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.

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