Sawyer: Digital and Social Media Have Enabled Nigerians Stay Connected to Their Health Needs

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While most Health Management Organisations are yet to embrace digital media in bringing healthcare closer to Nigerians, Avon HMO is harping on the opportunity to provide healthcare to more Nigerians. Its Brand Manager, Enitan Sawyer, in an interview with Martins Ifijeh said Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have helped in its contribution to the health of Nigerians

What informed your integration of digital media into healthcare provision?
When we started, our goal was to build a highly-regarded, trusted and enduring healthcare consumer brand. Specifically, we wanted to engage with the hearts and minds of Nigerians, understand their needs and develop products and communications that speak to them at their core. To achieve this, it was clear that we would have to deploy alternative channels that are effective in reaching large audiences with multiple messages simultaneously. Digital media offered us the dynamism and adaptability which enabled us to switch gears as often as needed to keep pace with ever-changing customer trends.

Digital media was also ideal as it provided the perfect platform through which we could connect, inform, educate and engage with people. Most importantly, it has allowed our audience to also engage with us real-time. We have over the years built a thriving social media community where we interact with Nigerians on a personal level and they are happy to share their health and wellness stories with us.

How has this strategy helped Nigerians in accessing healthcare?
Digital and social media have enabled Nigerians stay connected to their health needs, no matter their location. We live in a time where there is an over-saturation of adverts and the challenge for Avon HMO is how we can continue to stand out in the provision of healthcare for Nigerians.

Digital media is exciting. Unlike traditional media that is more uni-directional, digital channels allow a two-way communication where people can talk to us directly. You can get an almost immediate response and very quickly, you get insights on consumer behaviour and preferences. From this, inventive solutions are born. For example, we recognised that more and more people go online for goods and services and thought ‘why should health insurance be any different?’ This led to a redesign of our website, which is not only mobile-responsive but also allows people buy a health plan online via the phone, tablet or laptop. A first in Nigeria.

Beyond traditional media platforms such as print press, television and billboard advertising, digital media has helped bring to life our mission of empowering people to live healthier, fuller lives. It has given us more room to engage and share knowledge that will lead to people being more health-conscious. For example, our blog Live, Love, Discover tackles topics from chronic disease management and lifestyle to sexual health and mental wellness. We are pleased to see that people have been quite responsive. Looking after one’s health is a life-long journey, and we want to be the one that people choose to make that journey with.

Your HMO focuses on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram‎? Why those three platforms?
Our approach has been to initially start with channels best suited to deliver the different aspects of the message we seek to share. Facebook illustrates our passion for health and wellness, while Twitter highlights and discusses global and national health and industry news and views. Instagram reflects our personality and is a more visual experience. Across all of these platforms, our audience is very active and lets us know what they think and share their own personal stories with us. We definitely have other channels in mind but we are being mindful of having messages that are suitable for them.

What particular benefits has this strategy brought to Nigerians?
This has brought healthcare to the forefront of the mind of the average Nigerian, even though encouraging them to plan for it is one of the biggest challenges faced. The average Nigerians will make a plan for their rent and children’s education but not their health. An annual subscription to a health plan from Avon HMO for instance, will take care of a person’s health needs for an entire year. There are affordable pre-paid options that take the risk out of paying out-of-pocket when you least expect it.

Our digital marketing strategy has shown us that there is a ready community of people who are starting to think of their health and future wellbeing more regularly and seriously. The next step for us is to expand the discussion from general health and wellness to the importance of subscribing to a health plan.

A further benefit of digital marketing is that it has given us insights into our Nigerians’ interests, not only the content but how it’s presented.