With Social Media, Bad News Travels…Instantly

flickr: basheertome

I’m frustrated and angry with my doctor’s office at the moment. I’ve been trying to get some clarification on the cost of a procedure I’m scheduled for, and they’re not being helpful. At all. I’ve become more confused with each conversation.

Like most people, I feel better once I express my feelings of frustration with others. It’s a way to get validation and then move on. And in the days before the Internet, we simply told a few friends why we were angry and, while they may have told a few more people, it only reached a handful of people.

You’ve heard the old adage, “good news travels fast but bad news travels faster.” Well these days, because of social media, it would be much more accurate to say “good news travels fast, bad news travels instantly.” Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs make it extremely easy for users to post complaints for everyone to see and to potentially hurt the reputation of anyone being criticized through them.

The good news for my doctor is that I recognize this and have therefore chosen not to share my experience with my family, friends and strangers.

Like many people, I have a Facebook page, a personal Twitter account and a personal blog. And many of the people I am connected to through these accounts live near me. So if I wanted to post on any of those accounts how angry I am and list my specific doctor and medical facility, I could really have an impact on that doctor’s image in my community.

To prove this point, I did a quick check on all of the people I could reach should I choose to make my frustrations public. I have 740 Facebook friends, 31 Twitter followers and approximately 15 blog followers. That equals at least 786 people who could instantly read my exasperation.

But it doesn’t stop there. Friends of friends on Facebook could see my posts, easily doubling my friend count. And if I really wanted to do some damage on my Twitter account, I could use the #hcsm tag, or even tag my physician by name which would reach far more people than the 31 following me.

On my blog I have 15 followers, but I know many people read blogs without following them. And if anyone happened to stumble on my blog through the Google Blogger search, who knows how many more people I could reach.

My point is that social media is widespread and powerful. There’s a lot of power in one voice. Anyone who has a social media account, whether it’s Facebook or Twitter or a blog, can have an impact. This leads me to my main point:

Follow what is being said about you.

Even if you don’t have the time to manage and update a Twitter or Facebook account, listen and read. If you see an angry patient refer to you or your services, respond. You don’t have the power to remove what they say, but you do have the power to listen and answer. This could be as simple as acknowledging the problem, apologizing, and assuring the patient it won’t happen again. It will show your patient (and those following him or her) that you care. And that is as powerful as the original message.

Of course, you can hope that no patient ever has a bad experience, but to err is human. Instead of pretending it won’t happen, listen to what is being said and turn a negative patient experience into a positive one.

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