Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Make Sure You Know Where the Emergency Brake Is

Anyone who knows me, or reads this blog, knows that I am a strong proponent of social media as a big part of the overall marketing mix. As part of an effective communications package, every organization needs to use a combination of social media tools to speak directly with their audience.

Although social media is intended to be somewhat unfiltered, some organizations – particularly hospitals – are governed by laws and privacy issues that can preclude an unfiltered stakeholder engagement. For that reason, it is important to craft and vet a social media response protocol prior to engaging in these new, and operationally-different, media tools.

As part of your social media effort, you need to develop a comprehensive social media policy. This policy will provide needed checks and balances for all of your employees and external stakeholders who could potentially contribute content or comment on any of your company-controlled social media properties. It should also provide guidance on moderating comments and input from the general public.

Your goal should not necessarily be to control and manage the message and tone of social media communication with your various publics. Rather, your goal should be to ensure that the dialogue is fair and adheres to standards that you’ve thought through and pre-set for propriety and privacy.

Friday, February 19, 2010


I’ve come to the conclusion that social media scares a lot of people. That is understandable. It’s new. It involves unfamiliar protocols and nomenclature. It seems so easy and natural for 16-year-olds, yet is a different world altogether for those of us who still remember where we were when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon.

Nonetheless, social media is here to stay.

So it’s time to take the plunge. Here’s what I recommend: a staged roll-out of social media tools and channels, so that you don’t “bite off more than you can chew.” Start small. Join and use Facebook (really use it; don’t be a bystander or wallflower). See what others in your industry are doing. Become a fan of sites that are delivering the kind of information you wish you were delivering about your company. Your Facebook experience shouldn’t be defined by the number of “friends” you have, but rather by the quality of contacts and experiences you can generate.

Keep a record of the kinds of information and resources you’d like YOUR company’s fan page to deliver. And yes, check out your competitors and what peer companies in different parts of the country (or even the world!) are doing.

And when you are ready, launch your page, keeping in mind it is NOT a website, which can sit fallow for months. Social media IS customer and stakeholder engagement. Be prepared to engage!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Time for Hospitals to Embrace Social Media

It’s time for hospitals to embrace social media.

Interactive online technologies, or “social media,” allow online users to search for and share content, and have become an indispensable tool in today’s communication mix – except, it seems, at smaller community hospitals. Social media sites are firmly entrenched as the primary method for online dialogue and communication for a good deal of the population today, covering people of all ages.

As part of an effective communications package, every organization needs to use a combination of social media tools to speak directly with their audience. Failing to do so risks alienating your patients and your community. Worse, it allows – and perhaps invites – the dialogue about what’s happening within your hospital and its service lines to be driven by outside, often unreliable sources.

Latest estimates show that over 500 hospitals in the U.S. are using some form of social media – and many are using multiple social media tools. If you are a healthcare marketing pro, isn’t it time to get YOUR hospital on board?