Johns Hopkins Hospital Becomes Approachable on Social Media | Social Media Today
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Posted by: Joan Justice

The Big Brand Theory: How Johns Hopkins Hospital Became Approachable on Social Media

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Stacy Poliseo is the social media voice for Hopkins Medicine. With a background in marketing and advertising, this is Stacy’s first foray into the healthcare field and I asked her how she found healthcare social media marketing different from other industries.

“It’s challenging. The healthcare industry is conservative and respects privacy ... a lot. Healthcare providers tend to be afraid that they will have much less control over social media than they did with traditional marketing.”

ImageStacy listens to the patient voice at Hopkins. “Patients want to share and they do trust websites, especially the well-known ones like Hopkins, The Mayo Clinic and WebMD. At Hopkins, regulations and privacy are paramount and we are always thoughtful and respectful in our responses. And we immediately move offline if we think there is an issue with sensitive information.”

When asked what the Hopkins approach was to social media marketing, Stacy said that she tries to take in all that is happening in Hopkins Medicine and share it. She wants to show the depth of the institution from research to patient care. Hopkins has a local audience and also an international one. Stacy wants to reach out with social media and give a human touch to the brand, becoming part of the conversation. She wants patients to think of Hopkins as an interactive and conversational trusted resource.

When asked to give an example of an interesting use of social media at Hopkins, Stacy told me about the social media campaign promoting the new Sheikh Zayed Tower and The Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children's Center. These buildings were under construction during the campaign and Stacy used a special interactive Facebook application to create the page, “A New Era is Here” on the Johns Hopkins page. Anyone could go to the page and learn about the new buildings, take a video tour, take a quiz about the buildings’ construction. There was a count-down clock to opening day, a timeline and detailed information about the buildings.

Image“This page drove over 20% of new Facebook likes,” Stacy said. “Patients wrote congratulation posts and we generated a lot of excitement about the buildings. It was a great example of the public integrating with Hopkins Medicine.”

Stacy told me that she learned two very valuable lessons about social media marketing at Hopkins:

1) “You have to think beyond YouTube, Twitter and Facebook and look to other communities where patients are, in order to listen to them and get a feel for what they want. Go to photo-sharing sites and sites like Daily Strength and just listen and monitor. This is a big part of my job.”

2) “Don’t make assumptions about your audience or demographics. The Facebook audience may be different from the Twitter audience or the YouTube audience. It’s not only younger people that watch YouTube. Be familiar with your audience and your community. You have to really research this.”

In closing, I asked Stacy what advice she would give other healthcare social media managers. “Listen, listen, listen and then test and retest. See what seems to be effective. Listen to your audience and then try different things and test them. Number of posts, content format, and so forth. And this is not a static project. It is always changing and you have to change with it. My advice would be to listen, learn and adapt.” 


The Big Brand Theory is a weekly, exclusive column for Social Media Today that explores the social media strategies of big brands, both B2B and B2C. Look for the next installment next Monday morning. Logos by Jesse Wells.

Authored by:

Joan Justice

Joan Justice is Director of Special Projects at the Patient Empowerment Network, a global non-for-profit organization dedicated to fortifying the health care consumer with the knowledge and tools to feel more confident playing a central role in decisions that affect their health.  Joan has a background in nursing and domestic and international healthcare marketing.  Previously, she was the ...

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