listen and you have to be compassionate.”

Unfortunately, too many companies say their social goal is engagement, when they don't do a fantastic job of engaging back. “When you put out content [on social media] that is inviting, you have to be ready to respond," advises Brad. His team uses on-call schedules and a divide-and-conquer strategy for all social media posts as tactics to keep them on their toes around the clock.

“We take pride in our quick turnaround. We really try to respond to people in half an hour or an hour," Brad shares. Considering the average consumer expects a response on social in an hour or less, this strategy is right in line with customer expectations. And don't forget to reply like a real person, not a robot.

5. Remember that naysayers are people, too.

Any organization with a social presence needs to decide how it will gracefully deal with negative comments. “We have a policy of not deleting or censoring our audience. We listen, we respond, we engage,” says Brad.

This approach adds dependability and credibility to your organization. Always openly and kindly deal with complaints. Deleting comments usually backfires, and often your most loyal fans will step in to defend you.

These are just the highlights of our conversation with Brad Haller. Get the complete low-down on social media relations straight from one of the world’s most social health networks in this episode of the Marketing Cloudcast.

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