If your community hospital’s marketing budget is being reduced, social media can be the remedy to stay competitive.
Community hospitals are facing some very real challenges — Medicaid and Medicare cutbacks and an ongoing 8 percent to 12 percent decrease in inpatient and outpatient volumes are creating revenue shortfalls that some community hospitals may not recover from. I believe that new forms of marketing, like social media, is the answer when your spending needs to be cut.
I’m not saying social media is the only answer — but it’s certainly part of new marketing strategy when you have limited marketing dollars. If patients aren’t utilizing services now due to the economy and because of insurance, they may be in the future. By starting now, your community hospital can be an online resource and a friendly voice for those that need a medical home.
People WILL find a way to connect to you. Why not reach out and connect with them first? Do it! You won’t be sorry.
Ed Bennett, a healthcare social media expert, has released new data on the social media adoption rate broken down by hospital bed count. Time to Re-think Hospital Social Media Adoption The social media adoption numbers come from the 460 hospitals.
“The disparity should not be a surprise. Smaller hospitals, like those with less than 100 beds, have fewer resources to invest in most outward facing services. There’s usually only one person responsible for everything — marketing, public affairs, media relations, web development, philanthropy, etc. No wonder social media isn’t a priority. In fact only 14 percent (65) of the hospitals on my list have less than 100 beds, and 86 percent (395) have more than 100.”
Out of this data we learn there is a 53 percent adoption rate overall for hospitals large and small. So if your community hospital isn’t communicating to your target market, then big hospitals are.
Don’t you want the voice they hear to be your friendly voice? Don’t you want to be the one they turn to when they are in need of a medical home? Your community wants to know you and the power of social media makes your hospital real and provides a platform to be their trusted healthcare provider.
When you are faced with limited budget for your next ad or TV campaign I would ask:
- What do I need to communicate to my target audience?
- What is the best channel to deliver my message?
- How can I engage my audience?
I believe social media is your answer. Social media is the new friendly voice that will build a community of loyal advocates to your hospital without the price tag of a TV ad. Read more of Ed’s findings: Time to Re-think Hospital Social Media Adoption. Have you started a social media initiative at your community hospital?
Social media marketing can be used as major communication tool for your hospital.
Are you like most healthcare marketers who are quickly trying to get on board with a social media plan for your community hospital? Well, you are not alone. A study by Greystone.net found only one in three current hospitals or health systems has a formal social media plan in place.
I had the benefit to attending the “SCHA‘s one-day social media workshop” where Ed Bennett, a social media guru spoke. Ed has been following social media data for years, and he shared some amazing statistics on social media users that had us all singing the praises of social media marketing. He said that in the past year the mega social website, Facebook, a relative newcomer to the scene has surpassed Google in website visits. At the same time there has been a 10 percent decrease in non-social media web traffic as people spend more time on social media sites.
Tony Chin, principal of Launch Your Movement, wrote a fantastic article on hospital success stories.
10 Hospital Social Media Success Stories
1. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center CEO Paul Levy blogs to run a better hospital.
2. Geisinger uses Twitter/Facebook to recruit gastroenterologists.
3. Lifespan reaches out to patients and family personally through Twitter.
4. Ob/gyn practice patient-to-patient interaction success using Twitter and Facebook. (PDF)
5. Scripps uses Twitter to turn angry patients into loyal ones.
6. Norman Regional Health System spends 30 minutes a day on Twitter and Facebook.
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7. Children’s Medical Center in Dallas tweeted about a kidney transplant from a father to his son.
8. Twitter during live surgery.
- St. Luke’s in Cedar Rapids
- UNC Hospitals
- Henry Ford
- Sherman Hospital
- OSF St Joseph
- Sinai Hospital in Baltimore
- Methodist University Hospital in Memphis
9. South Coast Health System uses Twitter for real-time crisis communication.
If you weren’t a believer in how social media can inspire, educate, recruit and create loyal ambassadors for your brand, you will soon be singing the social media jingle too! For more details, be sure to check out his article, 10 Hospital Social Media Success Stories.
Do you have a social media success story? If so, please share it in the comment section below.
Mayo Clinic attorney, Dan Goldman, wrote an informative article on general thoughts to remember when developing your hospital’s social media policy.
6 Thoughts to Remember When Developing Your Hospital’s Social Media Policy:
- There is no “one size fits all.” Social media policies are as much a reflection of corporate culture as they are a reflection of legal requirements.
- Social media is a dialogue, not a monologue. While you talk, the expectation is that others will talk back to you and that you will listen.
- You cannot control social media, but you can effectively manage it. You can effectively manage social media by crafting clear and reasonable policies, communicate them to your employees and make reasonable efforts to monitor what is said about you in the online community.
- Education and awareness are crucial. The best policy in the world is useless if your employees are not aware of it.
- Expect — and plan for — a crisis. No matter how well you plan, there is always the potential for a crisis. Have a plan for how you will manage a crisis before it happens.
- Plagiarize others in developing your policy. There is no need to start from scratch.
Read Dan’s entire article: Legal Issues (Part 3): General Thoughts on Developing Your Social Media Policy. Another excellent resource is Ed Bennett’s Hospital Networking List.
As marketing dollars are cut, social media is the medium to target your audience and promote your hospital’s brand effectively and efficiently. Studies released almost daily account for the tremendous growth of social media and the impact it has on our world views.
Ed Bennett, University of Maryland Medical Center’s director of web strategy, finds hospitals have gone from having 250 Twitter accounts in May of 2009 to 552 currently, and from 250 YouTube channels to 341. “Hospitals realize that word-of-mouth is the most significant driver you can have, so social media is an opportunity to humanize what can be a scary, complex institution,” Mr. Bennett said. “I tell hospitals ‘Don’t get into social media because you think you’re going to get more patients. Do it because you’re helping be responsible to people reaching out looking for answers.‘ “
Social media is the way word-of-mouth happens in the 21st century. The benefits for the community hospital marketer is social media is everywhere and has touched just about everyone in your target market.
The Benefits of Social Media Marketing
- Opens the door to initiate and nurture relationships
- Friendly introduction you cannot get through traditional advertising
- Allows your market to be aware of what you do in the community
- Promotes specialties to gain patients
- Cost effective medium of the hospital’s brand
- Allows us to build networks of “ambassadors” faster
- “Ambassadors” spread the message more effectively AND more efficiently
Social media is a whole new game — and it’s perfectly suited for healthcare as a whole. Visit Ed’s site and follow a few of the hospitals on his list to see how they are connecting to their target market.