Recently, I decided to do some research on how many Florida hospitals engage in social media. Based on the homepage of each hospital, I discovered that only about 19 percent of Florida’s hospitals are involved in some sort of social media: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, a blog, Flickr, MySpace, etc. However, out of those few participants, the average number of followers, fans and friends is quite high. I was surprised to find myself retweeting a number of hospital tweets. Useful information like the implications of healthcare reform on the hospital experience or “Quick Tips for Adjusting to Daylight Savings Time” were some of the items hospitals are delivering through social media platforms … and people are actually listening and engaging.
Out of the 45 hospitals on Facebook, the average fan base is 844! On Twitter, for 40 hospitals, the average follower base was 370. 37 hospitals have YouTube accounts featuring videos with new procedures, testimonials, doctor’s comments, etc. These videos are useful for physician and nurse recruitment as well as patient recruitment.
Hospitals who really take social media seriously are the ones with blogs. Out of 240 hospitals, only 17 were blogging. With a blog, a hospital has the opportunity to make its own media. Today, a blog is more effective than a “past press releases” page. Through a blog, a hospital has the opportunity to share recent news and show its personality. Of the 17 blogs I reviewed, common topics included physician/nurse profiles, recent hospital updates, health tips and even hospital initiatives to aid in Haitian relief efforts.
Some hospitals use Flickr, an online photo management and sharing application, where they posted pictures of staff, patients and events. The more personable a hospital is, the more at-ease potential patients are about choosing that hospital. Photo sharing is a great way to showcase the faces behind the hospital.
Social media is more than a trend. It has become a part of life. Consumer-driven industries like hospitals must consider social media as a key component to any marketing plan.