Don’t Stop At the Bottom of the Hill: The Meaningful Work of Hospital Social Media

A photo of wheat I took on our ride this morning.

I’ve had an injured right leg since the winter, brought on by a rotating hip that was throwing off my stride. I haven’t run since December. Or done much other exercise, since anything, even walking, aggravated my pain.

After some therapy, rest, and a joyful “Get to it!” from my doctor, I am now clear to slowly work my way back into shape. The problem is that I am now heavier than when I was running regularly. Not a lot, but six-ish pounds on a small frame is significant enough. Combine that with sluggish, underused muscles, and the prospect of going for a run isn’t as appealing as it was half a year ago, when my mouth watered at the sight of other people running when I was forbidden.

Well, this morning, my husband invited me on a bike ride with him. I enthusiastically agreed to join him. We headed out toward the rural hills behind us, with wheat fields slowly swaying and a cacophony of spring birds all around us. I was ecstatic. Until we hit a long, winding hill. Halfway through, I thought to myself, “This is too much work.”

And then I realized the significance of what I’d said. It, all of the sudden, became a terribly important question. What was too much work? Too much work to climb a hill with someone I love on a beautiful day? What wouldn’t be too much work, then? The alternative—staying home, getting further out of shape, missing out on all the natural loveliness—was out of the question. I realized that I never wanted to have that thought, “Too much work,” again, when it counted, for the rest of my life.

This all tied into hospital social media for me when I ran across this slideshare, “Get Faster, Smarter, More Social,” from Jay Baer and Amber Naslund, authors of The Now Revolution. In it, Baer and Naslund discuss the changing face of business in light of new communications. They argue that, “Every customer is a reporter now.” Which means your hospital is constantly getting real-time public feedback, reviews, and complaints, whether you are there to deal with them or not.

They go further to point out that this is not the first time businesses have had to adjust to new technology changing the face of customer accessibility. After all, telephones, fax machines, e-mail, and the internet were once newbies, as well. And the necessary adjustments were made until the “new” became the “commonplace.”

What is different about social media, Baer and Naslund point out, is that it requires a much more significant shift in underlying mindsets than the technologies mentioned above. There must be a new “cultural foundation, that is shared and believed by all employees,” in order for your hospital to really embrace social media, rather than frantically react to it. In their words, your staff must be “smarter, faster, and more social,” when reacting to public conversations about your organization.

To me, this means doing the hard work of figuring out how social media works for your hospital. I can’t tell you how often we hear from people that they’re not ready to address social media yet. I can understand the hesitation, and also believe that well-formed strategy is paramount. However, social media is happening. It’s here. It’s time to do the meaningful work.

In another book I admire, the business classic Good to Great, author Jim Collins discusses why some companies make the leap from a merely good status to great standing. In a chapter on disciplined thought, he argues that great organizations “infused their entire process with the brutal facts of reality.” Which means, “When…you start with an honest and diligent effort to determine the truth of the situation, the right decisions often become self-evident.”

Collins then gives example after example of how businesses had to look at the truth of how their world was changing and adjust accordingly. And this always required real work. Meaningful work. Tough decisions. Big changes. And, in the end, success. What was the alternative? I think it’s pretty evident. Every time I drive past a video store going out of business I think about it…

The point of this post, however, is not to be frightening. Quite the opposite. I’m hoping to point out that the meaningful work is always the most satisfying. Your work in social media for your hospital might not reap lovely views on a sunny day, but it will certainly create new long-term relationships, share vital information, and provide satisfaction for staff and patients alike. So, what are you waiting for?

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