Here are five more tips on how to effectively use Facebook:
- How to promote your hospital on Facebook – If you hope to be viewed as a thought leader and industry expert, you will need to do more than regurgitate facts and links – you will need to create your own content in the form of blogs, videos and eBooks. Your content should invite interaction and encourage sharing. Ideally, your blog posts or videos will offer valuable information that users will want to share with their friends. The key is to offer stimulating content that engages followers and viewers in ongoing communication that benefits all participants. Because you can see daily what consumers are saying about you and your competition, it’s important to stay on top of those comments. You can protect your brand reputation by monitoring what patients and consumers are saying, and then, decide how – or even if – you want to respond. If there are many negative comments you can lessen the impact of by explaining what really happened instead of letting rumors get out of control. Because you can follow what people are saying about your competition, you also can work to improve those issues in your own hospital. Break stories about your hospital, especially awards, community events, special patients (if they’ve given you permission to do so), new employees, new procedures and equipment, and so on. You’ll garner great publicity for your hospital while promoting your hospital’s services lines, new technology and special events. Remember to cross-promote your material. For example, don’t just leave all your YouTube videos on your YouTube channel. Put them on Facebook, too, for the greatest exposure and availability.
- How hospitals can use Facebook Ads – On Facebook, running down the right-hand side of the page, are advertisements that are carefully chosen to suit particular things of interest for the Facebook fan/user. Hospitals are able to reach a highly targeted market when Facebook users fill out their profile, answering questions about what interests them and what things they enjoy. Every piece of information in a profile helps hospitals advertise to their exact market, including age groups, genders, income ranges, geographic locations and general interests. Hospitals, therefore, can decide which market they want to target, and then design ads that will appeal to those consumers/patients. Facebook Ads are really much easier to set up and less expensive than their counterpart, Google AdWords. Rising competition for privately insured patients and the growth of a smart-shopper mentality among health care users is creating an environment where you MUST advertise if you want your hospital to survive. Tell the consumer about your hospital and your statistics, advertise some of your surgeries or special healthcare benefits and clinics, tell prospective patients about the care they’ll receive – all of these can be done in just a few, choice words with a graphic of your logo or picture of your hospital or staff in the Facebook Ads section of Facebook. These ads are affordable and can also be used to get more people to “Like” your hospital’s Facebook page.
- Getting your employees to be careful what they say on Facebook – Today, many hospitals have a written policy specifically about social networking that states “patients have the absolute right to receive care without being the subject of a Facebook discussion.” Most hospitals insist that this language really only reinforces the long-standing standard for health care professionals of not discussing patients in off-duty conversations. If your hospital doesn’t have a policy about what your employees can and can’t say on Facebook, you need to immediately develop one. You will save yourself many hours of worry and the possibility of lawsuits from patients and others. Employees shouldn’t be forbidden from talking about their workplace online, but what they say should be carefully monitored. Fortunately, it’s easy to monitor any online references to your hospital by setting up Google Alerts (see my previous blog post in June) or Twitter search queries. Social media operates in real-time and comments require an immediate response; so it is critical that you know what is being said.
- How hospitals can overcome Facebook criticism – Social media values honesty and transparency, so it’s a good idea to just turn a cheek and let people post criticisms. On the other hand, you can explain away a criticism by explaining why you handled something the way you did, and you can post a disclaimer, giving you the right to delete offensive comments or comments that violate someone’s private information. Make sure you monitor your Facebook page on a regular basis so you can respond to negative comments. Address negative comments before they get out of hand and make sure you explain policies and procedures. However, if you get rid of all the negative comments, people will think you are manipulating your page to only state the positive and this can work against you as much as the negative comments! Be sure to treat any negative comments as an opportunity to turn around someone’s negative perception to a positive one.
- How your hospital can use Facebook to communicate with patients during bad weather conditions – We’ve had some devastating weather all throughout the United States – floods, hurricanes and tornados, earthquakes, dangerous snow and rainstorms and other types of inclement weather. These conditions make it harder for your patients to get to the hospital. It would be terrible if they came to one of your clinics only to find it closed. Your Facebook page can help you communicate with your target market and give them vital information regarding the weather and your facility’s reaction to the weather. For your emergency room, for example, you can post updates on your page to let patients know what the average wait time is. They can then decide if they absolutely must make it in, or if they can wait it out. If your hospital is part of several affiliate hospitals, or if you have a nearby urgent care center, you can suggest that your patients go to another hospital emergency room, clinic or urgent care center where the wait is shorter or the road access is not so. You can also post helpful tips for what roads to take to get to your facility, how to shovel without injuring your back, staying safe in the snow, how to drive on ice, or how to drive through flooded streets, and so forth. While these tips are not about services you provide at the hospital, they show your patients that you are a part of the community and that you care about their safety. This can go a long way to keep your patients thinking about your hospital throughout the day and week.
For other tips on how to effectively use social media in support of your hospital’s marketing efforts, please feel free to view one of our On-Demand Webinars. Our latest workshop is: Blogging for Hospitals. Check out www.waxcom.com for access to this and other complimentary web workshops that you can view at your convenience.