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Hospitals and social networking

In blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Uncategorized on September 27, 2009 by gingercatmom

In a previous post, I noted that 54% of Fortune 100 companies are using some form of social networking as part of their marketing communication efforts. What is the role of social networking for hospitals today–and how is the best way to launch an effort for a healthcare organization? Is it Twitter, Facebook, blogging…or all three?

Healthcare marketing experts are writing about this subject extensively. Their advice is similar. First, do your homework. Understand what takes place online. This involves listening respectfully to others and contributing to online conversations when appropriate. Second, focus on content that will be meaningful to customers. Unless people are truly interested in the conversation they will just tune out and “walk” away…which is tremendously easy to do when that conversation is online. Third, recognize that there will be some loss of control. To have a truly transparent, authentic presence in the virtual world, we need to let people speak their minds. Finally, we need to measure and in this respect, online media may offer some of the tracking advantages over traditional media.

Ed Bennett, director of web strategy a the University of Maryland Medical System offers a helpful list of U.S. Hospitals who are incorporating social networking. His most recent data on 367 hospitals of varying sizes shows dramatic growth in the use of Twitter over the past year. Bennett’s data shows less than 50 Hospitals on Twitter in September 2008, with 267 now using Twitter. You Tube usage has also grown, but not quite as dramatically.

There seems no need to reinvent the wheel when successful online communities exist. If we know our customers are interested in what we have to say, and will follow our cues to find the information we need, we have a golden opportunity to meet them where they are right now–online. We can use our creative abilities to educate, build relationships and ultimately create healthier communities. And that’s why many of us got into healthcare marketing in the first place!

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