Social media has become a must in any industry. Millions of people, particularly younger ones, turn to Twitter, Facebook, and other outlets to communicate with peers, research companies, look for consumer opinions, and perform other tasks, both practical and recreational.
If a healthcare organization ignores social media, it misses an important tool and can lose touch with important segments of its community and potential patient pool. But talking about “social media” can be distracting, as that lumps everything together in one big vat and treats it the same. Can you imagine saying the same thing about media in general and assuming that what you do for radio, television, and print is identical?
The first place to start is to realize how big a topic healthcare is on different platforms. Here are some statistics to put this into context:
- Sixteen percent of Facebook users post reviews of doctors, medications, and treatments, while 27 percent comment on health experience and 24 percent post about health experience or updates. And 18 percent track health symptoms.
- There are almost 700 hospitals that have a YouTube presence and more than 1,100 that appear on Foursquare. Almost 1,000 are on Twitter; 3,000 have a LinkedIn page.
- Sixty percent of social media users report themselves inclined to trust posts from doctors.
- After the Mayo Clinic went onto social media, it had a 76,000 person jump in podcast listeners in a month.
The presence is powerful and responsive. But it’s impossible to “do” social media without some serious considerations.
Highly regulated industries like healthcare have particular challenges when participating in public communications. Be sure you have lawyers looking over your plans to see if there’s possible danger from things like inadvertent privacy breaches. Could you possible create an obligation under a regulation or law because of a claim or advice given? That doesn’t mean skip social media. Just recognize where you have to plan more than an unregulated organization.
Match your audience and mediums
Don’t assume that everyone uses this, that, or the other social network. Hundreds of millions in the U.S. are on Facebook, but not all. Some demographics prefer options like Snapchat or Instagram. There are people who might be on Twitter for casual use but switched to LinkedIn for business. Talk to your community, get a sense of how they use social media, and prepare a presence where they show up.
Find the appropriate voice
You don’t approach a Facebook post the way you would a tweet on Twitter. Instagram or Tumblr posts are different again. Understand how much visual communication you need to incorporate and the type of written style in brevity, tone, and use of hashtags that you should incorporate. Make use of the natural strengths and avoid gaffes that have you sticking out like a sore thumb.
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