By Jenn Riggle
Let’s admit it: Blogs are the ugly stepchild of social media.
Hospitals and brands are going where the action is by embracing Facebook and Twitter. They’re building “apps,” holding Twitter parties and finding ways to integrate video on their website.
But what about blogs, the slow and steady form of social media?
They’re a great way to build thought leadership and many, like Brian Solis and Geoff Livingston, have made a name for themselves by serving as a pundit and providing social (and social media) commentary. The same holds true in the healthcare sector. There are a number of hospitals, such as CHRISTUS Health System and Grinnell Regional Medical Center, whose blogs serve as a forum for the hospital CEO to talk about issues and put news into perspective. The most popular of these is Running a Hospital, the blog written by the CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, Paul Levy. These online commentaries provide a great opportunity for thought leadership, but they require a real commitment from executives.
According to Ed Bennett’s Found in Cache, there are less than 100 hospitals that maintain active blogs compared to the more than 600 hospitals that operate Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. In fact, the number of hospital blogs has decreased from 99 to 87, since many haven’t updated their blogs in the past six months.
It’s no surprise that children’s hospitals are well represented in the list of hospitals that maintain blogs. Everyone can relate to a family that’s dealing with the heartache of having a desperately ill child. Check out Children’s Hospital of Boston’s Thrive blog or Seattle Children’s Hospital’s Seattle Mama Doc. These blogs aren’t shy or corporate – they use photos, video and bold colors to engage the audience.
Traditional hospitals can adopt the same approaches to their blog, so it functions more like a social media newsroom. You can post press releases, videos, links to news stories, informational articles and commentaries. This helps breathe life into your blog and turns it into a living thing, rather than a static page. Some great examples are Barnes Jewish Hospital and MD Anderson’s Cancerwise blog.
Dr. Bryan Vartabedian wrote a great blog post outlining what hospitals should think about before starting a blog. He shares my belief that a hospital blog can serve as the hub (or home base) of your social media efforts. It can also integrate your traditional marketing and social media efforts. You can post stories on your blog that appear in your community newsletter and then post links to the articles on your Facebook page and Twitter accounts. So while the blog provides content for its more “active” social media siblings, they can drive traffic back to the blog.
Blogs aren’t just online columns, they’re the living and breathing part of your website. Their changing nature helps to drive search engine optimization, and ultimately introduce your site to consumers.
Whatever format your blog takes, it’s good to remember that establishing a blog is like training for a marathon – it requires long-term commitment. Hospital marketers realize this, which could be why they haven’t embraced blogs. In doing so, they’re cheating themselves.
It’s time for hospitals to take a second look at blogs.