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If you're on Twitter, you've probably heard of chats--they're live discussions on certain topics using a specified hashtag. It's a great, easy way for people to get together for discussions and share information.
This year, we started monthly tweet chats with two of our hospitals. For brands, it's a meaningful way to showcase priority services within the hospital and position our clinicians as experts in their respective fields.
The first chat is for The Miriam Hospital (@MiriamHospital), which specializes in weight management programs, behavioral medicine and research, and bariatric surgery. Weight management is a popular topic on Twitter so we developed #WeightTipWednesday. Every week we provide weight management tips and share relevant articles or recipes.
On the fourth Wednesday of every month we hold the #WtTip live tweet chat. We use a rotating schedule so each area does four chats a year. We can then highlight each and showcase the experts within each area through the chats.
The second chat is for our pediatric hospital, Hasbro Children's Hospital (@HasbroChildrens). We discuss a different seasonal topic each month because of the wealth of topics available and an active social network audience of moms provide. We chose #HasbroDocChat as our hashtag for these chats to help with brand recognition.
We promote the monthly chats on our website and through our social media outlets. We use the site TweetChat for the chats because it captures all the tweets from your chat in one place and automatically adds the hashtag to each of your tweets. Afterward, we gather all the tweets in a sort of transcript using Storify and share it through Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and our website for people who might have missed the chat but still have an interest.
When we planned the chats, we thought it would be easier on our experts if we posted the tweets for them so they could talk and we would type. We thought this would be more appealing to clinical staff who might not be familiar with Twitter but who still were willing to participate in a chat. But we've realized this approach was all wrong. We found it doesn't look like a chat; it just looked like a lot of tweets from the hospital.
How can your hospital improve its brands with tweet chats?
Use more experts:
I came across this helpful video from the @MayoClinic. The video explained how to do a tweet chat and do it well. It also pointed out something we were missing--getting other experts from well-known organizations to participate in the chat.
Experts commenting on their own Twitter accounts will result in a truer discussion. It also will align your hospital's experts with others who are well-known in the field and encourage more participation from others on Twitter. Finally, by having other organizations involved, you will have the advantage of additional promotion of the chat from those organizations to reach new audiences. It's not a bad idea to have a journalist or two participate in the chat as well.
Here's an example of a wonderful chat about empowering patients that brought together experts and journalists from a number of organizations and media outlets. The chat got great participation and was featured in this U.S. News story. Here's another example of tweet chat promotion by Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, which also issued a press release. Last month, the American Hospital Association also held a chat on patient engagement.
The video also taught me that our hospitals need more structure in the tweet chats. While we developed questions in advance to serve as a guide, we weren't using specific identified topics. Instead we were just asking questions and the expert was answering.
From now on, we will be identifying topics by including T1, T2, etc., in our chats. This best practice will allow people to follow along more easily and tweet responses to certain topics.
We hope that by incorporating these changes into our upcoming chats, they will be more successful in terms of participation and engagement. And if we can get a story out of it in the media, then that's a bonus!
Are you using tweet chats to share important information and increase brand awareness? What has worked for you? What will you do differently in the future?
Nancy Cawley Jean is a senior media relations officer for the Lifespan health system in Rhode Island, managing social media for five hospitals and a women's medicine practice.
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