By Nicole Ervast, Business Development Associate
As a leader of a hospital, you may be thinking, “We need to focus on patients and metrics, not #ThrowbackThursdays and #FridayFunnies.” And you’re right. Your primary goals should absolutely be patient satisfaction and saving money wherever possible. But social media is important for all businesses, including hospitals. Chances are, your competition is probably on social media, which means you’re the one missing out when consumers (patients) are searching for a hospital in their area. And people are definitely searching. In fact, 41% of people said social media would affect their choice of a specific doctor, hospital, or medical facility.
Social is Cost-Effective
With ad-blocking becoming more popular and widespread, traditional advertising isn’t working as well anymore. There are so many ads on the web that people are willing to pay to get rid of them. Youtube Red, anyone? And when it comes to offline advertisements, well, people are just too busy looking at their smartphones to notice billboards and direct mail. Don’t get me wrong, these methods are still effective–but they are costly. With CMS penalizing more and more hospitals for below-par metrics, it behooves any hospital to cut back costs where possible. And for the most part, social media is free.
While most social media sites offer paid advertising options, it is not required. Almost every site allows you to create a profile and post as many times as you want, for free. So aside from whatever you are paying your resident Social Media Expert, there is no required cost to having a presence on social media. With that said, paid social advertising has proven more effective than traditional advertising, so if you do have some wiggle room in the budget, I definitely encourage you to experiment with it. Unlike traditional mass advertising, paid social allows you to target your audience, which means you only deliver the content to people who find it relevant. And because the posts sit in the same feeds that people are already looking at, it is very convenient for users to click on an ad that looks interesting. Most paid social is pay-per-click (PPC), so you only spend when users click on your ad.
Social is Not Just for the Marketing Department
With all of that said, social media is not just a branding tool anymore. It is also a customer service portal and an educational resource. People are now talking directly to companies through social media. In fact, Twitter has become a favorite locale for customers voicing complaints and problems. For hospitals, which deal with patient complaints pretty much all the time, it might sound horrifying to open up a new and very public channel for feedback. Which brings me to this awesome quote from an article in Social Media Examiner:
“Even if you have a million complaints, you can still lead with better customer service.”
Using a tool like Twitter to quickly acknowledge negative feedback and provide excellent customer service in response will make it public that you care about your patients and will do your best to solve their problems. Here is a great article that offers different types of negative feedback on social media and how to deal with them in a positive way.
Social media is even more effective in the healthcare realm as an education tool. Take this example from the popular Cleveland Clinic:
It’s getting HOT. For every degree the body’s internal temp rises, the ❤️ beats about 10 beats per minute faster. Be safe during exercise.
— Cleveland Clinic (@ClevelandClinic) June 1, 2016
Cleveland Clinic is always posting helpful tidbits like this to keep the public aware of health risks and out of the ER. They also post almost daily reminders of things like the benefits of walking and the dangers of a diet high in fat and sodium. Check out their twitter profile for some ideas!
Clearly, social media is not just for millennials posting selfies. It is a real business tool with real value (and minimal cost). So if you’re not a part of it yet, I encourage you and your hospital to get in the game. Good luck!