Step #7: Selecting the Best Social Media Channels to Reach Your Goals

This blog is part seven of an eight-part series on launching your hospital’s social media strategy.

Now that you have established your goals, it’s time to select the best platforms to help you meet those goals.

As Megan pointed out in Step #6 The Dead Man in the Doorway: Establishing Clear Goals When Implementing Hospital Media, it is important that you do not simply open a social media account for every platform just because it’s available. Deciding which social media channel you are going to use is just as important as the goals you have. If you don’t use the right method to get your message out, nobody is going to hear it.

There are countless social media channels available these days, and while there are some benefits to them all, not all of them are worthy of being used in your social media campaign. Different platforms accomplish different goals.

Here are some of the key social media platforms and their uses.

Facebook is an effective two-way communication tool. It can be used to interact with your patients, build an online community and provides a place for feedback. Research shows that a majority of women spend a lot of time online and on social media sites.

Twitter is a broadcast tool, best used when you have a specific subject you want to share with your audience. Twitter is much more than status updates; it’s a way to disseminate information to a large group of people you may or may not know.

Youtube is an educational and engagement tool, and the number of online videos viewed in November of this year demonstrates just how important video is. According to Youtube’s website, more than 24 hours of video are uploaded every minute. And, according to Comscore, 172 million U.S. Internet users watched online video content in November alone, totaling about 5.2 billion viewing sessions.

A blog is many social media channels rolled into one. It is a communication tool, an educational tool and a place for giving feedback. Blogging is an extremely effective social media channel if you have a specific purpose in mind, such as informing your patients and the public about the services you provide.

So, how do you successfully use these channels to meet your goals? Here are some examples.

Goal: We want to increase births in our Birthing Center this year by 20%
Social Media Channel: Facebook
Facebook is useful for increasing patients in your birthing center because it’s a great way to start a community, something that is valuable for pregnant women and new moms. With more than 500 million active users, it’s highly likely that women in your hospital’s area are already on Facebook. You just need to find them and give them a way to find you.

An easy way to connect with more moms on Facebook is to first connect with moms who are already familiar with your birthing center and the services you provide. Ask moms who are satisfied with their experience to “like” your page, and then ask them to encourage their friends to do the same. Then, once you’ve got their attention, you can announce tours of your facility and promote upcoming classes and support groups.

Goal: To raise awareness of our Cancer Foundation.
Social media channel: Twitter
If your goal is to raise more money for your cancer foundation, Twitter is a great tool. You can Tweet about upcoming fundraisers, the latest in cancer research, and let followers know where their money is going (without violating HIPAA regulations, of course). Twitter can also supplement the content on your Facebook account or blog.

Goal: We want to educate our patients about our _________ (insert specialty) services and fill all open appointments.
Social Media Channel: YouTube
Videos are a great way to educate your patients. For example, you can invite specialists to discuss particular health concerns through video. Then patients can get information first-hand from the most knowledgeable physicians at your hospital. Not only does this give your patients access to accurate data, but it also gives them a chance to become familiar with their physician before they even step through the clinic door.

Second, they foster understanding. Several videos from Miami Children’s Hospital feature family testimonials about working with the staff at MCH. Hearing their stories firsthand brought tears to my eyes and provided an emotional experience that a written story cannot mimic.

Goal: We want to strengthen our hospital’s image as a leader in cutting-edge technology.
Social media channel: Blog
Whenever your hospital implements a new technology, such as an advanced mammography machine, invite a radiologist to discuss how the new machine will benefit patients, and describe why it is important that a hospital keep up on new developments in technology.

Patient testimony is a great way to enhance the subject; hearing how a new technology changed a patient’s life demonstrates your commitment to quality care and patient satisfaction. But do keep in mind that in order to accomplish this goal, it is extremely important that you have a dedicated staff person who is up to the challenge of brainstorming and creating content, keeping up-to-date on current events, and who can take the time to manage and respond to comments.

There are many other social media channels, including Foursquare, Quora and LinkedIn, but the four channels I mentioned above are the most useful for hospitals in the beginning stages of their social media strategy. You can read our preliminary evaluation of Quora here. In future blogs we’ll be describing these other platforms and how you may be able to use them once you’ve become comfortable with the art of blogging, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

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