Marketing Directors as Architects of Hospital Social Media

flickr: OakleyOriginals

We moved to a new house three years ago and for the first year, we didn’t do anything to the backyard. It was dirt (and mud when it rained), but we went out to our backyard often and watched the sun – where it hit in the morning in the summer, and how it changed in the winter – and how the water drained after the rains.

After we had observed these patterns and decided what we wanted to do in our backyard (barbequing was a must for my husband, a kitchen garden was a must-have for me), then we developed the plan ­– where to plant our garden, where to place the BBQ, where we needed a shade tree, etc. Our plan developed based on our environment and how we wanted to use the space.

Marketing in the era of social media is not too different – strategies for social media are dependent upon what you want to do with the space and the tools available in the environment.

One of Winston Churchill’s quotes associated with architecture is: “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” Sherry Turkle uses Churchill’s quote to encourage us to think about technology and the way it “shapes us.”

How does technology shape your life?

A  couple of quick exercises can demonstrate this “shaping” in your own life:

  • Think about the first hour after you wake up. Do you know where your cell phone is? How long is it from the time you wake up to the time you check your email? Facebook? Twitter?
  • Now picture yourself at a store or on vacation and you see something that reminds you of your friend or a product that she would really like. Do you text her? Send her a photo of it?

These are relatively new behaviors, yet they are not extraordinary; in fact, they have become ordinary – the standard. Technology has shaped new behaviors. They are now authentically our own – we initiate these connections.

How can technology shape connections with our patients?

Now consider how technology can “shape” our connection with our patients. As healthcare marketing directors, are we helping our staff and physicians shape social media habits that serve and engage our patients?

For example, I just read about how drug prices are expected to plummet as patents expire and new generics hit the market. Wouldn’t your patients want to know that? Or how about the newly paved free parking lot the city completed just one block from your hospital? Or the plant sale to benefit the local cancer foundation? Or the new open MRI that can ease the procedure for claustrophobic patients?

Press releases are fine, but they are not as immediate, and with shrinking subscriptions, they no longer reach the majority of our market. And, at times, helpful news (like the newly paved parking lot), is just not newsworthy enough to make the paper.  However, we can reach out via social media and share this useful information with our patients…but do we?

Do we make it easy for them to find the information by distributing it on multiple channels (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.) or do we just post it on our website and hope they come to us? Are we building in easy ways for our patients to reach us? To initiate conversations they care about?

Social media architecture keeps changing

One of the challenges of “shaping our behavior” in response to social media is that the architecture keeps changing (think Google +). However, using social media consistently is the first step to begin to recognize how you can use it to accomplish your hospital’s goals.

Just as I observed my backyard space for an entire year without planting, I encourage you to be a keen observer of the online space. How are patients responding to your website? Who is re-tweeting your tweets? How are new parents finding your Birthing Center blog?

Mix media for more powerful results

And don’t be afraid to mix media for more powerful results. For example, do the patients in the diabetic support group want a text reminder before the online chat begins? Can you distribute an email connecting new parents to an online resources guide the week after their baby is born?

And remember Churchill’s quote: “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” As the architects of your hospital’s social media plan, how are you building your hospital’s social media environment to foster engagement and build trust?


How we help

Hive Strategies helps hospitals engage patients through social media. We don’t manage social media. Instead, we help hospitals develop an effective social media strategy and mentor them through the implementation process. Read about our services. Start a conversation. Email us or call us at 503-472-5512.

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