Back

English articles

Social media – balancing bots and empathy

Social media platforms allow healthcare companies to enter into direct dialogue with their target audiences, to identify their needs and to provide effective services. However, for many healthcare companies there are challenges to overcome. How can I engage on social media in an authentic way? How can I engage my target audience and maintain an ongoing dialogue?


Empathy is the ability (and willingness) to take on board the thoughts and
feelings of others without error and, on this basis, to anticipate the
behaviour of people or groups (teams, organisations, etc.) …
– Professor W. Pelz, Institute for Management Innovation

The magic word is empathy

For a social media strategy to be successful in the healthcare sector, empathy is key. Only those who understand and respect the needs, worries, fears and questions of their target audience can create content that will meaningfully engage and inspire in the long term.

Imagine making this a tangible metric, gauging the individual reaction of users; a measure that would also reflect their trust in a brand or company. My suggestion here would be CPE: cost per empathy! 😉

empathie-social-bots-social-media
Empathy is not available in the AppStore / Image: ruprecht.de

Many people are willing to engage with companies on social media in quite a personal way. In the area of skin cosmetics, for example, our users often send before-and-after pictures that provide an intimate insight into their complexion problems. Additionally, posts on the Facebook Timeline regularly include enquiries about topics that we did not anticipate when we created the content. Social media allows us to broaden our knowledge about target audiences, to understand the way people think even more fully and, as a result, to provide them with detailed information that is of genuine interest – and that may have been lacking in the past. It is essential for a dialogue to take place, fuelled by both sides. And that means investing time!

Guidelines as a supporting framework

Social media guidelines are a good way to streamline the amount of time spent managing social media channels. With the aid of such documents, responsibilities are defined before live interactions, and scripted scenarios contain an agreed range of possible responses and reactions to use if a customer reports side-effects for example – or for specific comments and messages. Scripting and preparedness are important, but flexibility is also. It is vital that the wording of prepared responses can be adapted to individual user enquiries and specific personal needs. Again, the keyword is empathy.

What role do bots play in this model?

The use of bots represents one step further towards standardised processes. At a basic level, we distinguish between two types of bots for social media use:

1. Social bots

Social bots or social networking bots – better known as ‘bad bots’ – simulate behaviour patterns that can be traced back to a ‘real’ user. They are often used on networks such as Twitter or Instagram where binary decisions can be automated and would otherwise have to be carried out by a social media editor (liking and sharing posts, automatic comments, automatic following, etc.). The aim is to engage the target audience and/or broaden reach.

2. Service bots/chatbots

Service bots, in contrast, are much more complex and can be used in many more ways. Probably the greatest opportunity at present is the Facebook Messenger interface. Here everything can be integrated, from a simple automated newsfeed (an alternative to publishing a traditional RSS feed or online newsletter) to on-demand purchases. Unlike social bots, service bots are only used when users deliberately turn to them with a request.

And what about empathy?

For healthcare companies, the use of service bots in particular represents an opportunity to provide patients with easily accessible services related to specific products or individual symptoms in addition to time savings. Simple, standardised questions are used to guide users to the most relevant content.

However, as appealing as it may sound at first to have a robot assist us in our efforts to support our target groups, it is important to think carefully about the exact manner in which computer programmes are used. In order not to erode users’ confidence, it is especially important to make it clear when they are talking to a computer and when a ‘real’ person is responding to their enquiry.

Author: Laura Geisreiter

Find more english articles on our english blog.