New research from BVK ranks the credibility of 18 sources of health information — it places social media at the bottom of the list. The research was presented in an article by BVK’s Joel English in a recent issue of H.S.I.’ s Healthcare Strategy Alert (2010 Issue 3).
New information, to be sure. With the high levels of credibility given to healthcare on the Internet in general, we might have assumed information conveyed through social media would also carry that credibility.
Does this change our outlook on social media? Should we ditch social media?
No. Absolutely not.
My conclusion from two facts:
- Many online consumers can’t readily identify when they’re looking at social media. My mother-in-law, who’s an active Web user, once told me she’d never read a blog. I’ve seen her read blogs. She just didn’t know they were blogs. I have no idea how many people would think of Facebook when asked about “social media.” It’s one of those terms used more by us “in the biz” than by the people being surveyed.
- How many organizations are communicating health information through social media? Most hospitals use social media to point consumers to health articles on their website or post YouTube videos with a clinician talking about a condition.
What should we be doing with social media?
- Listen: People using social media talk about you. Listen to what’s being said about your organization, your key administrators and clinicians, and your competitors. It’s enlightening and may give you advance warning if a crisis is brewing.
- Engage: When you listen, you’ll find opportunities to connect, discuss, help and support health consumers and prospective employees. It’s a big step to go from listening to engaging. Many organizations skip this and go straight to yelling without paying much attention to what’s being said — these organizations are missing out.
- Promote: Yes, it’s absolutely a vehicle for talking about the new and interesting things you have going on. Point social media users to health information, videos, and upcoming events. As you do, take it one step further and make sure to place your information where your target audience hangs out. In case you’re wondering, they spend more time on Facebook and Twitter than they do on your website.