Social Media for Hospitals

Healthcare Marketing: 5 Tips from Big Business for Better Social Media

Healthcare marketers can learn from big business about how to approach social media

An article in Social Media Today  outlined lessons than can be learned from big business about how to effectively use social media.   Here are the 5 lessons outlined:

 1.    Begin with the End in Mind

Have a goal and work backwards to accomplish the goal.   Know why you are using social media.  Pick a goal and prioritize your tactics to accomplish it.

 2.    Be a publisher first

Content is indeed king.   You are a content creator.  You create content. Every time you publish a social media update, email a newsletter or post a blog post you create content.  So to succeed you must publish.

3.    Understands what motivates your audience

People do not care about your hospital or organization.  They care about themselves.  Don’t create content around your hospital, your services lines or your accomplishments.  Create content for you customer.  Your audience determines content.  Understand them and the benefits your services provide for them.

4.    Don’t overemphasize tactics

Social media s a new way to connect with people and talk with them.  The key is your objective.  Strategy is your plan to accomplish the objective.  Tactics are tools.  They help you accomplish your objectives.  And nothing more.

 5.    Enable others to share your story.

Create opportunities for others to tell your story.  Empower them to do so, and always express your appreciation for what they have done.  Take the risk to let them say what they want.

Healthcare marketers can learn valuable lessons from the way big businesses uses social media. Most of our hospitals are not considered large.  But it doesn’t mean we can’t learn valuable lessons from big businesses.  Especially in regard for social media.

Healthcare Marketing: Media Consumption has Shifted in Politics too!

For the two political conventions TV viewership was down and social media usage was up.

The recently completed Republican and Democratic political conventions revealed the dramatic changes occurring in media usage.   Television viewership plunged, depending on the night, from 25-40% from 2008.  And according to Nielsen the television audience was decisively older with very low number for viewers 18-34.  There were ten times more viewers 55 or older than 18-34.

But on the other hand, social networks and online saw a dramatic increase from the conventions just four years ago.  Several news organizations offered live streaming feeds online and both parities saw significant traffic on their respective YouTube channels.   The two conventions have also been one of the most talked about events of the year on Facebook.  But even there, the audience trended older.  Twitter was perhaps the biggest winner among social media options.  Where information is shared in increments of 140 words or less, Twitter only registered 365,000 tweets between the two conventions in 2008.  But this year the Republican convention alone drew 5 million tweets.  About 14,300 a minute during Romney’s acceptance speech, according to Beth Fouhy of the Associated Press.

These numbers just confirm what is obvious.  Media consumption is dramatically changing.  Now consumers are not tied to their living rooms and a TV set for news and information.  With laptops, tablets and smartphones, consumers can gather information wherever they are.  On demand.  Media consumption occurs anyplace online access is available.  And the information is often gathered by consumers in small increments of time and bits of information and not necessarily long format like a 3-4 hour convention coverage on television.

For healthcare marketers, it doesn’t tell us that traditional media is no longer effective, but that we must consider and explore other non-traditional mediums to be relevant and reach a broader audience.  And that is especially true if we want to reach the younger audience.  Only a few healthcare organizations have a marketing staff large enough to have a presence everywhere but every organization should be active in one or two.  Choose the one(s) that could be most effective for your brand and for which you can develop a good competency and consistent use and go for it. 

We might not have learned much from watching and listening to the conventions on whatever medium we used to consume them, but one thing we did confirm is that consumer media consumption is indeed shifting.  And we must embrace it.

Healthcare Marketing: 10 New Social Media Tips

Social media is not easy.  It’s not like traditional media.  It’s requires a new way of thinking.

Mashable interviewed OMD Word’s U.S. Director, Colin Sutton who offered his top 10 social media tips for brands.  Those tips are summarized here.

1.    Don’t Be An Island

Traditional and digital media should be coordinated into an integrated campaign.  If you are planning a social media campaign that’s not connected to the rest of your communications, marketing and media plans, then rethink it.

2.    It’s A Brave New World – Accept It

Don’t treat social media like traditional campaigns.  Social networks connect you with customers across multiple devices and media through two-way communications.

 3.    Listen Up  – And Not Just At The End Of the Campaign

What you hear is important.  It should impact planning, and execution.  It should dictate your marketing moves.

4.    Connect The Dots To Win

Content is king and media is amplification.  Make sure everyone is on the same page and working together.

5.    Goals Can Unite And Ignite Your Efforts

Identify the most desired social actions.  Agree on the goals and determine how you are going to measure them.

 6.    Benchmark Relentless

If there are past campaigns use the data to set benchmarks.  If it’s the first campaign compare against similar campaigns by competitors.

7.    Long-Term Value Is Paramount

Meaningful experiences drive long-term relationships and build advocacy.

8.    Understand All of the Social Channels You Are Targeting

Understand how each channel works and how customers live and breathe there.

 9.    Optimize Ruthlessly and Intelligently 

Collect data, understand it and optimize it.

10.    Think About Eyes, Minds and Wallet When You Are Evaluating Success

Success is more than the value of earned media.   It’s also about perception.  Consider the consumer’s minds and hearts when measuring perception.

Most healthcare marketers are still trying to learn how best to use social media, if at all.   With few exceptions, most don’t have a vast amount of social experience.  But we can minimize our mistakes and maximize our effectiveness by learning from others who have more experience.  That’s why these tips can be very valuable to healthcare marketers.

Healthcare Marketing: 5 Ways to Cultivate Your Hospital’s Brand with Social Media

Your brand must be an integral part of your social media strategy.

More healthcare marketers are adopting social media as a component of their marketing efforts.  But it must reflect our brand.  Social media provides the opportunity to humanize the brand and empower it. 

Heidi Cohen identified five tactics for using social media to cultivate a brand and expand its reach.  Her comments appeared in SmartBlog on Social Media.

1.    Give your brand a human voice (or other sounds) on social media.

A brand can be humanized by how it sounds.  Corporate speak doesn’t resonate with consumers. Instead, consider your brand’s language, accent and other noises.  Sound like a human.

2.    Enhance the visual signals associated wit your brand.

Carefully consider colors, images, icons, type and photographs to make sure they enhance your brand and communicate the brand’s personality.

3.    Tell your brand’s story.

Brands aren’t a collection of facts or products or services.  They’re about stories.  Stories of the company, employees and customers told in a human voice.  Give your brand a personality.  Create with stories.

4.    Develop and incorporate a culture into your brand.

A unique corporate culture is important to community building.  Create a special language, actions and attributes to set your brand apart from the competition.

5.    Brand your employees.

Brands need real people to represent their organization.  It provides a human face.  It builds trust and sincerity. Brand employees and let employees project the brand.

Social media can be very useful to hospital marketers.  And it’s important to let your brand shine through in those social media efforts.  Social media is a unique opportunity to humanize your brand, to create a brand personality and to connect your brand to your consumers.



Healthcare Marketing: 6 Recommendations for a Social Media Policy

The National Labor Relations Board issues guidelines for social media in the workplace. 

The NLRB may not be the ultimate authority on social media for healthcare marketers but their recommendations can be very helpful.  After reviewing social media policies of businesses, they discovered that many businesses were risking infringing on employee free speech and labor rights and issued guidelines and recommendations.

Mikal Belicove reported some of the agency’s findings in an article for Entrepreneur.  Here are six recommendations that should guide a hospital’s social media policy.

1.    Know and follow the rules. 

Employees should be encouraged to read and understand the social media policy.  The policy should clearly indicate what is not appropriate and what will not be tolerated in regard to the use of social media.

2.    Be respectful.

The policy should state that employees are expected to be “fair and courteous to fellow associates, customers, members, suppliers or people who work on behalf of the employer.”

3.    Be honest and accurate.

Never post anything based on rumor or assumption.  Make sure all posts are accurate and true.

4.    Post only appropriate and respectful content

Always be respectful and maintain confidentiality.  Never represent yourself as a company spokesperson or speak for the company unless specifically authorized.

5.    Use social media at work for only work related activities.

Don’t use company equipment and time for personal messaging.

6.    Don’t engage the press.

Don’t speak to the press or engage the press in any social media activity without prior approval.

Certainly this is not an exhaustive list for a social media policy but it’s helpful in regard to what’s permissible without restricting employees’ work-related rights.

Healthcare Marketing: Social Media… “Take my advice.”

The number one piece of advice offered by marketers about social media is “Build relationships.”

As healthcare marketers continue to engage consumers with social media, it’s always good to heed the advice of others.   Regina Wood conducted an online poll on LinkedIn of 300 marketers and asked what’s the most important piece of advice they had for social media.  The results were published in Healthcare Communication News.

The results were:

  • Build relationships with your followers (57 percent)
  • Have a personality (20 percent)
  • You can’t control your message (7 percent)
  • Have a crisis plan in place (6 percent)
  • Other (9 percent)

And some other pieces of helpful advice the respondents shared:

1. “If you don’t have anything valuable and positive to say, don’t.”

2. “You can never take it back!”

3. “Be consistent—don’t just tweet or post for a couple of days and then decide it doesn’t work for you!”

4. “Use social media for professional purposes only. Keep personal specifics to a minimum so you’re never embarrassed by anything on internet.”

5. “Good manners will serve you well in your interactions.”

6. “If your post has any potential to embarrass you at all—no matter how infinitesimal—it will; the Internet is forever.”

7. “Set a time limit.”

8. “Don’t venture out until you’ve tidied your room. In other words, your company website needs to be in good enough shape so that when you’re out there drumming up attention for yourself on social media and people come looking, your site gives them a reason to stay.”

All of these are handy pieces of advice.  Let the wise take notice.

Healthcare Marketing: Five More Social Media Mistakes

Social media mistakes damage reputations and brands.  Learn from the mistakes of others.

Although not specifically directed to healthcare and hospital marketers, an article written by A.J Ghergich, CEO of Authority Domains, and appearing in SmartBlogs from SmartBrief offers some very helpful comments about mistakes brands involved in social media should avoid.  The article is repeated here in its entirety.

Imagine you built up a vast social media following — but because of one small oversight, your reputation started to crumble right before your eyes. Sadly, this scenario is not that farfetched, because some businesses leap into the social media arena without understanding how to maintain a relationship with their customers while avoiding some obvious pitfalls.

By studying some mistakes by other companies that have resulted in negative exposure, you can learn how your business can avoid a similar fate. Here are five easy-to-avoid mistakes.

  • Being crass about current events. Last year, designer Kenneth Cole used the publicity of an international crisis in Cairo to post about his products. He even used the hashtag #Cairo to try to build buzz and reach others who were searching for tweets on the crisis. The reaction was so strong that you won’t find Kenneth Cole’s old Twitter account anymore. It has been replaced. Reacting to current events can be plus for your brand, but consider how some people might react if it looks like you’re trying to capitalize on a very serious situation. Be respectful and tread lightly when talking about current events. Take a minute to put yourself in another person’s shoes and ask how your post could be perceived. It’s possible that if Kenneth Cole had taken a few extra minutes to think through his tweet, he may have decided not to publish it.
  • Getting too personal. Be careful when posting personal content, whether or not you feel it is valuable. Your customers consider your social accounts the face of your brand. Bob Parsons, Go Daddy founder, posted a video of his trip to Zimbabwe on his blog. In the video, Parsons told the audience how he kills elephants because they damage crops, which endangers the lives of the starving locals. After Parsons published the video, the media outlets ran with the story, and some customers boycotted Go Daddy and its services. Though Parsons explained the story in more detail, the damage had already been done. Regardless of whether Parsons was doing a good deed, this type of personal content is not appropriate for customers. Occasional personal content is effective for creating connections with your customers, but keep it light and don’t antagonize people.
  • Being spammy. Resist the temptation to capitalize on the popularity of another company to promote your products. Habitat UK tried to take advantage of the trending topics #Apple, #iPhone and others to acquire some traffic. Unfortunately, the strategy backfired because the tweets had nothing to do with Apple computers or any of its products. Tweeters posted negative messages to Habitat UK’s account, complaining about its “spammy” behavior. Your customers are not stupid. They know when you are trying to manipulate the system. Stay genuine, and don’t piggyback on other companies’ successes. It will only make you look desperate.
  • Putting your account in the wrong hands. The people who tweet or posts on your company’s behalf have the fate of your company’s image in their hands. What they post could potentially damage your reputation. Invest enough resources into finding the right people who will put their opinions aside and prioritize the integrity of your company. Ensure your social media managers understand the essence of your company culture and how you want your brand portrayed.
  • Pretending your mistake didn’t happen. If you ever make a mistake, own up to it and apologize. Your customers will respect you for admitting your mistakes and you can save your brand from any negative backlash. People forgive transparent mistakes much more than they excuse complete denial.

Like all marketers, those in healthcare would be wise to learn from the types of mistakes mentioned and not repeat them.

Healthcare Marketing: Day of Week and Time of Day Affects Social Media Engagement

Research indicates some days and times are better for launching social media campaigns.

As healthcare marketers we take great time and effort making sure our message is just right.  And we are careful to make sure we are using the correct media to reach our target audience.  But what about timing?

YesMail Interactive conducted a comprehensive three-month study of consumer engagement with online campaigns.  The research was summarized by John Loetsier in VB News.    The research of major retail brands conducting online social campaigns indicated most of the campaigns are deployed on Fridays.  But Tuesday is a better day for consumer engagement.  Fridays make sense because that’s when retailers try to reach consumers –before their weekend shopping.  But social media doesn’t work the same.  Maybe because consumers are shopping or doing weekend activities, Friday is not a good time for online engagement.   Too much clutter and a lot less engagement. Tuesday was a significantly more successful day than any other.  And, as you would suspect, Sunday offered the lowest level of engagement.

Another finding was the quantity of social media campaigns did not improve engagement.  In fact, the companies that had fewer campaigns had higher levels of engagement.

Not only is the day of the week important but also is the time of day.  The research indicated the time of day clearly affected the level of engagement but it varied based on the target audience.  For those brands trying to reach college students, the best time of day for a social media launch is between 10PM and Midnight Eastern.  Success depended on understanding when your potential consumers are most likely to be interested and engage with the information you are sending.  The key is to launch the campaign when it’s good for your target audience, not just when it’s ready or when it’s most convenient for you.

Although this research consisted of mostly retail brands, the take-aways are very insightful for healthcare marketers.  For those who conduct social media campaigns it would prove useful to know what days are better to initiate a campaign and to understand the target audience well enough to know what time of day they are most likely ready to engage in the campaign.  Your social media campaign is not something to get completed by the end of the week and send it out to get the task accomplished.  Success requires you to be much more thoughtful and deliberate.

Healthcare Marketing: 10 Social Media Mistakes

The worst-ever advice about social media

Russell Working wrote an article that appeared in HealthCare Communication News listing the ten worst tips about social media.  That list is here in its entirety.

1. Don’t bother drawing up a social media policy.

E. Blake Jackson, social media coordinator for Chesapeake Energy, once read a blog post by a “guru” which chastised companies with social media policies, saying they don’t get it. “I pray for the legal and human resources departments of his clients,” Jackson writes.

2. Put the intern in charge of social media.

Stephanie Johnson, director of public affairs at Advocate Health Care, says social media is essential, so “you need a team that is invested in staying on top of these changes and adapting new elements that may benefit your audience.”

Don’t pawn it off on the kids.

3. Try this gimmick, and you’ll win a flood of new Twitter followers overnight.

Sree Sreenivasan, dean of student affairs at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, says that “the followers you get organically will likely stay longer.” It’s also terrible advice to follow a whole lot of people on Twitter so that you can get followers in return, he says.

4. Ghost-tweet your CEO.

A word to the wise: Playing sock puppet with the CEO’s Twitter account can create trouble if said CEO doesn’t read the tweets in advance, says Tripp Frohlichstein of MediaMasters.

“This can lead to many problems ranging from views not really shared by the CEO to misinformation being distributed,” he says.

5. Insist that when you retweet without comment, it doesn’t constitute an endorsement.

“If you RT something, the third-party perception is that you agree with it, unless you specifically state otherwise,” says Arthur Yann, the Public Relations Society of America‘s vice president of public relations.

6. Avoid anything personal in your social media presence.

Someone once told Becky Graebe, corporate communications manager at SAS, “Don’t wish someone a happy birthday or tell them you’re excited about attending your child’s graduation if you want them to think of you as professional.”

Not so, she says. Social media lets users get to know one another and form relationships as they would if they lived next door to each other.

7. Automatically incorporate blog posts onto Twitter.

Jenny Leonard, editor of Futurity, notes a push to automatically link blog or newsletter posts to Twitter and Facebook.

“As a colleague once told me, ‘Automation is not social; it’s the opposite of social,'” she says.

8. Wait! Send everything to counsel first to prevent social media disasters.

Philip Ryan Johnson, adjunct professor of PR and social media at Syracuse University, disapproves of those who do this because “we definitely do not want to miss anything important.”

9. Insisting that because Groupon tripled your sales, you should do more such promotions—and offer even deeper discounts.

“Deals increase one-shot sales, and [those occur] among a large group of one-time customers,” Johnson says. “They also discount the actual value of products or services … and [this] has negative effects for the long-term.”

10. If you post it on YouTube, they will come.

The biggest mistake on YouTube “is that people will post a video and expect the magic to happen instantly. You really have to do some promotion of your content and make sure it’s authentic for your audience,” said one communicator who preferred to remain anonymous.

She added that “if you tried to persuade a friend to buy a product, you wouldn’t go ahead and shove the product in their face and say, ‘Hey, you should buy this.’ Then 10 seconds later, ‘No, you really should buy this,’ and talk endlessly about the features and benefits. It has to be genuine, and you have to get people to watch.”

Russell Working is a staff writer for This story first appeared on PR Daily.

Healthcare Marketing: 5 Ways to Ruin Social Media Campaigns

Sometimes we are our own worse enemy.  Oft-repeated mistakes prevent marketers from having social media success.

Healthcare marketers can never be sure their social media efforts will be successful.  But there are some common mistakes that will almost assure us that our social media campaigns will fail.

Writing for Advertising Age, Seth Simmons, social innovation director at Mullen identified five mistakes that will just about guarantee failure.

1.    Put your entire social budget behind a single platform.

If you want to drop kick your next social campaign, make sure to pick just one platform and treat the rest like disfigured orphans. You’ve seen the brands that put everything into Facebook and push links to their content on other platforms? That’s top-notch campaign killing right there. All for one and one for nothing.

2.    Ignore any strategy that doesn’t align with your gut instincts.

Given that most senior marketers on both sides of the table have very little time to stay abreast of best practices, let alone discover next practices, relying on gut instinct is a great way to hold a campaign under water until it stops struggling. Focus on how you feel about things and ignore the data. You don’t tweet so why should others?

3.    Leave legal and rights management until right before launch.

Talent negotiations can take months, so make sure to wait until everything is built and TV spots are back from the production company before you start asking why your campaign isn’t like Old Spice’s. That way you’re locked into a single piece of content with limited shelf life, so even if it does get 10 million views on YouTube, you’ll have to take it down after 12 months because your talent contract ended.

4.    Only use technology you’ve seen competitors use.

This is one of the best ways any marketer can drop at least $100,000 on something meaningless. That Facebook tab built 12 months ago by your competitor is a relic from a time when people actually looked at tabs. If lack of awareness is a result (as it is in crisis management sometimes), then you’ll drive tremendous results.

5.    Don’t listen to any feedback from anywhere, ever.

Of all the ways to ruin a social campaign, this is the most effective. Whether it’s feedback from an agency partner, a client, a vendor or consumers, toss it aside. And if you are forced to measure social, do it with a platform that makes pie charts about sentiment with a margin of error even an English major knows is too big. No marketer ever sets out to ruin a campaign, social or otherwise. But social campaigns continue to flatline. Why? Because great content is hard to create, insights are difficult to obtain, and the people with the power to change things seldom know how.

The opportunity lies in doing things differently. Invest in great content based on real insights and stay flexible. Things will break, tempers will flare, and you’ll finally stand a chance at having your brand do something awesome.

Marketers, please, please stop standing in the way of your own success.