The healthcare industry is following in the footsteps of nonprofits, when it comes to putting social media to work for building community engagement and fostering better relationships.

Nonprofits understand the importance of building quality, lasting relationships for maintaining a base of supporters to embrace their many causes and fundraising campaigns.  

"By utilizing social media to promote brand awareness, nonprofits have been able to build quality relationships by keeping followers engaged with frequent updates, and “late-breaking news”, distributed via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, and more."

-  Nonprofits embracing social media for fund raising - September 21, 2009

Recent articles suggest that the healthcare industry is also beginning to realize the upside potential for social media sites that can strengthen the connection within the community for existing healthcare centers, patients, and physicians, while attracting new followers / patients.  

"At a recent forum in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., 94 percent said they thought social media was necessary to increase consumer engagement." 

"What's more, nearly 80 percent of those professionals said that their companies have Facebook pages and close to 60 percent said they had Twitter accounts." 

"For other industries, those latter two numbers would seem low. But healthcare, it appears, may finally be starting to catch up."

- Social media's influence continues to grow in healthcare - March 28, 2012

"Social media is changing the nature of healthcare interaction, and health organizations that ignore this virtual environment may be missing opportunities to engage consumers.”
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"One-third of consumers now use social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and online forums for health-related matters, including seeking medical information, tracking and sharing symptoms, and broadcasting how they feel about doctors, drugs, treatments, medical devices and health plans."
 
 - Healthcare companies still don't "Get" Social Media - April 27, 2012
 
For community healthcare centers the question becomes, not “should we", but “how”?  
 
How do we best use social media and manage it effectively? Where do we begin? What social media tools do we use?
 
How do we promote the social media concept to our community health care centers, patients, physicians, and become an online voice for engagement?
 
Here are some tips, takeaways, and success stories - 
 
If you do only one thing… Start a blog!
  • “Engage and educate” your community with timely information
  • Share your opinion on healthcare policy 
  • Encourage your staff to participate in posting their helpful healthcare tips 
  • Do not blog about specific cases, or reveal any customer data
  • Do not offer medical advice! (educate, don't diagnose)

 

The Mayo Clinic blog success story - 
The Mayo Clinic in 2005 began utilizing social media channels to promote and increase downloads of its podcasts. The clinic posts the podcasts, along with video and text, on its blogs. It also leverages a Facebook fan page, a Twitter account and a YouTube channel.
 
Downloads of the podcasts have increased by more than 8,000%, thanks to using three free social channels. 


Start a digital dialogue using Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube
  • Become an online voice for your community – start conversations
  • Find ways to connect / interact
  • Share something of value
  • Recommend other sites, articles, links, tools, tips 
  • Collaborate and encourage participation
  • Build relationships – communicate

5 Keys to Social Media for Healthcare Professionals (And Everybody Else, Too)

  1. Know what you want to accomplish - Identify the most valuable knowledge you have, and develop a 90-day messaging plan around sharing that knowledge.
  2. Use a clear voice - build your social media presence using your image and your conversational voice. If you’re getting your staff involved, create your message plan with staff input – and make it clear on the social media sites you use that it’s a team effort.
  3. Look for shining examples - Who are the leaders in your specialty? You can learn from someone else’s success story: what social media sites they use. 
  4. Plan the time - Using social media is a commitment. You’ve got to put it on your schedule.
  5. Listen twice as much as you talk - When you share on social media, you’re starting a conversation. Part of commitment of social media listening.  

      - 5 keys article courtesy of  Casey Quinlan, author of Cancer for Christmas, and the “Mighty Mouth” of Mighty Casey Media

 

Some takeaways to remember 

  • “Engage and educate” – don’t diagnose
  • Ask community members for input on local priorities via Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc.
  • Embrace the collaborative spirit of social media and recognize this journey as away to build bridges and unite staff, volunteers, others
  • Engage  - your connections, patients, and customers frequently, support them, as well as industry leaders
  • If you do only one thing on social media, make it a blog. Educate your community with timely information
  • Leverage Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, whenever possible to share information that is useful to your followers, and to the followers you’d like to attract
  • Be helpful to your community – share general, informative, interesting content.  Safety, diet tips, checklists, tools, tips, etc.
  • Demonstrate your value –  share your success stories
Key point to remember: 
Social media is part of our culture now -- you need to learn about social media, whether you think you need to or not.   
 
The healthcare industry is using social media to get the word out, "engage and educate" followers, and start a digital dialogue to connect and collaborate more effectively with their communities.
 
"The benefits of integrating social media into healthcare marketing efforts are priceless – from improving patient care to gaining media coverage to attracting new patients and staff."
 
 

  - Daulton West, Jr. , aka "DWestJr” on Twitter