Hospitals and practices are slowly recognizing that social presence is not only important, but necessary, to cater to healthcare consumers who are shopping. While the older generation of past tended to trust physician referrals and recommendations without question, younger generations are turning to the Internet to research a provider’s reputation and impression (Smith & Jones Healthcare Consumers: The New Reality White Paper). This trend is not likely to change course, so healthcare providers need to proactively build a trail of breadcrumbs that lead to THEM. Here are some first steps.
1. Ask happy patients to tell their friends.
Point people to a place where they can express their appreciation for others to find. Make it easy for them. This is an example of a sign that includes QR codes that launch the HealthGrades survey page for each physician. Facebook is another place where people may prefer posting, but directing patients to Facebook is only smart if that is where they are most comfortable. (NOTE: Young parents and the elderly tend to use Facebook for medical referrals more than young adults or working professionals). Facebook doesn’t get the attention of search engines like major review sites like Google Local and HealthGrades do.
2. Offer those small conveniences that make a difference.
Making an online appointment may not seem that important, but to a person who works a late shift and sleeps when your office are open, this is a welcomed convenience. The same holds true for downloadable forms and the ability to print one off without having to show up early just to fill it out before an appointment.
3. Create quality content that is worthy of sharing.
You don’t have to own a production company to put out something patients can appreciate. Identify a topic that might be useful to address and then record one of your staff addressing it. Keep it short, upbeat, and simple to understand. For example, a two-minute video on heart attack symptoms for women (and another for men) might be a wonderful video to release around Valentines Day to share with elderly loved ones… especially if you include a checklist to refer back to.
4. Engage with the public regularly and don’t neglect your social pages.
Too many healthcare entities set up Facebook or Google+ pages and then expect the pages to run themselves. The point of a social presence is to have two-way communication. Be generous with thank-yous when someone expresses appreciation, congratulate friends and community members when they are recognized, and don’t be afraid to address a negative comment with sincerity then it is deserved. Medical facilities are only as good as the people who work inside, so celebrate and recognize each one as you would a member of your family. Share those celebrations with your local community.
Think Twitter is losing steam? It’s true you have to weed through a lot of spam and junk tweets to find the good stuff, but tweetchats are still a great tool to learn and connect with others. With tweetchats, you can dive into a subject, ask questions, identify knowledgeable people, and demonstrate your own expertise. When you join a tweetchat where others share your interest, it often results in new and useful connections.
There are all kinds of tweetchats, from people discussing social media in healthcare (#hcsm) to readers discussing books (#litchat), so there is something for everyone. There are even lists out on the internet to help you find the perfect tweetchat. To check out a tweetchat, simply go to tweetchat.com, sign in with your twitter account, and enter the tweetchat name in the box to the right of the #. If the tweetchat is live, you’ll see new tweets appear as they are posted. If the tweetchat is not live, you will see a list of tweets previously posted (but the tweets won’t continue to roll with new posts).
It’s always a good idea to introduce yourself to the collective before you join the conversation. This gives people the opportunity to greet you with a warm welcome and to check out your twitter profile. To post a comment, simply type your comment in the tweetchat message box. Tweetchat.com automatically appends the tweetchat hashtag to your post so it is seen in the flow of conversation. Of course you don’t need to use tweetchat.com to participate in a tweetchat. Alternatively, you can filter tweets to see only a particular tweetchat hashtag (#hcsm for example) and then manually add that hashtag to the end of any posts you want to make to that conversation.
If you don’t find any tweetchat that meets your needs, perhaps it’s time to start one. As a moderator, you can select each week’s topic, invite guests to offer their two cents, and promote the tweetchat among your own circles. As your tweetchat starts to thrive, you should consider setting up a website tab or separate url to provide necessary details, as well as add your tweetchat to the latest tweetchat directory or list.
I spent most of this week in Napa Valley, enjoying the wineries and sharing in my sister’s and brother-in-law’s twenty-fifth wedding anniversary celebration. Things were different twenty-five years ago … people spent more time enjoying tv shows like Diff’rent Strokes and Family Ties, and they learned about the world around them by watching tv and reading letters. Now, our fast-paced world moves at twice the speed and what we do during that time is quickly shared on social media channels. Social chatter is a window to what’s going on and where it is happening. This offers many opportunities to businesses who are monitoring social media chatter.
I wondered how many wineries would tune into my chatter as I announced my Napa plans and called out Wineries by name. I had decided that if anyone jumped on my social soul train, I would lavish them with lots of social opportunities. I was, however, incredibly disappointed. Doesn’t anyone monitor social chatter?
I started out by announcing my plans to visit Napa nearly a year in advance. I also tweeted when I was about to leave for Napa, and I downloaded and began using a Wine Finder app that offers savings in return for checking in at wineries. Interestingly, I noticed the app failed to post to my Facebook or Twitter account most of the time and never recorded my photos. The creators said they were aware.
Here is a summary of my social media activity (not counting others interacting with me or private posts):
On top of this, I tweeted about my experiment in hopes that at least one winery would respond back. Although the marketing dude for Caymus vineyards didn’t even respond to my direct tweet, @JoePinot did come to the rescue with a friendly reply. He was the only one. In fact when I mentioned what I was doing to several employees at various wineries, I was often told the employees didn’t even know what social media accounts existed. One winery even told me that social media was silly because responding to mentions was a waste of time when people flood to wineries without any effort. Maybe people DO flood to wineries for small tastes of the stuff, but how many of them become loyal customers?
Don’t get me wrong. Social media isn’t the secret to building loyal customers. It is simply a tool to enhance customer service and brand. People who understand the importance of a great customer experience make it happen with whatever tools are available. Sommelier Scott Tracy said it well when he explained that most people like a wine because of the experience associated with it. Only a few are able to separate emotion from the tasting. If social media helps create an experience and therefore loyal customers, why would a business pass up the opportunity?
I made some great memories last week, and I spent a good sum of money to relive those experiences sometime in the future, too. I will never forget watching my brother-in-law run around his favorite wineries like a kid in a candy store, and I will forever be touched that a Stag’s Leap Winery employee went above and beyond to make my sister and brother-in-law feel like royalty. Those memories are worth every penny I will spend on future wines. I hope some of the wineries learn from me too — that they start to understand memories are worth the time spent setting up a simple google alert to monitor or posting a “can’t wait to have you” response.
I know there are diff’rent strokes for different folks, but somebody knows what I’m talkin ’bout, right?
Wondering how health care professionals are using Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other social sites? Then you don’t want to miss a series of Health Care hangouts on air (live discussions) I am broadcasting every third Sunday of the month.
In October, a Health Care Hangout took place to discuss how physicians, hospitals and health care organizations are using Twitter, tweetchats, lists, and more. Some really smart people joined me to talk about what they and others get out of Twitter:
Dana Lewis is a Health and Digital Strategist currently working with Swedish Medical Center. Dana is also the creator and moderator of the weekly tweetchat #hcsm (healthcare communications and social media) conversation.
Howard Luks, MD is a Clinical Advisor for Orca Health and Advisory Board Member for Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media. Howard has developed a large audience of fellow physicians as he tweets about health care, social developments, and shares many useful links from blog posts to new health care changes.
Ed Bennett is the Director of Web Strategy at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Ed has many years experience in the digital world and tweets about social media in health care.
Mark Browne MD MMM is a Physician Executive and the new Chief Medical Officer for Covenant Health. Until recently, Mark tweeted primarily about health care reform, quality measurements, and other issues he addressed as a consultant. With his recent role change, we will discuss what new directions his Twitter presence could take.
The live broadcast will appeared on my YouTube channel under the Featured tab and is now viewable as a recorded hangout (see below).