Sunday, April 20, 2014

What happens when social media goes awry?

In the discussion of the last few weeks, we have really focused on the sunny side of social media entry into the channel via Facebook to engage the healthcare consumer and patient's. But what happens when the special media channel turns bad on the hospital or health system?  It could be from a disgruntled patient, angry family, a vindictive employee, HIPAA violation, or poor judgment in content posted or reposted.  No organization is perfect so it must be anticipated that it will happen at some point. After all, the healthcare consumer, newly insured and patients are the new paparazzi. And staff makes mistakes. It happens.

Don't Panic

This is not to minimize in any fashion the seriousness of what is taking place. It’s to get one’s attention. 

Sometimes it becomes way too easy to panic. And that really needs to be avoided at all costs. So take these steps to mitigate the social media communications crisis to protect the brand and organizational reputation. Many of the steps are parallel and not sequential.

What to do when social media goes bad:
1.)    Do treat this as a communications failure and have a social media crisis communications plan already in place.
2.)    Understand what happened and why. Identify who the influencers will be to add voice and impact the conversation.
3.)    Actively monitor your online reputation.
4.)    Avoid the informational black hole.  Be ready with appropriate information and press statements.  You can’t hold a news conference every time you want to say something.
5.)    Have social medium appropriate messaging.
6.)    Integrate your response across all social media activities. Remember that some reporters use Twitter as a basis for information and facts without verifying the authenticity of the information.
7.)    If the organization blew it, take ownership.  No excuses, the appearances of excuses or pejorative behavior are allowed.  Social media users are a pretty savvy group and will see right through it. It will only make matters worse.
8.)    Integrate paid and earned media.
9.)    Have clear rules of social media engagement by employees.
10.)  Don’t forget to use your employees and their access to social media and how they can influence the conversation.  Employees are your secret weapon in this battle.

And lastly, here is hoping that a social media crisis never comes to your doorstep.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

How can the hospital make the Facebook experience memorable?

Facebook represents one of the more enduring social media channels that hospitals and health systems can use to engage the healthcare consumer and build their brand. As the evolution of healthcare continues unabated, brand engagement and the healthcare consumer experience is everything.

Ask the healthcare consumer to define the brand of the hospital and health system. Ask them to define the experience.  Can they define the healthcare brand in the terms such as trustworthy, innovative, compassionate, or high quality?  Can they describe the typical experience one will have when they engage the hospital or health system?  Can the employees of the organization describe the brand positively or negatively?

That is the starting point. Understanding and defining the brand attributes you want the healthcare consumer to perceive and believe. Then use Facebook to build those attributes in the minds of consumer.  Perception; leads to opinion; becomes fact.  That is what the hospital or health system should be doing on Facebook.

So here are some concrete steps to take for building brand on Facebook:

1.       Define the brand attributes and test those attributes? Don’t guess. The time for guessing or thinking you know the answer without consumer input is over in hospital and health system brand development.
2.       Understand the experience that the healthcare consumer desires.
3.       Understand the level and type of engagement that the healthcare consumer wants.
4.       Based on the data for the three steps above, create the content plan along the brand attributes, experience and engagement to be built and strengthened on Facebook. Yes, one can have three plans- brand building, experience and engagement, but all three must be highly integrated.
5.       Create content that is memorable, engaging, supports the experience and builds the brand.
6.       Create a detailed tactical execution plan and timeline. This is an ongoing marketing activity. It is not once day, week or month. It is all the time.
7.       Integrate the Facebook activities into the life and fabric of the organization and employees.  Employees can be the biggest supporters of the brand or the most negative detractors.
8.       Assign this activity to one person. If it is passed around as a group effort as just an activity in the marketing department, at some point it won’t get done.
9.       Measure, evaluate, adapt and change as you go along.
10.   Be proactive with Facebook. Flexibility is the key here. Leverage healthcare news and events that people are talking about and how the hospital and health system band fits.

Facebook and social media overall for that matter is hard. It takes focus, time, commitment, effort and resources. But done correctly, the payoff is great.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Social media, hospitals and Facebook; a place to engage consumers?

Facebook I think represents an interesting challenge for hospitals to use, but it can be the social media channel of choice in attracting and engaging the healthcare consumer. Now that being said, Facebook is not a one and done activity.  

I see too many hospital Facebook pages that have weeks between posts.  Well, that is not engaging and probably doing more harm than good. The healthcare consumer and patients for that matter will stop looking at the hospital or health system page if it’s not engaging.  Simple really, no engaging content means no page views and lots of negative perceptions which carryover to the brand.  They will go elsewhere.

One needs to be able to post regularly and post often on Facebook.  Think of Facebook as an ecosystem that lives, breaths and changes as its users.  That means as a healthcare organization, one must keep up with the change, looking for those opportunities that can be leveraged to engage and build the healthcare consumer friendly brand.

That’s right, hospitals and health system as a business imperative have to build a consumer friendly brand.  If the healthcare brand is not perceived as friendly, engaging, meaningful, innovative and proactive, that organization is at a significant disadvantage in a semi-retail healthcare consumer-driven market.  

Where does a healthcare organization need to start? Follow the money. And it’s not as crass as it sounds.

1.) In this new age of healthcare one has five markets: Medicare; Medicaid; Commercial; Exchanges; and Uninsured. That’s it folks.  Submarkets and demographics abound but it still only comes down to five markets.  That is what I mean by follow the money. Look at your service areas in those terms and do the market research to understand how consumers are using social media.

2.)  From the data and not I think, develop the strategic social media content plan that is fully integrated into the organizational marketing plan. Social media is a channel, but as an active channel it has to be managed in a strategic, coherent, engagement, experience and brand building fashion.  

3.) Don’t boil the ocean. An organization cannot be everything to everyone.  It’s impossible and arrogant. This plan is built around the needs of the healthcare consumer, not the organization.

4.) This is the full time responsibility of someone in marketing. It’s not when we have time in this day and age.  It’s easy to say there is no FTE because we are “lean”.  I have learned that the great majority of hospitals and health systems marketing departments are really marcom shops not true marketing shops.   
That means you are probably doing a lot of stuff that has no value. 

It also  means that in becoming “lean” there was no process improvement to change what you were doing and removing inherent marketing organizational inefficiencies.  All it really means is that one is doing the same or more with less.

By the way hospitals and health systems aren’t as lean as they think they are. If you want to know about lean, talk to someone who works for private equity.

5.) Start collecting from patients, visitors, anybody really that comes in contact with the healthcare organization their social media preferences if they will share it. Collect those email addresses because this in many ways is about email marketing.

It will take marketing to build awareness of the Facebook page and it seems silly to spend money on ads, billboards and TV when one can place  a link to your Facebook page in an email.

I am stopping here for this post.  There is already a lot to consider and act upon in the first four steps.  Weeks if not months of work actually.  No spoiler alert either.  Check back next week for the next installment of as the hospital world turns around social media.

Until then, have a great week.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Can social media drive healthcare consumers to the hospital?

You bet it can and here’s why from this most interesting social media infographic: 41 percent of patients say social media affects hospital choice courtesy of   This is really astounding when you consider the financial implications. Even better in the report was that 60 percent of doctors saying social media improves the quality of care. And one in two adults use their smartphone to look up health information as well.

When this information is combined with the Mayo Clinic survey  Health Care Social Media List,” Social Media Health Network, with so few hospitals participating in some aspect of social media, the discussion is no longer about nice to do, but don’t have the time or lacking the willingness to  tackle the internal political issues, to a business strategy  that can drive the brand, awareness, perception, experience and ultimately revenue.

So who does the healthcare consumer trust in social media driven health information and content?  Doctors are first and that is no surprise at 60 percent. Nurses are in second place at 56 percent. Hospitals come in virtually tied with nurses at 55 percent. 

Only 46 percent of people trust health information from patients they know.  And if they don’t know you as a patient, that trust drops like a rock to 25 percent. Most interesting is that the trust factor for the top three is really only a few percentage points difference.

The point of all this is really to help marketing leadership in hospitals and health systems; have a rational fact-based discussion in their organizations on the impact of social media on the business strategy. This does affect the overall marketing strategy and positioning of the organization.

Marketing in hospitals and health systems isn’t about making things look pretty anymore; it’s about driving revenue, managing demand appropriately and improving the healthcare consumer and patient experience.  And that is not easy by any means.

Social media is more than an app for the Iphone or Android operating system that tells you ER wait times.  Social media is a platform of engagement and innovation. 

It’s not about posting pictures of new buildings or pieces of technologically advanced diagnostic equipment, those can go on Pinterest. It’s about how you develop content in the right context that is engaging, informative, educational, experience enhancing and drives business.  Social media gives a healthcare organization the ability to deliver content directly to the healthcare consumer or patient to meet all those goals. 

The time for waiting is over. The times to act is now, and drive a comprehensive social media strategy into the fabric of the hospital or health system.  The healthcare consumer is out here looking and making healthcare choices, and they can’t choose the hospital or health system that’s not out there in social media.