I’m lucky to be at the Children’s Hospital Association’s (@hospitals4kids) annual conference in St. Louis with our client from Children’s Hospital Colorado (@ChildrensColo) meeting other health care PR and marketing professionals and hearing about trends and best practices. As usual, there’s a lot of chatter about social media and the best ways for hospitals to engage in conversations with their patients and potential patients online. Cynthia McCafferty from Fleishman-Hillard (@Fleishman) in St. Louis provided some good insight and food for thought during her session entitled “Harnessing the Social Media Wave.” I’ve highlighted some interesting social media stats and trends below…
Social Media Stats re: Health Care (don’t quote me on this; I was taking notes quickly):
· After looking up the weather, consumers most likely search for health information online.
· The top social mediums used by hospitals include: 1) Facebook, 2) Foursquare and 3) Twitter.
· Hospital rankings are not widely considered in consumer searches; only 15% of Internet users have consulted online rankings.
· When searching for information online, the general population doesn’t tend to differentiate between paid and organic search results.
Trends (Cynthia’s list with commentary from me):
· Influencers as experts/spokespeople: Like it or not, consumers are increasingly relying on influencers to make health care decisions. If you don’t have relationships with the mom bloggers in your community – forge them now.
· Location-based services: While you’re not going to offer a free appendectomy to the 50th patient through the door of the hospital, you can provide useful information when patients check into FourSquare. Consider providing a link to an app with maps of the campus/hospital, information about visiting hours, food services, etc.
· Proliferation of smartphones: With increased usage of smart phones comes increased adoption of apps and QR codes. Use them to your advantage to provide information to your patients.
· Convergence of online and offline: We’ve all heard about “live tweeting” of surgical procedures, but the opportunities for the convergence of online and offline events don’t stop there. Consider things like Facebook events, House Parties for fundraising or Tweet Ups for key influencers.
· Brand = media company: Social media empowers organizations to create their own brands and publish content promoting that brand on a variety of channels. If you’re reading this, I’m preaching to the choir, so enough said.
Health care professionals, like everybody else, continue to seek the most effective ways to engage on social media, and there is a lot of opportunity to do so. It’s important to stay on top of the latest trends, be creative yet authentic and determine how to measure your efforts.
And on a side note, in seeking out a place to write this blog post and grab a yummy bite to eat, I discovered a great restaurant with delicious butternut squash soup and an interesting (in a good way) take on hummus — Mosaic (@EnjoyMosiac). I hope you can check it out when you’re in St. Louis!