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What hospitals should know about changing social media

April 17th, 2014

by Nancy Cawley Jean

Things always change in the world of social media and sometimes it's hard to keep up. Recently, two things cropped up that deserve more attention than others.

Heartbleed

The big news last week was the security breach dubbed the "Heartbleed" encryption bug, because, well, it's just so bad. It leaves users of many sites (not only social media) vulnerable to security breaches. Hospitals using social media should check which sites updated and change passwords accordingly, but don't do it unless the site was actually updated with a patch.

So how do you know if you should update your password or not? This Mashable story has info on major sites. Also, this website will check domains for you to see if it's safe to change your password. I recently received an email from Pinterest that we should change the passwords on our accounts, which was nice. But don't expect that from every site. I'd recommend doing your homework and responding appropriately when you know a site has been updated.

[More:]

Facebook Reach

In case you haven't heard, Facebook has basically adopted a "you've got to pay to play" mentality that we all should have seen coming. Facebook recently announced the organic reach you receive on your Facebook posts dropped drastically; it could be as low as 1 percent of those who "liked" your brand page. That is, unless you start advertising--then your reach will increase.

This may cause hospitals to question whether Facebook is a good use of their time and resources, especially if they can't reach their desired audience. There are many ways to respond to this news and all brands have some decisions to make.

You can:

  • consider moving some budget dollars around in your advertising budget to support Facebook ads.
  • continue on as you are for free, and hope those members of your audience who do see. Your posts will share it with their Facebook connections to increase your reach.
  • post more content to hopefully increase your reach.
  • reevaluate your relationship with Facebook.
  • look to other social networks that might give you more return on investment for your time and effort. LinkedIn is now or soon will allow long form content so maybe brands need to reevaluate it--it's not only for networking anymore!

If you build it ...

There are some very wise people out there who recommend changes like these are exactly why you should build your community around something you own versus something you rent. Rather than creating content specifically for social networks that can change at any time (don't forget, Twitter is now public just like Facebook), why not just use social networks to drive people to something you've built--a blog or your website. Then you are not at the mercy of changes in the social networks affecting the community you've worked so hard to build.

As if we needed more proof that social media is always in flux, it's clear that brands--hospitals included--can't assume today is the same as yesterday. There are passwords to change, budgets to examine, networks to reevaluate and, perhaps, blogs to build! What's the next direction you'll take your hospital?

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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