By Jenn Riggle
Social media is a lot like talk radio – all talk, all the time. But the question is: Is anyone listening?
Hospitals across the country are putting aside their HIPAA fears and recognizing that social media needs to be an integral part of their marketing efforts. They’re posting videos on YouTube, posting updates on Facebook and Twitter and some are even maintaining blogs.
But just because hospitals are on Facebook and Twitter doesn’t mean they’re engaging with their communities in a meaningful way. Instead, hospitals are using their social media properties as broadcasting tools to promote their service lines, share health tips and talk about themselves.
According to a study conducted earlier this year, 63 percent of hospitals don’t solicit feedback or post questions on their Facebook pages. As a result, their followers become less engaged and are less likely to answer their questions.
It’s as if hospitals are saying: “Enough about you, let’s talk about me.” And unfortunately, no one wants to talk to someone who’s self-absorbed and only wants to talk about themselves. In an effort to avoid risk and control their message, hospitals area actually putting themselves at risk of being irrelevant and becoming part of the noise.
It’s important for hospital marketing execs to evaluate “why” they’re engaging in social media. And why it’s ultimate goal may be to promote the hospital, its social media efforts need to meet a community need in order to be successful.
Community hospitals and medical centers are resources that people don’t want to have to use, kind of like the fire and police department. And while health tips are important, they can serve as a reminder to people that their body can break down and need things like chemotherapy and surgery.
Hospitals need to acknowledge people’s concerns and feelings and find ways to make their communications efforts relevant.
To become more relevant, hospitals to shift from a “me” to “we” perspective. For example, rather than simply promoting its orthopedic services, what about creating an online community that answers people’s questions about when they should consider joint replacement, how should they prepare for a surgery and talking to others who have gone through the same experiences.
If hospitals don’t make this shift and focus on what people want, they risk becoming irrelevant or losing mindshare to their competitors.