In 2013 the new millennium officially became a teenager. And like all teenagers, it is seriously addicted to social media. Really, mom and dad should consider limiting its data plan. Hospitals, however, are still playing catch up in the social media space. There are plenty of excuses, from staffing problems to technical ditziness. But none is acceptable anymore. MySpace, the granddaddy of social media, was created ten years ago. It’s time the healthcare industry got with it. An infographic by Demi & Cooper Advertising and DC Interactive Group highlights just where hospitals stand in the social space. Only 26% use social media. No, that is not a typo—just one-quarter of hospitals in the US use any type of social media. Of those,
- 84% are on Facebook
- 64% are on Twitter
- 46% are on YouTube
- 12% blog
So that’s where we stand. Now let’s look at healthcare consumers. About one-third of consumers use social sites for health-related matters. And these patients are sharing their experiences, with 44% of respondents saying they were likely or very likely to share a positive experience they had with a hospital. More notably, 40% said they were likely or very likely to share a negative experience they had with a hospital. So like it or not, patients are talking about your organization on social media sites. It’s a hospital marketer’s duty to be there to listen, share successes, and respond to complaints. Let’s take a tip from the newly pimple-faced millennium and get social.
Here are five resolutions all hospital marketers should make for the coming year.
1. Tell powerful patient stories.
Perhaps the greatest value of social media is the ability to quickly and easily connect with patients. From there, it’s up to the marketer to make this connection meaningful. Often, the best way to accomplish this is by telling meaningful, powerful patient stories. Luckily for us, these stories already exist out there. We just have to find them. To do this, track any keyword or hashtag that relates to your organization. A third party platform such as HootSuite can facilitate this. If you don’t find much, start soliciting patient stories. From there, you can share them on Facebook, re-tweet them on Twitter, or write up a blog post, which you can then link to on Facebook and Twitter. In some cases, YouTube may be the best storytelling medium. There are countless ways to share positive patient experiences through social media. And the more often you do it, the easier the process will become.
2. Do something innovative.
Another benefit of social media campaigns versus traditional marketing campaigns is that you can afford to take more risks. If a marketing campaign bombs, you’ve wasted money on print materials and advertising space. But, in most cases, if a social media campaign misses the mark you’re only real cost is the time it took to execute it. Besides, in social media taking a risk can pay off big. Here are some ideas to get your gears turning:
- Live-tweet a surgery to highlight a service line
- Experiment with fundraising through Facebook
- Set up a weekly doc Q&A time on Twitter
- Use social media to attract new physicians and staff
- Ask a patient to live-tweet a “day in the life” at your organization
Get creative and see what sticks. As a bonus, local press love to cover innovative hospital social marketing efforts.
3. Take a hard look at risk management.
Of course, using social media to promote your organization has its risks. As much as people enjoy sharing positive feedback online, they seem to enjoy sharing negative feedback even more. It’s the nature of the beast. But this is absolutely not a reason to avoid social media altogether. Like I said before, social media is about 10 years old. Most people using social media aren’t new. Therefore, most people using social media know that the anonymity users have on some sites turn people into hate-filled harping conspiracy theorists. You can just tell when a commenter has taken a couple crazy pills. Most internet users put everything they read online through a filter and, for marketers, this acts as a barrier of sorts. That said, there are some steps you should take to mitigate your social media risk. Make sure that you have a comprehensive social media policy for employees and that the policy is up to date. Employees should sign a document stating that they understand they are not to post any patient information or any negative comments about the organization. I’m amazed at how often I see a high school classmate post on Facebook about how much they hate their nursing job and mentioning the hospital by name. It’s also important to make sure all providers understand where the boundary lies when communicating with patients on social media. While you’re at it, ask physicians if they have a public Twitter account or blog where they postulate about anything healthcare related. Doctors represent your organization, so it’s critical to know what they’re putting out there. Social media savvy docs can also be great allies when formulating a new campaign
4. Keep an eye on your peers.
The healthcare industry as a whole is behind the curve, but many hospitals are true social media standouts. Keep an eye on these organizations to see how they launch campaigns, respond to criticism, and deal with employees. The Mayo Clinic tops the list of social media trailblazers and provides helpful information to other organizations through its Center for Social Media. UPMC is also a top organization to go to for social media tips, especially it’s well maintained Facebook page. And if you’re looking for Twitter inspiration, check out Brigham and Women’s account. They tweet a variety of posts on anything from health topics to hospital rankings to volunteer opportunities.
5. Track everything.
None of this counts if you can’t view the statistics that tell you which efforts are working, which fell flat, which are tapering off, and which have found a second life. Keep count of your followers and likes, of how many people clicked your links, of how long visitors stayed on that blog post. This information will help you better tailor future social campaigns and give you solid numbers to report to your superiors. With these five resolutions, hospital marketers should be able to commit to having a strong presence in the social media world now and for years to come—or at least until the millennium gets its braces off.