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Rules of social media: Sustain a two-way conversation.

September 27, 2013

    Hanna Jaquith, Daily Briefing

    When social media's used right, experts say, it's a two-way discussion forum, not just a company's digital billboard.

    And that's why hospitals must be prepared to do things like answer questions, conduct customer service, and respond to billing complaints via platforms like Facebook and Twitter—something Cleveland Clinic Chief Marketing Officer Paul Matsen refers to as "social care."

    "We have a very active social care strategy; listening and responding to each and every question and comment we receive on our social media sites, whether it's needing help making an appointment or asking a care question," Matsen says. When it's the latter, "we have a defined process to take patients offline and get them connected with the people they need to be," he notes.

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

    Most importantly, patient inquiries via social media sites are responded to or acknowledged within a very short time cycle. "That's critical," Matsen says. "If you're in social media and people are reaching out to you, you need to let people know you are listening."

    That obligation applies in cases of negative patient comments, as well.

    "We always thank the user for reaching out to us and acknowledge their experience," says Joe Milicia, Cleveland's senior manager of public relations and social media, adding, "We approach every negative comment as a customer service opportunity." Patients are guided offline via a private message, phone call, and email exchange, and—with the help of scripted responses—get connected with the appropriate caregiver, he explains.

    Case study: Cleveland Clinic's Senior Games campaign

    Cleveland Clinic also has invested time and effort into generating engagement and conversation with current or prospective patients around a variety of topics, including evidence-based health, wellness, and clinical content. For the National Senior Games in July, the clinic hosted a Google hangout on eating well, staying active, and managing stress as you age, featuring Michael Roizen, chair of Cleveland Clinic's Wellness Institute, and Barbara Messinger-Rapport, director of geriatric medicine.

    "It's important to engage with patients before they need you for clinical care. You really want to arm them with the information they need to live a healthy life," the Clinic’s Matsen says. When the time comes for patients to consider visiting a hospital like the Cleveland Clinic, they will already "know our brand, trust out brand, and we'll be in the running for an appointment. That's what engagement is all about."

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