Monday, July 4, 2016

Ten steps for a successful & engaging hospital social media program. Are you ready?

Social media for many hospitals and health systems are an underutilized marketing strategy.  For a variety of reasons some hospitals and health systems only dabble in social media as a marketing strategy.  We won’t go in any great depth into those reasons or why, but more into how to construct a social media marketing strategy, that will educate, engage and build the brand in some significant ways for the hospital or health system.

The days of saying “we don’t do social media” or only doing it part-time are over.  Healthcare consumers, patients, doctors, employees, volunteers and other stakeholders are already on and interacting in many social media channels. They engage, share information, recommend, praise and complain. 

The why.

A social media strategy is just not about attracting the Young Invincible or the newly insured or Medicare population. It’s about your strategy to build the brand, engage healthcare consumers and patients manage your reputation and grow the healthcare enterprise. Remember that growth is good.

What to do.

What follows for your consideration are the steps for a hospital or health system to embark on with a fully integrated and efficient social media program.

1.       It starts with leadership. If marketing does not have Board, CEO and executive leadership support, it’s not going anywhere. Why- because it all about resource allocation and slaying some sacred cows. 
2.       Improve the organizational marketing process.  Take a step back and look at the marketing operations. Find efficiencies and increase effectiveness. Stop doing what doesn’t work and move those resources to social media. 
3.       Do the market research to understand consumers and patient use of social media, content they are looking for and their needs. Do not guess. 
4.       Create the social media communications plan and content calendar. Map out for the next 12 months what you are doing and when.  Make sure it’s integrated into the master marketing plan. 
5.       Find internally or hire the staff that knows social media for the job full-time.  It takes dedicated  FTE  for successfully running an integrated, efficient, engaging and effective social media program. 
6.       Commit to social media all the time. The 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. By regular basis I mean, several times a day, every day, seven days a week. 
7.       Measure everything.  Evaluate.  Adjust based on your findings. Redeploy budget as needed. 
8.       Use social media with your physicians and employees to communicate, build organizational support and loyalty. Engage you employees and have them follow, re-tweet and share. Follow your staff, key doctors, etc. Understand, who you key community influencers, are and follow them. Get them to follow you as well. 
9.       Use marketing automation in social media to follow your competitors, key doctors, schedule tweets, measure engagement, schedule key physicians tweets, links content, etc. 
10.   Consider outsourcing as a last resort.

The bottom line is that the healthcare consumer and patients are out in social media searching for the hospital, health system or physician. So it is probably about time that the hospital, health system or physician is where they are, not where they would like them to be.

Michael is an independent healthcare marketing business, marketing, and communications strategist and thought leader.  As an internationally followed healthcare marketing strategy blogger his blog, Healthcare Marketing Matters has over 20,000 page views a month.  He is also a Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives, Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association and HubSpot Academy- Email Marketing, Inbound Marketing & Inbound Sales Certified.

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