Consumers have become very savvy and bold in their use of social media to express anger and dissatisfaction against corporations and organizations.
Many hospitals are reluctant to become active in social media. Some have no presence at all and others have very limited engagement. Some are reluctant due to compliance issues and others are just afraid of the potential for negative comments. Why provide a venue for negative comments is the argument? And the hesitations are understandable.
BUT, the lack of engagement in social media by a hospital doesn’t mean the conversations aren’t happening. Our reluctance doesn’t stop the conversations. And even more alarming, consumers are becoming more strident and sophisticated in their use of social media to express anger and dissatisfaction.
Here are just a couple of examples. A college student in Washington D.C. used a petition on Change.org to try to pressure Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts to reverse it’s denial of rehabilitation coverage for his father. A mother launched a social media campaign against Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia after it denied a transplant to her child because, as the mother contended, her child was developmentally disabled. Both organizations I’m sure based their decision upon existing standards, policies and practices. But that didn’t stop the individuals from initiating a social media campaign and engaging many others in their effort to damage the brand’s reputation. These individuals were acting emotionally out of anger and outrage, and maybe hopelessness. Many consumers have found that traditional appeals do not get the results desired and so they turn to social media guerrilla tactics. They hope they can create enough pressure to get their desired result and if not, they will damage the brand.
Now the big question for all hospital marketers: is there a campaign being conducted against your hospital right now, that you are not aware of? Are disgruntled patients (rightly or wrongly) fanning the flame, attacking your brand and soliciting others to do the same? If you ignore social media, don’t want to have anything to do with it, or take it lightly, it could be happening.
Every hospital should have means to monitor social network activity about their brand. Every hospital should have a social media presence so that if negative things are being said the hospital can join the conversation and attempt to talk the offended party offline to address the issues. And every hospital should be engaged in social networks to demonstrate the hospital’s concern and responsiveness to concerns and complaints.
Hospitals should engage authentically in social media networks and be part of the human discussion rather than being perceived as unengaged and detached. Remember, there could be conversations going on right now about your brand that you need to be aware of. And in which you should be participating.