June 14, 2010

Silence is not the answer.

Become involved (and strategic) with social media.

Become involved (and strategic) with social media.

Fear is a terrible thing. Especially when it causes healthcare systems to back away from using a potentially powerful communications tool. When it comes to using social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter, healthcare systems tend to fall into two categories. The first suffers from significant fear regarding negative feedback that may come from using such tools. This group also struggles with how much time it will take to make this a successful venture. The second group is “gung-ho” and jump into the pool before they check to make sure it’s been filled with water.  This group tends to throw every possible press release, article and “approved” message they can find onto their social media channels, only to realize they’ve created a one-way conversation.

There is a better way.

You wouldn’t run a cardiology advertising campaign without putting together a strategy. You wouldn’t invest in a web banner advertising campaign without determining key messages. Why is social networking any different? Everyone knows how large Facebook has become. We know that Ashton Kutcher has millions of Twitter followers. We know that healthcare executives are hearing the buzz and don’t want to miss out.

Items to consider before you get started.
1. Define goals. Be specific and make them related to interactions, not followers
2. Establish channels. Certain sites will work better for different messages.
3. Define internal and external resources. Who can help provide good content for your channels?
4. Integrate existing materials. Chances are you are already doing community-based events. Why not promote them?
5. Prepare for the worst, even though you probably won’t need it. Commit to a customer service model for any negative comments that are made. Resolve to help make situations better, not to censor.
6. Dedicate time. Social networking is just like live networking. If you’re not in the room you can’t have a conversation. But that doesn’t mean it should fall on only one person’s shoulders.

So, before you get started, get strategic. Get creative in how you use and measure your successes. Most important—end the silence.

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