Hospitals need marketing too, and social media marketing is quickly becoming the tool of choice for savvy hospital marketers. Social media is a good match for hospitals because of the nature of relationship marketing. Social media users like to share with their friends and family. It’s a feather in their cap to share a good experience and help someone else find something worthwhile–like a good auto mechanic, a great restaurant or a fantastic place to have your next baby. This type of sharing is what makes the social web work. Knowledge is the new capital of the Internet and people spend it on the things that can pay them back. With relationship marketing they are repaid with praise they receive from the they people admire most.
Hospitals can take full advantage of relationship marketing by using social media marketing. The first step is recognizing which social media networks are the best match for their institution. Facebook is usually the first choice for anyone looking to find social media marketing success. There are numerous other social media outlets which might work also, like Quora or Twitter or even Flickr, but ultimately, if you’re looking to start a conversation, until Google+ gets a little bigger, Facebook is the best place to start.
Once they identify their correct niche hospitals can begin to develop a presence online, and expand their reach to include past and present patients; community groups, schools and local business leaders–anyone who might be able to provide positive word-of-mouth. By establishing a specific and well-developed social media marketing plan hospitals can build an online community built upon the firm real-world relationships they have already established. From there it is simply a matter of nurturing those relationships to provide continued growth and community outreach.
2. Experiment. “Social media is much more than just Facebook and Twitter,” says Ms. Thielst. She recommends hospitals consider podcasts, videos, weblogs and contributing to wiki and other social networking sites to expand outreach. As hospitals sample available options, they should also see what external content already exists regarding their organization, such as on Wikipedia or Yelp.
“Find out what people are saying about your organization. Does it fit with your brand?” says Ms. Thielst. Since social media is intended to be conversational, hospitals will also have to plan their response strategies, especially if dissatisfied social media users are voicing criticism about the hospital. “Define if you’ll respond, how you’ll respond and who will respond. These are three questions you should be asking yourself and thinking through the answers for different scenarios.”
Maybe a hospital patient wasn’t satisfied with wait times or the food during their stay, and mentioned this on Twitter. Hospitals would be wise to proactively respond to this patient and ask if they can contact him/her for more information about what was unsatisfactory and how they would like to see that changed.
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