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Social Media in Health Care, Part 1 | The Basics

Engaging your brand in social media is kind of a no-brainer – unless you’re in the healthcare industry. In our experience, some healthcare organizations have been hesitant to make the move into social media due to confusion about what to discuss, how to engage with patients, or fear of running afoul of HIPAA regulations.

This series attempts to break down the basics and offer some guidance as to how to navigate the social media waters.

Social media tends to be either something you love or you hate. Regardless of where you stand, the impact it’s made on communication and within society is undeniable. Whether that’s been a positive or negative impact can be debated at length, but we know that it’s become a valuable space for companies and brands to communicate with their customers, both existing and potential.

Social media can have lasting, positive brand impact with patients if it’s done correctly. It offers a way to engage with patients & potential patients by going to them, rather than asking them to come to you. It’s casual – not the typical “stuffy” or “clinical” communications patients are accustomed to. And it’s responsive – you can respond real-time to events as they happen and engage in conversations with patients about what’s important to them.

Beyond that, simply your presence on social media, if regularly used, creates top-of-mind awareness with your audience. Bonus: if you do it right, it’ll potentially generate brand preference when the time comes when someone needs your services.

But before you dive right in and open up an account, do your homework. Create a plan. Some items to consider:

  • Is your audience already engaged in social media?
  • What value will you bring to your audience?
  • Who will manage the social media account(s) at your organization?
  • Do you already have a framework of how employees can/cannot engage in social media? Do you need to create one?
  • What is your online marketing strategy? (Specifically: who generates the content and what does it focus on, how frequently will you post, does someone need to pre-approve posts before they’re pushed live, how will you let your audience know you’re on Facebook?…)
  • How will you measure success? This is a tricky one. Our recommendation is to avoid trying to peg ROI for a health organization to social media. It just won’t be successful. Look at other metrics – number of likes or followers, engagement on posts, sharing – just don’t handcuff social media to dollars.

Here’s what we know:

  • 3 out of 4 adults use the internet for health & wellness information
    • 22% of these access internet sources at least once a week
    • 18% of these adults access a patient portal
    • But only 17% trust the medical information other people share on social media

Take some time to ruminate over the info above and answer the questions posed. In part 2, we’ll evaluate popular social media platforms to help you determine which one may be a good fit.



Source, all stats: “Go online. Stat.” Advertising Age. Healthcare Marketing Kantar Media supplement. October 17, 2016. p.11

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