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Rules of social media: Get onboard with a hospital blog.

September 25, 2013

    Hanna Jaquith, Daily Briefing

    Hospitals increasingly are plugging in and finding new ways to connect with patients. And yet, just 185 of the nation's more than 6,000 registered hospitals maintain an external blog, according to the Health Care Social Media List, a compilation of social media savvy hospitals maintained by the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media (MCMSM).

    So why the blogging phobia? Hospital blogs require a considerable amount of time and resources, not to mention staff commitment—a tall order during a time of already-strained hospital budgets. Blogs are also oftentimes seen as "riskier" ventures than a Facebook account or Twitter feed.

    Case study: Mayo Clinic

    Rules of social media
    Monday: Define your audience
    Tuesday: Let patients tell their stories
    Today: Benefit with a blog
    Thursday: Master the metrics
    Friday: Sustain a conversation

    But most hospitals' wariness also means that there's a real opportunity for proactive organizations—like Mayo—to get ahead of the curve, according to Lee Aase, who leads Mayo's social media strategy and directs the MCMSM.

    The clinic boasts a News BlogPodcast Blog, and Sharing Mayo Clinic, a platform that enables patients and employees to tell stories about their Mayo Clinic experience, among others.

    Mayo added eight full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) when it created the MCMSM, and brought in four FTEs from the clinic's syndicated media team, Aase told the Daily Briefing. The team is responsible for maintaining a presence across the clinic's various social networking platforms, as well as providing a platform for about 20 other blogs and communities. In their free time, the group also provides training and consultation for 60,000 Mayo Clinic employees.

    "When departments or business units are interested in applying social media strategies, we help incorporate them within our larger platforms and consult on what they might do as individuals or as a specialty area," Aase explains, adding, "We see our role as a catalyst to make it easier for others to take advantage of these tools."

    Mayo's social media team spends roughly 40% of its time on content creation, 40% on consulting and training, and 20% on monitoring and engagement. The investment, Aase says, is worth it: Mayo's blogs "[are] really the integration point—I consider it home base, from a social media standpoint."

    Case study: Cleveland Clinic

    Similarly, Cleveland Clinic has had "viral success" with its Health Hub, an expert blog that features prominently on the institution's main landing page.

    Although the Hub requires an investment—a four-person digital engagement team responsible for three to four blog posts per day, with over 1,700 articles, videos, and infographics posted since its launch last July—it also has provided a real return, officials say. Last month, the Hub had more than 750,000 unique visitors.

    The Hub serves as Cleveland's "social media landing page," CMO Paul Matsen says. It is much less "intimidating" than the clinic's main page—but offers a streamlined experience so that users can access the clinic's Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube channels, he says.

    Alternatively, users on Cleveland's Facebook or Twitter page who are interested in a certain condition or disease topic but do "not want to read a whole article" can be directed back to the Health Hub for more information, or even sign up for a daily newsletter.

    "It's all about engaging the patient," Matsen says, adding, "The Hub is a really innovative, very well received expression of content."

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