How Hospitals Could Use Social Media

Faceless, nameless health care providers are not cool

People don’t often associate warm and fuzzy feelings with visiting the hospital – or even the doctor’s office for that matter. In fact, dealing with hospitals often feels about as personal as talking with someone who shows up with a paper bag over their head like this joker.

But social media – wait, let me rephrase that: smart social media marketing – might be just what the doctor ordered (forgive me – that was just screaming to be used).

What few hospitals and other providers realize is that social media can actually help them connect with patients. And it can also serve to extend their brand and help build goodwill within their community.

According to recent research, Facebook is the primary outlet that hospitals are using to try and reach patients, but few are engaging them in meaningful ways. Less than 40% of hospitals post daily, 80% do not using Facebook discussion boards and less than 50% posted relevant, actionable information (such as posting health or hospital related events). Infrequent posting, not soliciting fan feedback and irrelevant or worse, boring content is pretty much the Facebook fan kiss of death…

People are not – let me say that again – people are not interested in reading about all the great (when, oh when will someone design the “sarcasm” font?) things that hospitals, doctors or other health care providers are doing when they use social media sites to simply promote themselves. Instead, they are interested in information, resources, videos, etc. that might be valuable to them. Imagine that – consumers actually want information that’s valuable to them – a novel concept (again, a plaintive cry for that sarcasm font).

When consumers can use social mediums to connect with hospitals or other health care providers and not only engage with the “human” side of those organizations, but also to gain valuable tips, resources and information, that makes them more likely to not only befriend a hospital or other health care provider online, but to actually stay engaged and connected with them. And, oh yes, and that naturally leads to patronizing that health care provider when they need care.

Research also shows that hospitals who maintain a high engagement level in the social media space regularly had patients, friends and members of the community provide unsolicited praise of the hospital and/or its physicians, as well as recommendations for their services. What a fantastic way to integrate best practices in social media usage into your overall marketing initiatives!

It’s no secret that social avenues can be a great way to actually engage your consumers. And social media can even help when it comes to rehabbing a company image if it happens to carry a somewhat negative connotation. For instance, people pretty much universally loathe going to the dentist – but if a dentist had an impressive Facebook, YouTube or other social media presence, it might just make you look forward to a visit instead of dreading it.

Maybe more hospitals should really consider using social media as a way to engage their prospective “clients” and create a more positive perception of their businesses within the communities they serve. I don’t know about you, but I’d be way more inclined to patronize a hospital that was not only known for providing great care, but which also had a robust social media presence, and a “personality” behind their brand, than one that didn’t.

What other business, like hospitals, doctors and dentists, carry a unintentional negative image and might consider using social media to build a more positive image? Funny – when you start thinking about it, you come up with all sorts of ideas, don’t you?

  • Anonymous

    I totally agree that hospitals could use social media effectively! But I believe this is one case where the lawyers have mucked everything up. In my opinion, those in the health care (and several other fields) are even more nervous than the average business to open up to social tools because of the risk of lawsuits. It’s a shame, because they’re really missing out on a great avenue for customer service and growth.

  • http://twitter.com/cmasonjar cmasonjar

    nice post! do you think we’re moving toward patients deciding which hospitals they want to be treated in instead of doctors? traditionally we go to a particular hospital because that’s where our doctor practices. perhaps the new wave of consumerism in health care is changing that. would love to hear if anyone has any additional resources on this. thx!

  • Anonymous

    I think it will definitely have an impact – don’t you? Thanks for stopping by :) )

  • Anonymous

    I agree, to a certain extent, Rosemary. But that’s a cop-out. Healthcare providers don’t really have to look all that far to figure out ways to create interesting, informative, resourceful content that doesn’t violate any HIPPA laws. It’s easier to just avoid it altogether, don’t you think?

    And by the way, it is lovely to see your smile!!

  • Anonymous

    Yes, there’s certainly a lot of avoidance going on out there! And…thanks :)

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