What makes a social network valuable ? Facebook (FB), with more than 1 billion active monthly users posting photos, sending messages, and updating their status, has an impressive market capitalization of $65 billion, or about $65 per user. But Wall Street has assigned a valuation of almost $18.5 billion, or $92.50 per user, to LinkedIn (LNKD), the professional networking site that offers its 200 million members arguably more crucial services, such as help finding jobs. Now a cadre of social platforms aims to disrupt the way consumers share information about personal health, physicians, and treatments. Despite a proliferation of apps that let people monitor every movement and morsel they eat, information technology has yet to revolutionize health care the way it has upended, say, shopping. What the upstarts lack in scale (for now), they more than make up for in utility. Imagine joining an online global community of people with the same rare disorder, or finding a doctor on the basis of detailed patient reviews. Facebook may provide its fans with tools they love, but this new wave of social networks offers tools that its users can't live without -- in some cases literally.
The patient-to-patient network
When brothers Ben and Jamie Heywood, both engineers at MIT, learned that their other brother, Stephen, had ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), they were frustrated by the lack of reliable information and support online. In 2004 they launched PatientsLikeMeas a destination for visitors to share personal stories, medical histories, and responses to online questionnaires. Today the site has 200,000 users covering about 1,800 diseases.
Patients aren't the only ones finding value in the content on PatientsLikeMe. The company makes money selling its users' data to drugmakers, such as Merck (MRK, Fortune 500)and Novartis (NVS), and other research institutions, like universities. Even with all the privacy laws that regulate patient data, PatientsLikeMe, based in Cambridge, Mass., is able to bundle and release its network's information because, as Ben Heywood says, "we're radically open about it. We tell our members exactly what we do with their data, where it's going, and for what purpose." And the purpose, they argue, is for the greater good: The data can be used to make better, more targeted drugs and more efficient devices. Paul Wicks, a neuropsychologist and research director at PatientsLikeMe, says the company is expanding its patient-driven, standardized questionnaires, and envisions a day when patients can transfer data from health monitors and other devices, such as Google's(GOOG, Fortune 500) augmented-reality Glass product, to create a "learning health care system."
The doctor-to-patient network
Practice Fusion does not at first seem like a social network. The company provides a cloud-based electronic medical records system for doctors, then sells ads for this platform that subsidize the free service. CEO Ryan Howard knew that doctors would never switch to such a system -- even a free one -- unless it offered them more convenience. To win over physicians, Practice Fusion threw in a bunch of tools. Most crucially, it allowed MDs to easily transfer medical records to one another. Nearly 150,000 medical professionals are on Practice Fusion, and the service touches nearly 60 million patients. The reason doctors have been quick to adopt the service, which was founded in 2005 and has about $64 million in venture capital funding, is the intra-network information sharing. "That's the sell," says Howard.
Practice Fusion has just launched a new service, Patient Fusion, that allows patients to post doctor reviews and check their schedules for an opening before booking an appointment; it's like TripAdvisor meets OpenTable for health care. New York-basedZocDoc already offers those services free to patients, but doctors must pay the company $300 a month, an amount CEO Cyrus Massoumi says they're happy to shell out because the service "cuts out paperwork, adds convenience, and can open up their practice to new people."
MORE: Rethinking health care with PatientsLikeMe
Indeed, the way we find doctors -- and our access to them -- has always revolved around networks; these new, online platforms simply upend all tradition. As Jamie Heywood puts it, "Social networks have existed in health care for 100 years -- as guilds, mailing lists, and simply who you knew."
One of the newest networks is HealthTap, an online hub of 1.2 million doctors worldwide who field questions from anyone, anywhere. (The homepage provocatively keeps a real-time ticker of "Answers served," now approaching 670 million.) What works as information delivery to patients is reputation building for doctors, and -- just as at PatientsLikeMe and Practice Fusion -- the ecosystem offers a trove of data to mine or use to build applications.
The risk with any of the new networks, of course, is that a big social network could decide to leverage its massive scale to enter the health care business. Jamie Heywood estimates that of the 400,000 Americans with multiple sclerosis, 300,000 of them are probably on Facebook, while 30,000 are on PatientsLikeMe. Facebook theoretically could track its users' behavior to identify those with MS and exploit its position as the largest registry of MS patients in the world. But managing privacy issues and monitoring the quality of the customer experience for hundreds of diseases is incredibly complex. It's a barrier to entry that health care disrupters are counting on -- and what they hope will make their social networks especially valuable.
This story is from the April 29, 2013 issue of Fortune.
For those who have been actively tweeting during the 2013 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting, Twitter may have made their 2013 ASCO experience a little different–researchers who did not know each other quickly started a conversation online, oncologists who missed a session found key data through a simple Twitter search, journalists realized it was so much easier to track down a spokesperson by sending a tweet, pharma companies were thrilled that resources dedicated to maintaining an active Twitter presence earned significant impressions.
At the end of the year, two things tend to happen: You look back over the past year to evaluate its lessons, and you try to predict the future. You can combine these two processes by taking the lessons and patterns of the past and applying them to the future, if you can extrapolate the patterns. That’s how trends are predicted. And 2012 has been an eventful year, for both search optimization and social media marketing.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most important developments of the past year, and how they should continue to play a vital role in social media campaigns in 2013.
Many people are active in social media these days. Brands that want to engage customers, websites that hope to gain traction through social media, and marketers who need to create viable social media campaigns have all recognized one important trend: To achieve success, you have to humanize your brand and website.
The social space is more like a personalized space. Users choose what they like, what they want to see, and what they interact with. In other words, users connect with social media on a personal level. As a result, users aren’t likely to respond warmly to a distant, cool media campaign approach on social media channels.
If you use social media just to post links to your blog or website, you aren’t going to gain much. It’s essential to provide a name, a persona, a human being in all your social media marketing and campaign efforts. Don’t go out there with just your website or brand; be there as a person.
Share links, post videos and photos, interact with communities, comment on other people’s statuses. Do what a person does naturally on social media. The level of interaction between individuals is enormous on social media websites like Twitter and Google+.
People will more readily interact with profiles that feature people on them than the ones that are only brands. And people trust other people much more than brand names, even when both operate the same way.
While it’s important to personalize your entire approach to social media marketing, it’s also important to engage. Without engagement, you leave your audience out of the equation. If you do that, you are nullifying the effect of your social media campaign.
If your marketing efforts on social media amount to no more than just posting links, you’re doing it wrong. You need to engage users, customers, and curious visitors so you can change them into potential customers.
Engaging users involves:
reaching out to them by commenting on relevant activitiesproviding valuable input in discussions on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, etc.giving more: sharing links from websites other than your ownhaving answers (or if not, finding them) for people’s queries, even when they are not addressed to youasking for feedback and acting on it3. Be Transparent
It is becoming clear that people value honesty and transparency online amidst so much noise. Brands have made mistakes and continue to do so. But a brand that is transparent, apologizes, and moves on is the one people will remember positively.
The social space is littered with fake profiles, misinformation, and quite obviously not-so-useful information, too. People expect honesty from brands and if one responds to this expectation seriously, that brand will stand out from the crowd.
Building trust is very important in marketing your brand/website/blog. And trust comes through transparency.
4. Go Mobile
More people are logged into Facebook, Twitter, and other social profiles through smartphones and tablets these days than through PCs. Supporting mobile devices is no longer just an option; it’s mandatory.
If you want to leverage the power of social media completely and profitably, you should:
optimize your landing pages for mobile screensplace ads that appear on mobile appsinvest time in observing the user patterns in mobile advertising in your industryunderstand the dynamics of the mobile user: what drives him to click your ad?optimize your social profiles so they look good on mobile platforms5. Mitigate Information Overload
The problem of information overload is persistent, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. When people look for information, they have to sift through tons of garbage to get to the real deal. Search engines aren’t very helpful in this respect, and that’s one of the main reasons the social space is becoming enormously important.
How can you sort through this information overload and provide useful content to your target audience?
Value, quality, and context. Apply these three litmus tests to what you share, what you write, what you post, and what you comment on and you will have the best shot at achieving a balance between being active and generating valuable material for your prospects.
6. Content, Content, Content
Naturally, success boils down to the quality of your content. Links, posts, videos, images, comments, retweets, mentions … the list goes on. Content has always been the pillar of all marketing efforts. There are clear indications that content is going to be even more important in the social media context.
The success of websites like Quora proves that people value those that produce genuine, useful, and high-quality content.
But you’ll have to combine that with exceptional social media positioning. This means you must:
publish on multiple channels, probably several times for reachprovide material that is uniqueoffer vital information directly on social media; people are less likely to click a link through to a website if the information is not very usefulemploy a variety of media to circulate content7. Become a Social Media Superstar
There’s stiff competition in social media for marketers. It’s the hottest place, brimming with people from almost all walks of life, so naturally there’s a ton of competition already.
By doing many things at once, you can make your presence felt and become a social media superstar.
To do this, you’ll have to:
engage in many social media channels consistentlybe very active (but not at the cost of being noisy)also be interactive, much more than being active (comment, reply, mention more than just posting things)engage audiencesbe insanely useful before trying to market anythingbecome a leader, a troubleshooter, a helper, and a friend
2013 is going to be a critical year for social media campaigns. The influence of social signals in search results will only grow. Create a master plan for your social media efforts in 2013, and stick to the successful policies you implement.
Sharing your scoops to your social media accounts is a must to distribute your curated content. Not only will it drive traffic and leads through your content, but it will help show your expertise with your followers.
How to integrate my topics' content to my website?
Integrating your curated content to your website or blog will allow you to increase your website visitors’ engagement, boost SEO and acquire new visitors. By redirecting your social media traffic to your website, Scoop.it will also help you generate more qualified traffic and leads from your curation work.
Distributing your curated content through a newsletter is a great way to nurture and engage your email subscribers will developing your traffic and visibility.
Creating engaging newsletters with your curated content is really easy.