The Growth Channel

Five 'rules of social media'

Hanna Jaquith, Daily Briefing

Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are now part of most hospitals' marketing and strategy toolkits. And for good reason: Social media networks and technologies offer a more targeted means to build brand loyalty, attract new patients, and engage existing ones in ways that traditional media cannot.

But while reporting on social media for the Advisory Board's Daily Briefing, it became clear to me that not all hospitals use social media in the same way—and many of them didn't seem to get much value out of social media at all.

That's partly because marketing and planning leaders tend to rely on social media strategies that try to reach "anyone, anywhere"…a tactic that experts stress is doomed to fail. 

Tips from tech-savvy organizations

I spoke with officials heading up the nation's most social media-savvy hospitals—Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, and MD Anderson Cancer Center, to name a few—for the Daily Briefing's recent series on "the rules of social media." It ended up being a popular resource for our readers, and I'm sharing them on the "Growth Channel" in case there's a way to make these technologies work for your organization.

Rule #1: Define your target audience. In choosing which social media channels to be on, leaders from social media-savvy hospitals like MD Anderson prioritize their target audience: patients, caregivers, and survivors. Just as important: Knowing when not to share information, they say.

Rule #2: Let your patients tell their stories. One of the most compelling reasons to use social media is that it allows hospitals—of all sizes—to establish a personal relationship with patients.

Rule #3: Get onboard with a hospital blog. While blogs require a considerable amount of time and resources, not to mention staff commitment, there's a real opportunity for proactive organizations—like Mayo Clinic—to get ahead of the curve.

Rule #4: Master the metrics. Hospitals need to develop a methodology for measuring the effectiveness of their social media strategy, whether it's with qualitative "soft" metrics—YouTube video views, Facebook likes and followers, and Twitter posts and retweets—or hard metrics, including online traffic, page views, and unique visitors. 

Rule #5: Sustain a two-way conversation. When social media's used right, experts say, it's a two-way discussion forum, not just a company's digital billboard. Hospitals must be prepared to answer questions, conduct customer service, and respond to billing complaints on the Web—a strategy Cleveland Clinic CMO Paul Matsen refers to as "social care."

More from the Marketing and Planning Leadership Council

For more on how progressive organizations are using social media, check out our expert insight, "High-impact innovation networks."

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