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So you’re tweeting, posting to Facebook, updating Pinterest boards and maybe putting pictures up on Instagram—that’s great for your hospital and your brand awareness.
But here are three factors you might not have considered when it comes to social media use:
Employees behaving badly
When it comes to employees and social media, we hope that workers will behave appropriately, but unfortunately that’s not always the case. What do you do when you find out that an employee has a personal blog that contains information that could potentially identify a patient? Or when you get a call from an administrator saying an employee had been having an inappropriate conversation with a patient through Facebook? These are true stories, and such situations, or worse, could happen at any hospital.
Social media has come a long way since 2009 when I launched our hospitals’ social efforts. Back then, only about 5 percent of the country’s hospitals were using social media. Now we’re up to about 25 percent.
With more and more hospitals and brands in general trying to be heard, it’s crucial to try to be unique. It’s time to think outside the box to reach your patients, or potential ones. Unlike other brands, hospitals just have to remember to not cross the line of what’s okay under HIPAA.
On Twitter, look for opportunities to connect with people who are talking about health issues, or more importantly, about your hospital. This week, while monitoring, I found a tweet from someone who was at one of our hospitals, with a link to his Instagram account showing a seriously misaligned ankle. He did not know the hospital was on Twitter, because he just mentioned the name without using the Twitter handle. So I took the opportunity to simply say “OUCH. Feel better!”
March 21 will mark the 10th anniversary of the very first post on Twitter. That tweet from 2006 is now quite famous, and Twitter has grown into one of the most successful social media networks with an impressive history and list of milestones.
Now at 320 million users, this “microblogging” site has grown into the place to go for the latest news. A few hospitals recognized early on that the power of social media, and Twitter in particular, could be a boon to their efforts to connect with patients and increase brand awareness. Since then, according to the Mayo Clinical Health Care Social Media List, 1,014 Twitter accounts have been established by hospitals to support their marketing efforts and reach their patients.
Twitter is a favorite network of journalists who are looking for stories or experts. It’s also a place where citizen journalists tell their stories. Hospital marketing and social media experts have at their fingertips a fantastic opportunity to connect with reporters and establish a relationship with them.
Mark Twain once said, "If you don't like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes." As a lifelong New Englander, I can attest to that.
When it comes to social media, the same concept applies--if you don't like the social networks today, just wait, because there will be a new one tomorrow.
Hospitals are now more accustomed to navigating the social media waters: There are 1,540 hospitals in the U.S. that use one or more social media networks or blogs, according to the Health Care Social Media List (HCSML) maintained by the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media.
The HCSML keeps track of hospitals' use of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, 4Square, LinkedIn and blogs. What isn't on that list, though, is a little network called Instagram. When I say little, it's quite snarky because this month Instagram surpassed Twitter, with 300 million (yes, million) monthly users.
It's no secret that people take to social media when they have a complaint. It's been said many times that brands need to be in social media, because even if the brand isn't out there, people can still mention it, in both good and bad ways.
A hospital is certainly no exception to this rule, especially when you think about how important quality of care is to people when their health is threatened and they face a hospital visit. When it comes to healthcare, expectations are high. So when their care isn't up to par, it's a safe bet people will shout it from their Facebook status updates, tweets and more.
Social media can make a significant patient satisfaction difference. I witnessed this first-hand during two specific interactions within our hospital accounts that showed the real power of social media to help people.
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