How to Get Started on Social Media (for Hospitals)

By Nicole Ervast, Business Development Associate

Before I get into all the details, a small disclaimer: the best thing to do is to hire a social media marketer who knows social media backwards and forwards. But if you don’t have the resources to hire the expertise, or if you prefer to take it on yourself, here are 3 simple steps to getting your hospital started on social media.

(I wrote about why your hospital should be on social media in this post, so I won’t go into it here. If you are on the fence and aren’t sure whether or not you should delve in, I recommend you read it first.)

Step 1: Do Your Research

Start by deciding who your target audience is. Is it potential patients? Past or current patients? Business Partners? Clinicians? It is probably a combination of all of them. To determine your audience, you need to know your purpose. This could be bringing in more patients, educating the public in order to reduce readmissions, or recruiting nurses and/or physicians. Chances are you have more than one reason to venture into social media marketing, but deciding what your primary goal is will give you something to focus on.

Figure out who you want to reach, and then scout out the most popular social networks to find out which ones your audience(s) are on. You know what they are: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest and even Snapchat. From my experience, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram seem to be the most popular networks for hospitals.

At the same time, start snooping on your competitors. Observe which social networks they are on and what they are posting. A great tool to use is Rival IQ, which allows you to input up to 5 competitors and gives you valuable insight on what social networks they are on, how many followers they have, what keywords they are using and how much engagement they receive. They offer a free 7-day trial, which is sufficient time for you to get a good picture of your industry landscape. If any of your competitors seem to have a lot of engagement (likes, shares, comments), you may want to mimic their strategy.

Step 2: Create Your Hospital’s Social Media Profiles

Once you’ve done your research and decided which social networks your hospital will join, it’s time to sign up. For each social network, you will need to create a profile for your hospital. Some items will be uniform: every network allows you to display your hospital name, an “about” or “bio” section, a profile photo, a phone number, and a website address. You should utilize all of these items, or as many as possible. Here are some tips:

  • The “About” section should be one paragraph that describes your hospital concisely. You may already have an “About Us” page on your website–just use the same text (Twitter is the exception–you can only write one to two sentences here, as there is a 140-character limit)
  • Your display name should be the name of your hospital
  • Your profile picture should be your hospital’s logo (this is the image that will appear next to your display name each time you post or comment)

Here are some tips for creating profiles on each of the most popular social networks:


Your cover photo is displayed on your profile and should be an image that represents your brand. Make sure you use a high quality image of the appropriate size–having a blurry cover photo makes you look like you don’t know what you’re doing, or are too lazy to resize/choose another photo.

A cool feature of Facebook is the customize-able Call-to-Action button that you can link to a page on your website. You can edit this button to display different phrases, such as “Contact Us,” “Learn More,” and “Call Now.” You can also customize your tabs. There are the classic Timeline, About and Photos tabs, but you can also add Services, Reviews and Videos tabs. I encourage you to experiment with these and see which ones resonate.


On Twitter, you need a display name and a username. The display name may be used by multiple users, but each user has a unique username. For example, if you search “Keystone Healthcare” on Twitter, there will be several accounts that populate with that display name or a very similar display name. However, if you search @keystonehcmgmt, you will only find our account, since the username is unique. Depending on how popular the name of your hospital is (especially if you are a St. Joseph’s, Memorial or Baptist), you may have to play around with adding abbreviations or numbers to your username. A best practice is to use an abbreviation that is easy to remember, like @stjosephsch for St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, or your location, like @stjosephsmemphis (these usernames are totally made up).

Twitter also allows you to upload a cover photo, to which the same rules as Facebook apply.

LinkedIn (for recruiting)

LinkedIn is similar to Facebook in its profile layout. Keep in mind though, LinkedIn is the only social network on this list that is designed for professionals. This is where potential job candidates are, so use this network mostly for recruiting or business relationships. Bear in mind that everything you post here should have relevance in the professional world.

LinkedIn will allow you to enter in some extra details, like industry and company size. Input as much of this information as you can, as it helps job candidates find you.


Instagram is different in that it is mainly a visual media network. The great thing about it is that it is simple and easy to use. It is also owned by Facebook, so you will feel right at home. Don’t overlook this one, as many hospitals are successfully educating the public with eye-catching photos captioned with easy-to-swallow information. Here is a great example of Intermountain Healthcare encouraging healthy eating with a simple recipe:

This is the perfect dish to kick off your #summer grilling season! Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Pineapple Salsa Servings: 4 Serving size: 4 oz pork and 3 oz salsa Prep time: 15 minutes Total time: 35 minutes Ingredients: 1 lb Pork Tenderloin 1/2 to 1 Tbsp black pepper 2 tsp garlic powder 1 cup canned diced pineapples, drained 1/4 cup red onion, finely diced 1/4 cup bell pepper, finely diced 1 Tbsp cilantro, finely diced Preparation: Preheat grill to high. Rub black pepper and garlic powder on all sides of the pork. Grill over high heat for about 10 minutes, rotating occasionally, until well browned on all sides. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook and rotate until cooked through, about 20 more minutes. Meanwhile, combine pineapple, red onion, bell pepper, and cilantro. Mix well. When pork is cooked (internal temperature of 160° F), remove from platter and let rest for 3-5 minutes. Serve pork sliced and topped with pineapple salsa. #recipes #healthy #yum #tasty #salsa #grill #bbq

A photo posted by Intermountain Healthcare (@intermountain) on

Step 3: Start Posting!

What should you post about? As a healthcare facility, here are some great topics that I find resonate:

  • Health education
  • Hospital events (therapy meetings, classes, charity events, etc.)
  • Employee/clinician highlights
  • Recruiting
  • Relevant healthcare news

Always be sure to keep your brand’s voice consistent. Write in a way that people can easily read and relate to. Don’t just spout off information–try to have a conversation with your audience. Don’t act like a business, act like a human. A great way to accomplish this (and it’s harder than it sounds) is to use a little humor from time to time.

Most importantly, engage. If you aren’t engaged on social media, nobody else is going to engage with you. Don’t make it a one-way conversation. Like, comment on and share other users’ content, and you will attract engagement with your own content.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts! You can find me on Twitter @NicoleErvast.