Sunday, March 2, 2014

Is social media in hospitals easy?

Last week I wrote about what don’t hospitals  get  about social media. This week’s topic, is social media in a hospital or health system easy,  is about some ideas to re-energize and move forward with a social media program.

In hospitals and health systems, it really comes down to three questions to be answered. First, is there an organizational understanding  standing of the power of social media to engage the healthcare consumer and patients and its place in the annual marketing plan? Secondly, do you have the marketing  talent  to construct, execute  and evaluate the effort? Finally, can marketing resources - capital and human, be allocated to the social media program?

I am not going to debate whether or not a hospital or health system should or should not have a social media program.  That train left the station a long time ago and its catch up time for healthcare organizations.  But, if you can’t answer all three question positively, then you have some basic ground work to do before you move forward.

In the new world of healthcare where price, quality and a newly insured healthcare consumer paying more out-of-pocket costs for healthcare, social media represents an opportunity that can be used advantageously  to meet healthcare consumer’s and patient’s for that matter, demands for better direct engagement and experience.

Social media is an opportunity for establishing a one-on-one relationship with the patient, aka the healthcare consumer, directed by the healthcare organization that breaks from the pack, by creating an  experience that is memorable and can exceed an individual or families experience and expectations.

When you have constrained marketing resources, and you have to have a continuous presence in the market place to shift healthcare consumer’s attitudes, preferences and choices, a social media strategy that is fully integrated into the marketing plan and the healthcare organizations can achieve that end for you.

Follow these steps and you're on your way to developing and implementing  a strategically-focused, comprehensive and fully integrated, organizationally transparent social media strategy:

1. Strategy first, tactics second. Any old road will get you to where you want to go without a clear identifiable strategy. This is no different than a traditional marketing approach. Integrate the tools and techniques of social media  into your overall marketing efforts.

2.  Be clear about  your messages and what value using these tools will bring to your healthcare consumers.  The purpose is to engage in a dialogue not shout at them.  You have to understand what type of information and content your consumers want.  Without that knowledge you can say whatever you want, but chances are no one will be reading, responding or listening.

3. Take an integrated approach.  What goes on your web site is also on facebook and used in twitter to drive traffic to you.  Twitter is a great way to send out links for health related articles or news and information.   Have a video? Post it on YouTube. Writing a healthcare blog? You should be if you're not. Make sure twitter, facebook, YouTube, flicker etc follow you buttons are on your site. Running  Back-to- School, Sports or Camp physicals? Put it on twitter, facebook and even those coupon sites like Groupon. Holding a health and wellness event, ditto.

4. Use QR codes with your web site or specific page links or phone number embedded  in them to drive them to your site, call center or service line. Through the use of QR codes you can make your print and traditional activities social in nature.

5. Remember at all times your are building brand, perception and experience. This just isn't nice to have, people will remember what you say and do.  Be right the first time.

6.  Devote resources, budget, time and personnel for the task.  Your challenge is to keep in front of your audience with relevant information, all the time.  Attention spans are short.  If someone sees no changes on a pretty regular basis in your content or information, they will fall away.

7. Measure everything.  Evaluate.  Adjust based on your findings.

8. Be creative, don't limit yourself to the tried and true or what a competitor is doing. Be an innovator.

9. Use social media with your physicians and employees to communicate, build organizational support and loyalty.

10. Build excitement around what you are doing.

The budding  healthcare consumer and patient of today is social media savvy and networked to the nth degree.  They expect the same of you.

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