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by Jenn Riggle
More than 1,200 hospitals have a social media presence, according to Ed Bennett, who keeps an ongoing list of hospitals engaging in social media. And while some hospitals, such as Mayo Clinic and Boston Children's Hospital, have used social media to build their brand and create thought leadership, nearly 3,800 of the nation's community hospitals still haven't staked their claim in social media. Why?
Some may be afraid of HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) violations, while others may not have the dedicated staff needed to "feed the beast" and regularly post meaningful content on Facebook and Twitter.
But take heart. There are some simple social media strategies hospitals can implement that won't raise your blood pressure.
Meet with local Social Media Club: If your hospital is located in a city, there's a good chance there's a local Social Media Club (you can check the Social Media Club website to find local chapters). These groups are composed of local people who are passionate about social media and who could potentially become advocates for your hospital. Reach out to your regional group and see whether it would be possible for you to attend one of their meetings to talk about organization.
Create a social media advisory board: Another way to increase your hospital's reach is to create a social media advisory board. This board would be composed of social media influencers who are knowledgeable about healthcare and/or are members of the community who are engaged in social media. The hope is that they will publish content that supports your hospital's goals/initiatives, engage with your organization on social media (i.e., retweeting or posting comments on Facebook), and serve as a sounding board for your organization's social media messages and initiatives.
Make better use of video: Many hospitals are hesitant to engage in social media because they're afraid of negative comments and feedback. That's why a video strategy makes so much sense. Of the social media channels, video provides organizations with the most control because you're publishing your own information. And if you're nervous about what people are going to say, you can disable the comment feature on videos.
Play with Pinterest: Serving as a virtual bulletin board or scrapbook, Pinterest provides another platform to showcase the work your hospital is doing. You can create different boards to "pin" (or share) information and videos about your hospital, as long as they have a graphic image.
Try your hand at podcasts/webinars: Another cost-effective content creation option is to produce podcasts or Webinars. Basically, these are digital recordings you can post to your website. A lot easier to produce than video, they provide another option if you're looking for new ways to add interactive content to your social media mix.
Hospitals shouldn't be afraid of social media, but they need to find strategies that are right for them.
Jenn Riggle is a vice president at Weber Shandwick Worldwide and member of its healthcare practice.
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