Facebook is a growing form of communication between patients and hospitals, and while many hospitals are using their pages to effectively engage patients, sadly many are not.
It’s not enough to just add your hospital’s logo, a few photos, some event information and expect your fans to do the rest. Your hospital needs to engage patients effectively in order for your page to have the most success.
If you are new to Facebook, you may want to start by picking three or four of the ideas below and implement others as you become familiar with your fans and what engages them the most.
1. Allow photo sharing
Inviting members to upload photos to your Facebook page is a perfect way for patients to connect with your hospital. This works especially well for children’s hospitals or research institutes because the patients often have stories of gratitude for the help they have received.
Along with your photos it is important to post a photo submission policy. Those submitting photos should understand that when they post a photo to your hospital’s Facebook page they are adhering to your photo submission rules, and that any photos that do not follow your guidelines may be removed.
2. Post upcoming events
Facebook is a great way to promote upcoming events. You can choose to create an event to directly invite fans, or you can simply provide the information on your page.
This is a great way to increase the number of participants in a variety of hospital offerings: from fundraising runs and blood drives to childbirth classes or seminars focusing on specific health issues. Since many people are on Facebook more often than they read a newspaper or visit your hospital’s website, you’ll be reaching a larger number of possible participants. These interested fans can also share the information with their other Facebook friends.
3. Be a resource
Your Facebook page is more than a marketing tool for your hospital. It should also be a resource. Encourage your patients to check your Facebook page for information when inclement weather hits or when another natural disaster occurs, such as an earthquake. Y
ou can post emergency room updates and notify patients of any office closures. You can also provide up-to-date information on topics such as public health safety. If there is a public health emergency of any kind, the more avenues for health information, the better.
4. Tell stories
Studies show that patients benefit from listening to stories of those dealing with similar health challenges. This is where patient stories come in. Invite patients to tell their stories about their experience.
If you have a special center, such as a weight-loss or joint replacement institute, invite patients with success stories to inspire others. When it comes to health issues, there can be fear of the unknown—sharing stories of another patient’s process and recovery empowers and encourages those who come after.
5. Integrate video
Your Facebook posts don’t have to be strictly text. For instance, if you have a new physician or service you want to promote, create a video that can be linked from your YouTube channel.
Videos educate, foster understanding and entertain, and the best part is you don’t need to hire a large production company to produce video content every time. It can be as simple as a nurse or physician carrying a Flip camera and capturing a special moment. You can also allow patients to submit their own videos.
6. Post photos
Posting photos of hospital events is a great way to engage fans and acknowledge how much you value their support. Many hospitals engaged in Facebook post photos from fundraising and health awareness events to show the overwhelming community support that benefits worthy causes and connects hospitals to their local citizens.
You may also allow patients to post their own photos. Children’s hospitals very often have parents who are eager to share pictures of their children who are doing well after struggling with disease.
7. Encourage discussion
Don’t just speak to your fans; communicate with them. Use current events or hot topics and ask your fans to include what they think. Be sure to join in on the discussion to moderate any incorrect information and offer any insight you may have. Patients are always anxious to have correct, helpful health information that assists them in making good decisions.
8. Have fun!
Put up new, fresh engaging posts that are easy and fun for users to interact with and that they will want to post to their wall and share with their friends.
Your hospital’s Facebook page should be like a casual friend or neighbor; don’t try to pull people into heavy levels of interaction. What do you do with a Facebook friend? You comment on their photos, like their status, vote on their outfit. These types of interactions take seconds, not minutes, and definitely not hours.
9. Offer a poll or contest
Use this way to engage patients sparingly, as you want your fans to stay engaged because of the valuable information you provide, not because you give things away. But nevertheless, a poll or contest could be a fun way to entertain your fans.
For example, ask fans to guess how many babies were born in your birthing center last year, and offer a gift certificate to a local business as a reward to the fan with the closest guess.
10. Respond to fan posts
This may be one of the most important keys to keeping fans engaged. If a new fan sees that comments are not being responded to, chances are they may think you’re not listening and won’t post either. Let fans know you are there by responding to any comments, questions or concerns.
The above ten items are great ways to engage your patients, but remember to choose the ones that work best for your hospital’s patients, and don’t let this list limit you. Experiment with new ideas that will help make your Facebook page a success.
Want more tips on how to engage patients on your Facebook page? Visit our What We Think page to download our free e-book, “How to Engage Patients in a Facebook Community.”
Visit our What We Think page to download your free e-book: How to Engage Patients in a Facebook Community.