To Be or Not to Be… Social Media Webinar Q & A

Thanks to everyone who joined us for the Social Media “To be or not to be” webinar jointly held by Private Health News and Geonetric on May 5th.  We received lots of questions during the session, many of which we just weren’t able to address before running out of time.  So, as promised, I’m addressing them here.  In many cases I received questions that covered similar territory, so I grouped them to avoid duplication.

Policies and Risk

Q: Would you please talk more about social media policies and to what extent/detail a hospital should employ a social media policy?
A: Every hospital should have a policy governing the appropriate use of unofficial social media accounts (accounts other than those used as official hospital communications channels by hospital staff, administrators, physicians or others).  Take the time to train existing staff and clinicians with privileges at your facility about the contents of the policy and integrate it into new staff orientation.

Q: What is the thought process around managing risk when patients share their Protected Health Information on a Facebook site hosted by a hospital?
A: From a legal standpoint, this doesn’t put you at risk as patients are always allowed to share anything that they wish about their health situation.  From a practical perspective, it’s not the appropriate place for the information to be presented and may not have been intentionally shared with the world.  My recommendation is to remove the post and send a message to the poster thanking them for their contribution.  Your message should also explain the rationale for the removal, offer other options for discussing their particular medical issue, and invite them to participate in a non-clinical fashion in the future.

If you have a Facebook group that is prone to these sorts of disclosures, which can sometimes happen in focused, condition-specific groups, put together a policy for appropriate participation and remind the group of it, as the need arises.

Facebook Specifics

Q: What are the pros and cons of single a Facebook page with tabs for all hospitals versus individual Facebook pages for each?
A: Keep in mind that Facebook (and all of the other social media platforms) are tools.  You use them to address specific communication and engagement challenges and they work most effectively when you integrate them as part of multi-channel communications or marketing programs.  Look to the audiences that you’re communicating with and your goals for those audiences, then evaluate what tools will be most effective in reaching those audiences.

In the end, this decision comes down to how you’re presenting your brand and what your organization seeks to accomplish by talking with these audiences.  There are also often pragmatic considerations of the resources needed to manage more Facebook pages.

Do you have limited resources?  Does your health system presents itself under a strong system-wide brand?  Then, pooling all (or most) of your facilities together may be a good strategy.  Do you have highly autonomous brands?  Is there limited overlap in patients or service territories?  Then you’ll likely wan to separate them out.

I’ve also began to see organizations having success creating focused Facebook pages or groups around a specific condition or interest area, such as parenting.

The participants don’t care about the wide range of happenings within even one facility, but are engaging deeply around their current interest.

Q: What do you think of welcome pages? Are they an annoying extra or a nice introduction to a Facebook page?
A: Personally, I like them.  Facebook is a sea of sameness and I think they provide organizations an opportunity to stand out and to show a more polished face to the world.  I’d encourage you to use these pages as a creative and flexible way to share information rather than simply making it a colorful splash page.  Cleveland Clinic is a good example.

Attracting Followers

Q: What are the most effective ways to build Facebook Likes and Twitter followers?
A: Get engaged!  Of course you should promote your use of social media through your website, email newsletters and print publications, but nothing beats making personal connections.  The great thing about social media is that people love to share interesting things that they find.  If you put out interesting information, share interesting information, do something interesting in social media or in any way make a good impression on others, they’ll want to share you with their network.

Delivering Value

Q: How do you deliver measurable value from social media?
A: There’s really two parts to this question, how do you create valuable interactions through social media and how do you measure social media.

Value is created in many different ways through social media.  There are the very tangible paths from interaction to value such as new revenue opportunities from class registrations, screenings, and fundraising.  There are also cost saving opportunities as you compare the cost to reach individuals through social media channels versus traditional media.

The trick here is to think through your plans to create valuable interactions and then execute on those plans in a way that is measurable.

Which brings us to the second piece of the puzzle – measurement.  The nature of many social media tools prevent the tools from reporting on how many people interacted with your content (clicking a link in your Tweet, for example), so you’ll want to be sure that you can get that information in other ways.  Using a URL shortener or vanity URL that allows for a unique referral source for each place that you post the information allows you to track these separately in your Web analytics tools.

Dealing with Angry Commenters

Q: How do you keep disgruntled employees from using this as their own personal sounding board?
A: As one of the attendees to the webinar posted, “We have found that employees (or fans/audience) self-police the disgruntled or unprofessional employees…I agree that it is generally better not to respond.”  This is often the right approach.

We discussed the Social Media Response Flow Chart used by OSU Medical Center in the webinar (contact us if you’d like a copy).  I like having a plan that allows for a consistent approach that meets a number of different scenarios, and the flow chart does just that.

If your poster is truly just venting their anger or is trolling (putting nasty information out in the hopes of eliciting a response) then no good can come from reacting and legitimizing their statement with a response.  If, on the other hand, the poster has incorrect facts or has a legitimate issue, then it may be appropriate to respond.  You can address the facts (never attack the person posting them) or you can acknowledge their concern and try to move the issue offline for further discussion.

In no case should you respond without being clear about your relationship with the organization, compromise patient confidentiality, or lose your cool.  For big issues, I also encourage organizations to share their side of the story through a channel that they control, such as their own blog, and link to that response in the original thread.

Lack of Resources

Q: How do you adequately monitor the social media space without a dedicated person?
A: This is the situation that most organizations are in.  Setting up some Twitter searches and Google Alerts doesn’t take much time and only needs to be checked a few times daily.  I encourage organizations to have a few people to share the burden here to ensure that nothing is missed during vacations.

The greater challenge comes when you actually hear something.  Responding and engaging takes a great deal more time and effort than listening.

Getting Started

Q: Is there a “social media for dummies” guide or resource available to learn the differences for each media and tips to using them properly?
A: There is not.  There is, however, a great resource for marketing, communications or Web professionals with a desire to learn.  The SHSMD Emerging Media

Handbook is a comprehensive guide for those in healthcare who want to get started with social media or want to learn how to do more.  Drop us a line and we’ll be happy to get you a copy.

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Ben Dillon

About Ben Dillon

Ben’s a big picture type of guy. He loves sharing new ideas in digital marketing, keeping a watchful eye on healthcare industry trends and seeing how it all intersects. A sought-after speaker, writer, blogger and current SHSMD board member, Ben’s an influential voice in healthcare marketing, helping organizations across the country embrace online strategies to engage health consumers. Combine his industry savvy with his background in software development and you can see why he’s also an important member of Geonetric’s software team, ensuring our content management system stays a step ahead of market needs. Ben holds a master’s degree in eBusiness and strategic management from the University of Iowa and a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the University of Michigan. When he’s not traveling and evangelizing, Ben enjoys cooking with his family and playing the Big House with the University of Michigan Alumni marching band.

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