The Four Mistakes of Healthcare Social Media Community Management

Jessica Pridonoff, Senior Account Executive

If you think you have social media covered, think again. That’s especially true if your business is a hospital, clinic or any healthcare-related facility.

Failure to properly manage your online communities may result in your followers dropping off. But for healthcare companies, failure could mean a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) violation and stiff penalties. You don’t want that to happen.

Websites are typically static, presenting information in a uniform way that doesn’t permit consumer feedback and interaction. But by definition, a social media community promotes two-way communication. That offers tremendous potential . . . and danger, as well. More than ever, consumers are taking control of their healthcare. They are talking to their friends, doing their own research, and reading online reviews.

The days of quickly posting slapped-together information or an interesting image are certainly over. A social media campaign should be carefully planned, vetted, executed and measured. If not, sooner or later you’ll find yourself in trouble.

But don’t fret. We’re here to help. Half the battle is knowing where the potholes are and how to avoid them. Here are four of them.

Not differentiating platforms 

Time and again, we see companies creating one message and then posting it across all platforms. Same copy. Identical image. It’s a mistake to treat Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter the same because their communities are as distinct as night and day.

While consumers definitely follow businesses on Facebook, they typically access the platform for social purposes. They like to share and engage in conversations, and 66% of visitors are 35 or older. On the other hand, LinkedIn cut its teeth on being the social network for businesses and job seekers, and it’s still very much that way today. And get this: 80% of LinkedIn members are 35 years or older.

The moral? Facebook and LinkedIn are home to widely diverse audiences that want (and expect) unique information and experiences. Your messages—purpose, text and images—should be distinct for each of your social media platform communities, including Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and others.

It’s important to spend time considering and creating a specific brand voice and then to distinguish it on your chosen platforms. You might choose to be fun and lively on Facebook, but more sedate on LinkedIn. Also, you are likely to get better response if your online communities experience graphic identities that will differentiate you from competitors.

And don’t forget that visual content is king. We’re all drawn to infographics, and we enjoy watching patient testimonials. Infographics help simplify complex subjects such as insurance plan options and various ailments. More than 90% of marketers are using video in their campaigns, and for good reason. Video is relatable and consumers like it. Nearly 50% of us take an action after watching a video.

Not being buttoned up

Healthcare-related businesses need to dot more i’s and cross more t’s than other industries. HIPAA places stringent restrictions designed to protect patients’ privacy and medical information. So no consumer can be featured—either in text or photograph—without their approval.

That’s what trips up some healthcare companies. Often, they don’t have a formal system for creating and updating consent forms or obtaining approvals from various departments. We’ve seen businesses rush to post something “current” on social media, which can lead to bypassing systems and not filling out forms . . . and resulting in costly errors.

We recommend that all healthcare-related companies take the time to create a comprehensive and unified social media content approval system that has been reviewed and approved by in-house counsel. Such a system should also include ensuring that past consents are updated annually.

Being overly promotional 

Healthcare organizations enjoy talking about themselves. Hospitals like to announce their latest equipment. Laboratories often brag about their latest FDA approvals. But consumers usually couldn’t care less.

Some businesses are overly self-promotional, and that breaks a best-practices rule. It’s much better to tell a story through a patient testimonial and weave in the “news” that way. Rather than announcing a service, allow a customer to tell a story about how they used and enjoyed a service. True, this takes more work and it's exponentially more difficult. Approvals can take a long time, as can acquiring the content. But it’s worth it.

Ignoring the perils of live content

We are conditioned to gravitate toward all things new. Facebook Live, which debuted in April 2016, is no different. Many businesses rushed into the broadcast business. And why not? Facebook Live permits companies to promote themselves in an immediate and compelling manner that bypasses traditional media. That can be a positive thing.

But it also brings peril. Uncertainty is inherent in anything live. Things can go wrong. Your spokesperson can make a mistake. Your customer or patient might say something unflattering. And people watching can easily post an ugly comment. This could result in a media frenzy.

Healthcare companies are advised to consult with their agencies about Facebook Live—or anything new, really—to ensure that everything has been taken into account.

5 Things You Didn't Know About Social Media 

If you think you're a social media expert, think again. 

  1. It’s not only for millennials—63% of people 50 and older use their smartphones to check Facebook and Twitter feeds.

  2. Contrary to what you might think, teens are not turning away from Facebook—65% of them use it daily, up from 59% in 2014.

  3. Far and away, Sunday is the most popular day for Facebook and Twitter activity.

  4. Which social media platform is winning the video war? An impressive 84% of Snapchat users say they watch a video on the platform at least monthly, beating Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

  5. Stay-at-home mothers spend more time than working mothers accessing social media on their smartphone, desktop and laptop. But working mothers edge stay-at-home mothers on tablet.

    (Source: eMarketer)

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