In the previous 2 installments of our social media series, we discussed the relevance of social media and how to protect your facility, as well as monitoring and using healthcare review sites. Our last blog post of the series discusses the opportunities facilities have with social media, and things they should keep in mind when creating a social media plan. Now that we’ve discussed why engaging on social media is important (Part 1), as well as well as pitfalls to avoid (Part 2), let’s talk about how to actually implement and/or get started.

Using Social Media for Interaction and Outreach

Patients and caregivers alike are turning to social media as a way to seek information and connect with medical facilities. This is an exciting opportunity for facilities because they are given the chance to interact with their audience outside the typical patient/doctor/facility manner. This can build rapport with, as well as inform and educate patients (and future patients!).

When a facility starts utilizing social media, it should establish a content plan before logging on. It is advisable that you have  one person (or a small team) in charge of social media communication so the interaction is consistent. Here are few ideas of the type of content you could share on your social media sites:

  • Highlight news or upcoming events at your facility
  • Feature a team member who received recognition or an award
  • Provide useful information about your facility (visiting hours, etc.)
  • Post an encouraging quote or news story
  • Publish your PR stories or blog posts and encourage interaction
  • Share exciting news, for example a breakthrough in a medical treatment or research

If you do highlight a medical treatment or research, be sure that the person in charge of your social media only posts general information for education purposes, rather than specific or personal information. Think “general education” vs.  “specific persuasion”.

But social media isn’t just about the facility posting things online; rather it is also about interacting with your patients, future patients, and their caregivers. Interact with and respond to them as they comment on, “like” your posts, or retweet your content.

You may also find that your followers on social media reach out to your facility as well. “Realize that people will ask questions,” said Tracy Lewis in an article in April 2011 discussing social media in healthcare. After all, you’re online now and that means you’ve “open[ed]” yourself to this inevitability, Lewis pointed out. A good rule of thumb is if someone asks a general question (hours, news, address, etc.), answer the question where they posed it. However, should the individual ask something that is personal and should be answered in private, reach out to them in a private message to keep their information secure. This is key to keep in mind because purposely or inadvertently revealing private patient information is one of the greatest risks a facility faces when it starts creating and managing its own social media presence.  Remember, a patient’s privacy is just as important online as it is inside your facility.

Not everyone defines “privacy” in the same way. Some people are more than happy to discuss their personal lives and health issues in great detail on a Facebook post or on a Twitter feed. Others are much more circumspect. The trick is to learn how to engage with each of these types of followers in a way that satisfies both of them – in a way that complies with your facility’s privacy rules.

Look at social media as a way to improve patient (and future patient) education and goodwill.  Social media can also can help you network with other facilities and practitioners.

Social Media and Your Website

Many individuals do not realize that social media isn’t just about interaction; rather it can also impact your website’s traffic and search engine rankings.

Social media is an excellent way to drive people to your website through the content you publish. If you publish posts highlighting pertinent information about your facility, be sure to link to the information on your site. Think of your website as a city, with no roads leading into it. Every time you link to your website, a new road is built. The more roads that a search engine “sees,” the more relevant it considers your site.

How you use social media can impact (and raise) your rankings on search engines. Having a social media presence can be a great way to for people to find you more readily on Google when they type in your kind of products or services.

What about your facility? Do you have a social media engagement campaign going on now? If so, how’s it going? What challenges have your encountered (how have your overcome them)?

What about your social media successes? Have you noticed an uptick in interest in your facility’s offerings?

Snelling Medical’s blog is here to help facility directors navigate the ever-changing healthcare world. We hope you’ve bookmarked us and visit often. Be sure to check back next week when we discuss how to be “the” director your staff and patients need.

NOTE:  A full-color, downloadable PDF is available.