Beauty Tips for Digital Marketing

Million$” is podcast gem I’ve recently discovered. Focused on candid interviews with women entrepreneurs, Clare O’Connor asks interesting questions that can be applied to almost any industry with a digital component. Here are a few things from her recent interview with Emily Weiss, founder and CEO of Glossier, that stood out to me as relevant to the work that we do:

Respect the power of authorship

Today, user-generated content has the power to create a ripple effect that can grow into a tsunami. Peer influencers aren’t a new concept in marketing - they were useful long before the days of the internet – but their digital reach can start a conversation that continues well past the boundaries of their own friend circles. Conversations around products, organizations, and brands can, and often do, take on a life of their own and evolve as they pass through various social circles and platforms. Cultivating a positive relationship with consumers – or target audiences – is no longer just an engagement strategy; it’s a “must do” for organizations.

Build the ecosystem first, then launch a product

Weiss was able to build an enormously successful ecommerce brand because she had already cultivated a loyal following through her beauty blog Into the Gloss. She didn’t launch a blog a few months before – it was her passion for years before she thought about products. She used it to validate her idea that there would be enough support for a product line and generate ideas for what the initial product offerings should be. Online communities should never be an add-on for another program or product. They should be the foundation upon which other things are built.

Focus on quality over quantity

I was fascinated to learn that Into the Gloss had 1.5 million unique users per month and an average of 30 comments per post.  Those comments were enough to constitute an engaged community that could propel a new brand through rounds of VC funding and product launch. That’s a good reminder that large reach and exposure metrics are only part of the story – meaningful connections are with the engaged few, who should be embraced and empowered.

Don’t just market with social media, design for it

Glossier’s products were designed with social media – and today’s selfie generation – in mind. While much of the product packaging is stark, a great amount of thought went it to the artwork on the top of their signature beauty masks container. That’s because Weiss knows that the top of the product is what the consumer will be looking at when using the mask, encouraging her to snap and share via social. Weiss isn’t just thinking about promotion, she’s thinking about creating an experience that is seamless with the way today’s consumers use social media in their daily lives. Social media isn’t just a communication channel; it’s also a lifestyle for today’s younger generations, something we need to remember when designing our programs.

Check out more of the Million$ podcast.


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Using Social Media for Networking

I was recently invited by the American Public Health Association (APHA) to speak to their early career members about using social media for professional networking. My presentation provided some tips for using social media in a professional setting and focused LinkedIn and Twitter as vehicles for networking. Some excerpts from the full presentation are below. The primary message from the presentation was:

The best way to use social media for networking is to use it effectively in your day-to-day professional life.

Using social media in a professional setting involves:

  • establishing professional social media profiles that are separate from your personal profiles;
  • finding your voice and creating fresh content; and
  • getting your voice heard among the noise (i.e. disseminating your content effectively).

LinkedIn and Twitter continue to be two of the best channels for connecting with colleagues and professionals. Below are a few tips for using each.

Tips for using LinkedIn for networking:

  • Complete your profile (it sounds simple, but most people haven't done it).
  • Use the background section to attach a copy of your resume for easy printing.
  • Expand on your previous experience using the same keywords peers and recruiters will use to search the site.
  • Join groups and participate actively.
  • Create a custom url that's easy to share and print on business cards.

Tips for using Twitter for Networking:

  • Use a professional profile picture.
  • Use the bio section to provide specifics on who you are and what kind of content you'll share.
  • Focus on a variety of tweet formats (e.g. text, images, video).
  • Use automation tools for planned content and focus your day-to-day energy on joining the conversation and responding to other's tweets.
  • Make the most of in-person events through live tweeting and participating in ongoing conversations.

Dos and Don'ts of Social Media Networking

Once you've made some valuable virtual connections, here are a few dos and don'ts for using social media for networking.


  • Ask for a job.
  • Ask him/her to buy something (i.e. don't mix your personal connections with your company's sales strategy).


  • Ask to be connected with an HR representative at his/her company.
  • Ask his/her professional advice about succeeding in the field.
  • Ask for an informational interview about his/her organization or industry.
  • Ask which events, conferences, or trainings you should attend.

Thanks again to APHA for inviting me to speak with tomorrow's public health leaders. The full presentation is available on Slideshare.


Ten Things CDC & the White House Did Well During the Zika Facebook Chat

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the White House and the Scary Mom blog teamed up for a Facebook chat focused on the emerging threat of the Zika virus. To make this chat successful, these organizations did a number of things well, including:

1.     Forming a strategic partnership

The three partners in this chat were perfectly matched because have the complimentary strengths needed to form a strategic partnership. The White House brings a level of formality that demonstrates how seriously the government is about responding to the Zika virus. The CDC brings subject matter experts to the discussion who represent the science behind the recommendations and lend credibility to the information. And, lastly, the Scary Mommy blog brings a gateway to the primary target audience and a trusted relationship with the individuals the government is most interested in talking to (i.e. moms and moms-to-be).

2.     Introducing the subject matter experts

By sharing the faces, names, titles and backgrounds of the government representatives during the chat’s opening, they immediately demonstrated that they intended to have a personal conversation with participants. This might seem implied in the nature of a Facebook chat but, too often, health communicators use these channels as just another way to push out information, instead of the two-way communication vehicle that the participants are hoping for.


3.     Demonstrating how they’re taking action

Beyond just getting the facts, target audiences want to know what is being done. Especially in times of crisis or uncertainty, providing very clear examples of the action being taken can provide a sense of understanding and control to those affected.  This is especially noteworthy in government communications where it’s easy for experts to hide behind blanket press releases and faceless web pages.


4.     Maintaining an informative, helpful and approachable tone

Although the CDC and White House clearly had specific resources they wanted to share, they carefully responded to each question with the content that the participant was looking for. By taking a more personal approach to content development, the scientific recommendations seemed much more relevant to the individuals participating.

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5.     Showing compassion

The fear of accepting responsibility for something outside of their control often leads the government to develop impersonal and generic messages. However, CDC and the White House weren't afraid to recognize the concern among moms and moms-to-be and show compassion for these feelings. By responding to participants’ personal situations and showing compassion for their struggles, CDC increased the credibility of their information and the likelihood that participants will follow their recommendations.

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6.     Remembering that Zika is only one factor affecting pregnant women’s health

Too often in public health, we are singularly focused on all the ways we can address a single health condition and, in turn, forget that all of our advice to a particular group, like pregnant women, can be contradictory and confusing. During the Zika chat, the information was balanced with other CDC recommendations for having a healthy pregnancy, as shown in this tweet that also encourages physical activity.


7.     Freely admitting that they don’t have all of the answers

Many believe that admitting what you don’t know will lead to a sense of distrust in the information when, actually, the opposite is true. Especially since Zika is an emerging threat, no one expects the government to have all the answers.  They do, on the other hand, expect honesty. And freely admitting what they don’t yet know is the best way to demonstrate transparency and build trust.

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8.     Encouraging action

Nearly all of the CDC and White House responses provided specific steps to take or resources to read for more information. Not only did this accomplish the government’s goal of the chat (which was likely that participants know the facts and take steps to protective themselves against Zika), but it also gave participants something productive to do with their anxiety. By giving participants specific steps to take, they are empowering them to turn their fears into action and take control of their health in a very uncertain time.

9.     Using plain language

Developing content, especially social media content, that meets plain language requirements is important for driving participants to take action. With an emerging threat like ZIka, many participants may feel higher than normal stress levels, which decrease their ability to process information. Therefore, using plain language not only makes the information available to a wider audience (i.e. those with lower average reading levels), it also increases the likelihood that all participants, regardless of their level of education, will take action on the information.


10. Providing additional ways to engage

As you’ve heard me say before, you never want anyone to feel as if they’ve reached the end of the internet. You always want to provide ways he/she can engage further. The White House and CDC both did a great job of offering ways for participants to stay engaged both in the topic and with the organizations themselves, allowing them to continue using social media to build trusted relationships with their target audiences.

For more information:

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Health Communication vs. Content Marketing

This week, I was honored to join an excellent line-up of digital health communicators at the NIH Digital Summit. I was part of a panel focusing on “reaching patients and people where they are,” where I was joined by Robert Burchard and Erik Augustson - two government health intervention designers. I had ten short minutes to make my pitch that, when it comes to providing citizens information, the field of health communications is being overshadowed by big consumer brands and their exploding interests in content marketing. Here’s a recap of my central message.

I believe that we, as digital health communicators, are in a daily tug-of-war. We’re competing with brands for attention from the same target audiences, and now we’re both using valuable content as a way to elicit a behavior. They call this “content marketing” and we call it “health communications.” And, it may come as no surprise, that brands are winning in this struggle. Specifically, I think they’re doing a better job at leveraging existing target audience behaviors, driving deeper engagement, and focusing on high-quality content. I see this as problem for those of us in public health because we’re working towards a goal loftier than product sales. We’re working towards a nation of healthier Americans. So it’s important that we find a way to enhance our efforts and do a better job competing with these brands.

While our end goals may differ, there are several things we can learn from brands and adopt into our own work. Specifically, I think we need to:

  • Get personal. Tell stories. Drive deeper engagement.
  • Focus on channels that build engagement.
  • Build a relationship with the online community.
  • Build brand affinity for our organizations.
  • Establish more public-private partnerships.
  • Continuously evolve in tiny increments.

Ultimately, we’ll do a better job competing in this ongoing tug-of-war if we remember that: It’s not about the channel. It’s about engagement. We should be putting our energy towards building a consistent, positive relationship with our target audience through meaningful engagement, regardless of the platform or channel. We may never be able to compete with the amount of money big brands spend on marketing, but we can offer a unique value proposition: as public health communicators, we are the only ones with the end goal – not of sales or profit margins – but of improving the health of the communities around us. Let’s work together to do a better job of holding our ground in this tug-of-war, of making sure that our science-based messages get heard among the brand chatter, and of working together to create meaningful engagement that will help us make progress towards our goal of a national of healthier Americans.

For more on this presentation:

Key Takeaways from the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer

Edelman and MM&M recently released The 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer: A Closer Look at Health with a number of interesting insights into how the global “general population” and “informed public” views health industry. Here are a few of the main data points and related key takeaways for public health communicators.

  • Search engines are now the most trusted source for general news and information among the informed public of all ages, and millennials lead the group with 72% using search engines as their preferred source. Takeaway: Ensure your websites are optimized for search engines through the use of quality content, keywords, and metadata.
  • Academics, industry experts, company technical experts, and “persons like yourself” remain the most credible spokespersons for businesses in the health space. Government officials or regulators rank last, with CEOs ranking only slightly higher. Takeaway: User-generated content continues to be an essential part of health information dissemination, especially when content creators are highly matched with a specific target audience’s demographics.
  • “Hospitals, clinics, and other medical care facilities” are one of the most trusted subsectors of the health industry, and private insurance companies were the least trusted. Takeaway: Look for opportunities to build public-private partnerships with hospitals, especially those known for providing high-quality consumer health content, such as the Mayo Clinic. Partnerships could include cross-promotions, co-branding, and shared content development activities.
  • Eighty-percent of all respondents reported they bought a product or service because they trusted the company behind it. The reverse was also true, with 63% reporting they refused to purchase a product or service because they lacked trust in the company. Takeaway: Brand integrity is an essential part of health communications and should be applied to both organizational communications and health campaigns. A structured communication plan and style guide can help achieve brand consistency, especially across a large organization with multiple teams responsible for creating health content.
  • “Innovations,” especially those in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, are perceived to be driven more by an interest in making a profit than by improving health. Instead, informed public respondents cited “contributing to the greater good” as a key driver of their trust in businesses. Takeaway: To build brand trust, develop a regular process for collecting and sharing information on how your organization is having a positive impact on the wellbeing of others. Whenever possible, post personal stories from employees or partners to add user-generated content to the mix. 

For more data and analysis, read the full report.

31 Digital Health Infographics that Taught Me Something New

Two recent trends that I can really get behind – Pinterest and infographics. Put them together, and things really start to get interesting. That’s why I launched a new Pinterest board on digital health infographics.  Here is just a small sample of some of the new things I learned from these helpful visuals:

When it comes to content:

  • Marketers, on average, spend over a quarter of their budget on content marketing. (7 Steps for an Optimized Content Strategy)
  • Ninety percent of all media interactions are now screen-based, and 38% of our daily media interactions are on a smartphone. (The New Multiscreen World)
  • It’s predicted that, in 2015, mobile browsing will overtake desktop browsing in total usage; and 90% of people are switching to multiple screens to browse the internet. (Top 5 Reasons to Adopt Responsive Web Design in 2014)

Looking at digital and healthcare:

  • Social media is increasingly putting hospitals and healthcare providers in the spotlight. Of the 46% of US adults who searched for health information when using social media – 34% of those asked for health advice, 27% asked for doctor or hospital recommendations, and 21% rated the quality of care they received from a healthcare provider. (It’s Time for a Digital Healthcare Checkup)
  • Forty-three percent of primary care physicians compare prescription product and treatment options on their smartphone, and 35% expect pharmaceutical companies to provide customer service to their patients using social media. In addition, 38% plan to upgrade their cell phones in the next six months. (Primary Care Physicians Use of Digital)

New in social media trends, tips, and resources:

  • In emergencies, 18% of Americans use Facebook to get information, and 24% report they would use social media sites to tell others they were safe. In addition, 80% expect emergency responders to monitor social sites, and more than 1/3 expect help to arrive within one hour of posting a need to a social site. (How Americans Use Social Tools in Emergencies)
  • The internet is responsible for 21% of economic growth in developed nations, which is more growth than energy, agriculture, and mining. And more than 6,000,000 students are taking online classes in the U.S. alone. However, 100,000,000 homes lack broadband access, and 46% of the poorest households don’t own a computer. (The Digital Divide)
  • Millennials check their smartphones 43 times per day and spend over five hours each day on social media. Further, 50% watch at least one online video per day, and 60% use a subscription video on demand service like Hulu, Netflix or Amazon Instant Video. (Millennials and Media Consumption)

Last, but definitely not least, you should check out the great table comparing social media listening and monitoring tools in the 25 Awesome Social Media Tools Your Brand Should Be Using infographic. See all of the infographics and follow the board to see when new items are added:

Apps from Next Week’s Social Media Week

h/t: @socialmediaweek @EntMagazine

It's that time of year, March Madness is another few weeks away. And it’s clearly not spring. It's time for the annual Social Media Week. In advance of the formal unveilings at next week's conference in New York, has released a sneak peak of 10 Promising Startups Poised to Change the Way You Live, Work and Play, which, they claim, are "re-engineering the ways in which humans interact with the Internet." Included in the list are several new apps that I would love to see reused for the good of public health:

  • Affectiva - "With software that reads facial expressions, Affectiva can analyze and track the emotional response a viewer is having to a piece of digital content." If the app can provide feedback on online information for product marketers, imagine what public health could learn about its health messaging. Signs of high engagement, confusion and even fear could help health communicators design more effective messages and refine our communication strategies altogether.
  • Cognotion – This app "designs software specifically focused on training the millennial generation - in a language, format and speed that they are very likely to be fluent in - with the skills necessary to succeed at entry-level jobs in hotels, coffee shops and retail restaurants." Because Cognotion uses story narratives and gamification to engage millennial employees, it's developing a set of highly-tailored communication strategies for reaching this key demographic. Teaming up with this app would be a great public/private partnership for public health organizations that are trying to reach and engage youth.
  •  Beautified – “This mobile application aims to be the easiest way for people to find and book last-minute beauty and fitness appointments ranging from blowouts and haircuts to massages, facials and waxing.” It would be great if this same technology was applied to health services. Users could find last minute appointments for non-urgent or preventive services – eliminating the long wait time between the decision to visit a healthcare professional and the actual appointment date and, instead, driving them to take action at the exact moment when they are most motivated to do so.

I’m looking forward to hearing more from next week’s event. If you, like me, plan to lurk…I mean, join remotely via social media…follow the #SMWNYC hashtag on Twitter.

Why I Love Listicles

Listicles – or articles in list-form – have become incredibly popular in today’s online world. Although, some communication traditionalists look down upon them as an inferior format, I love them. Here are four reasons why:

1.     They use health communication principles in a simple and elegant way

A foundational strategy for communicating health messages is tailoring information for a specific target audience. By using lists, you can provide a series of messages and allow the reader to quickly find the section that they perceive to be the most relevant and meaningful to them. In other words, listicles facilitate self-selection of tailored messages and drive your target audience directly to the content with the highest likelihood of impacting their health behavior.

2.     They are an excellent example of plain language in action

Plain language, defined as “communication your audience can understand the first time they read or hear it,” has been a hot topic for government agencies since the signing of the Plain Writing Act of 2010. Not only is using lists a specific best practice within the plain language guidelines, there are a few other recommendations that listicles make good use of, including:

  • Organize to meet the readers’ needs
  • Use lots of useful headings
  • Write short sections

3.     They utilize web design best practices for content

Paying careful attention to how content is organized, structured, and labeled is part of sound user-design principles. Specifically, “chunking” content, which means breaking up large sections of text into smaller pieces, is key to designing an effective website. Shorter pieces of content are easier for a user to read than long-form documents, and the visual effect of small chunks of content help the reader quickly understand the types of content on the page.

4.     Readers love them

The internet has spoken. We love the listicle, especially for news. A 2013 study from Mobiles Republic found than “news snacking,” or checking news content far more frequently, for short, sharp bursts of attention, is now the preferred way to consume news content. The listicle format is ideal for presenting a series of small related news items or breaking down a complex news story into more manageable pieces.

So, when you’re developing your next communication, considering using a listicle. Until then, happy snacking.