Archive for the ‘social media’ Category

Sharing Data Points in Hospital Social Media Use

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

The numbers speak for themselves!  More hospital marketing endeavors include social media elements.  I could write a bunch more about this data but I think just looking at the numbers lets us know that the world is communicating differently.  This is not an indictment to drop everything and adopt social media channels but rather a reminder that there are many more tools available to get our messages out and to build community in the health care marketing arena.

All of the data is courtesy of Ed Bennett and taken from his informative blog on February 14, 2010 and May 8, 2011.  Ed keeps a solid watch on hospital social media adoption.

U.S. Hospitals that use Social Networking tools – updated on May 8, 2011

965 Hospitals total

  • 486 YouTube Channels
  • 777 Facebook pages
  • 714 Twitter Accounts
  • 469 LinkedIn Accounts
  • 723 Four Square
  • 120 Blogs

3,289 Hospital Social Networking Sites

This is the February 2010 data:

  • 254 YouTube Channels
  • 336 Facebook pages
  • 430 Twitter Accounts
  • 70 Blogs

Setting and Reaching Your Marketing Objectives — It Still Starts with Your Target

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

We are changing the way we communicate. We might find information from a Twitter post or have an RSS feed with our favorite bloggers or follow the link on our friend’s Facebook page or we may be avid listeners to NPR’s Morning Report. Consider how you used to obtain information a few years ago compared with when and how you get information now. For some of you, the main source of information might still be your local newspaper but it may not be a newsprinted item on your kitchen table. You may have it as your home page on your laptop, you may subscribe to the mobile feed or you may prefer a news aggregator that occasionally lifts an article from that local newspaper.

As organizations that want to reach out to people, the manner and approach is just as meaningful as the message. According to data on the web blog, SocialDoctor, there are 4.6 billion cell phone users in our world, 500 million Facebook users, 190 million Gmail accounts and 140 million people who Tweet. But what this data doesn’t reveal is who is doing what. In my last post, I briefly discussed the value of data in helping to target specific audiences. So, before, you viscerally decide to turn everything in your organization mobile because of all of the cell phone users, do a little more thinking a little more digging.

Yes, I talked about this last week but I really want to drill home this concept. Start with determining your goals. What are you trying to achieve? If you are creating a marketing campaign to develop awareness of your practice and by that you mean increased inquiries leading to more patients, then you have to do a little, old-fashioned thinking first.

If you are promoting a sports medicine practice, then consider the most likely referral sources. Are these other physicians? Predominately primary care? What about sports teams and their trainers? Physical therapists? Personal trainers? Where are these referring sources likely to “hang-out” or get their information? Who are the top bloggers for sports information? Will they be listening to or watching certain programs? The point here is to think about your intended target and determine how you might best reach them. Then consider the message and the budget implications. You don’t necessarily have to do a knee-jerk reaction and develop a social media campaign because that is what everyone is talking about. Most likely, your plan should incorporate a variety of platforms to corral your targets. You might want to use a traditional media outlet (a radio spot on a popular sports program) as well as develop something more social. Perhaps begin a blog presence with one of the orthopedic surgeons to discuss sports injuries.

Start with your objectives, then consider your target audience and think about how you can reach them. Don’t leave it to one method but build a campaign and make sure, as always, that you track your outcomes so that you can refine and retool as necessary.

And like always — marketing is more effective because it is thoughtful and planned!


Marketing Basics — Is That a Remix?

Monday, May 16th, 2011

For a few years now, we have been hearing about “new” marketing or “Marketing 2.0.”  Job descriptions for marketers require “social media skills” and the marketing world looks different than it did when health care organizations first started using the term “marketing” vs. “outreach.”

The guts of marketing still are about garnering attention and reaching out to segments of a market with a message and service that is relevant.  Marketing is about studying your market and knowing it well enough to employ a strategy that will foster targeted market share.  In a sense, the infrastructure of marketing remains the same;  it is the tools and techniques that have thankfully evolved.  And, just like before, measurement and methodology count for a lot but we give them more air time today because we struggle with this part of the marketing mix.

If you are a regular reader, you know that I have been absent from this blog for some time.  While there have been personal reasons (my father’s illness and subsequent demise), I have also taken some time to look around and think about what might be most helpful to write about.  What continues to hit me is the lack of marketing basics being employed by many organizations.  We are caught up in the nuances and the new tools but often there seems to be a significant lack of effort spent on addressing the basics.

What are the basics? Marketing basics begin with having a service or product worthy of notice and the understanding of what a particular “consumer” might need and value from a service.  The next steps evolve into determining how best to attract those interested consumers in that service/product and understanding how different features mean different things to specific segments of the market.  If we tweaked our admissions process, would that be more appealing to prospective patients/consumers?   Pricing, often overlooked in health care because of the complicated reimbursement structure, is also a basic element in the marketing mix.  The basic that seems to get the most attention, is how and in what manner do we communicate or attract that potential consumer?  And the basic, as I alluded to earlier, that gets short-changed is the measurement and analysis of our marketing endeavors in order to constantly push toward improvement.  Trial and error with a conscious, if you will.

So, for the next several weeks, I am going to dwell in the basics. But, I am going to try to make the basics more comprehensible by employing queries:

First up and brief because of my explanation above, is about choosing a forum for you message?  How do you do it?


You have been the marketing engine behind your hospital for some time.  Mostly you spend time on the website and print collateral.  More and more you are being pressed, and are curious yourself, about MySpace, FaceBook, LinkedIn and Twitter.  The only problem is that you have very little time to make a careful analysis and are not ready to re-do your marketing plan because that would take re-generating the planning committee…so let’s get some quick analysis done on  the fly and take an incremental step forward

1) A little testing is good.

Adopting new tools doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” process.  Take incremental steps and investigate and sample the social media water.  Do some research on what other organizations are doing – this doesn’t have to be a deep dive, just spend some thoughtful time looking at organizations you care about

2) Think about what you want to test first – the renovated birthing center?

Start with something that is tried and true in your service mix.  Maybe this is the birthing center or your diabetes clinic.  But, work with something that you have a good understanding of in terms of service offerings and likely users.

3) Who is your target? What do you know about them?

Let’s look at the birthing center.  The target users will typically be women in child-bearing  age.  What zip codes?  What features might they value (focus group, survey analysis, etc.)

4) Determine your test plan – give it parameters and then legs.

While you could move into all social media sites at once, if you are time-strapped, focus one at a time.  So which one for the birthing center?  New stats tell us that Twitter might be utilized by only 10% of the American population.  You know LinkedIn is more about professional connections, so what about FaceBook and MySpace?  Facebook has the following demographics (Advertising Age data):

                                                          FaceBook                            MySpace

Women  ages 21 – 24                     16.6%                                    14.8%

Ages 25 – 29                                  11.7%                                    12.5%

Ages 30 – 34                                   9.7%                                     7.1%

Ages 35 – 44                                  15.4%                                    7.5%

There are many ways to do this and certainly, the more detailed your data and your objectives, the more careful the analysis.  But, I would choose FaceBook over MySpace based on this data alone.  What you don’t have here are economic or educational factors which will impact choices, but going on age alone, you will reach a greater portion of the female market with FaceBook.

Once you have decided to work on FaceBook, you have to go back to what features are women of this age most interested in and start developing a campaign highlighting those features.  Building your FaceBook page and building your community are other crucial considerations, but we won’t tackle those items for now.

And remember – marketing is more effective because it is thoughtful and planned!


Listening via Social Media Tools for the Healthcare Marketing Manager

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

Seems like we have mentioned this before but a conversation with a client the other day reminded me that the art of marketing and promoting our healthcare organizations is really an endless task that can always, always be improved upon.

And the first place is almost always with the source – the patient or the referring physician, whoever you consider your customer.  There are formal methods for obtaining good information about your customer’s wants and needs, i.e. surveys, physician relation liaisons, but let’s take a quick look at some informal methods that are easy to initiate right now.

Social media tools allow for listening in an informal method.  This kind of surveillance can help you be more nimble and lead you to a greater awareness of new trends or provide market insight that can help you navigate your outreach.

Listening can involve paying attention to your brand (or your competitors’) as it is mentioned in on-line conversations.  You most likely have set up a Google Alert for specific words and names to help you keep track of mentions. If you haven’t yet done that, go to Google Alert and get started. You can also set up a Twitter alert in the same manner with TweetBeep or use Twitter search for another great listening device. Both are free just like Google Alert.  With these search tools, you can capture what is being said about you or your brand on Twitter and in many online conversations.

You may have alerts set for your organization’s name but also consider more generic key words that you are interested in hearing about, i.e. “physician relations,”  “oncology,” “wound center” or “healthcare marketing.”   You can set up as many alerts as you choose and they can be formal names (your brand name, your competitor’s brand name, a specific physician’s name etc.) or key words or phrases.

There are a variety of services, free and premium that you can access to help you listen more closely.  Social Mention scan blogs, forums and such for your key words or brand name while BackType provides other social media listening devices.

Monitoring the alerts is only half of the process of listening.  Once you get beyond brand reporting, you need to consider the more complete context of the conversations. What drives the conversation?  Is there a need or a frustration? To get a more complete picture of your patients’ needs or how best to improve or promote your healthcare services, you will want to be more in touch with the overall conversation that is happening about the particular medical service you provide.  Scanning is worthwhile but make sure you a deeper sense of what the conversation is about.


Is Your Website the Foundation For Your Healthcare Marketing?

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Websites have evolved significantly since the early days of internet surfing.  It is not acceptable to have a facsimile of your corporate brochure as the template for your site.  You want to be user-friendly and like anything with healthcare marketing, focus on what your patients and referring physicians need to know versus what you want to tell.  Content is still king and in this case, you want your healthcare service information to be tailored to your prospect’s needs and wants.

Websites, some beautifully crafted, others demonstrating valuable services and information, cannot stand on their own. Plain and simple, websites need traffic to be effective.  The concept of “if you build it, they will come” just doesn’t work in our crowded and noisy marketplace.

When reviewing your marketing strategy (i.e. how to gain name recognition in a saturated market and get new patients in the door), you are smart to use your website as your central element but you need to utilize search engine optimization (SEO) to help bring traffic to your site.

SEO is not a simple concept and it continues to evolve.  You certainly can pay a firm to assist you in getting a high ranking on the terms you consider “key words” in your promotion or you can work on concepts yourself.  Either way, having an on-going awareness of SEO tactics will serve you well.

Here is a link to a great blog that has lots of good information on SEO.


More Social Media Examples – Medical Practices

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

What are physicians doing with social media? Physicians are exploring various forms of social media to communicate with each other and with their patients. Let’s see specifically how physicians are using blogs (akin to a practice newsletter), Facebook and Twitter.


One of the more popular physician bloggers with over 20,000 RSS subscribers is Kevin Pho, a board-certified Internal Medicine physician in New Hampshire. His blog provides a running commentary on what is happening in the medical world. describes the blog’s intent, “With health care at the forefront of the American mindset, patients often have no idea what goes on behind the scenes of medicine today. I aim to pull that curtain back.”

Some of Dr. Pho’s recent posts have the following titles:

How Connected Are You to Your Primary Care Doctor?

Mid-levels for Primary Care, But Not for Surgery

Op-ed: Not All Screening Tests Lead to Early, Better Treatment


Advantage Primary Care Physician, a South Carolina medical practice uses Facebook to communicate with their patients the very basics about their practice and its location and hours.

Eastside Primary Care and Wellness, a Washington practice, takes their Facebook page further and provides on-going health update reports and videos. As a primary care practice, they take the opportunity to educate their “fans” on the role of a medical home. A recent update:

MEDSPA EVENING AT OUR CLINIC!!!! This Friday, May 8th… 5:30PM-8:30PM… Wine and appetizers… door prices and discounted pricing… RSVP 425.467.1314

Another example is Care Practice that has the following informational blurb on their Facebook page:

Care Practice is both an Urgent Care and a Primary Medical clinic dedicated to serving the community through personalized and timely medical visits. The clinic is located at 508 A 14th Street in the heart of the San Francisco’s Mission Dolores Neighborhood.

Care Practice started in September 2008 with a mission to break down the growing barriers put between doctors and patients in the current health care setting and reinstitute transparency and affordability to medical costs. The location and atmosphere of the clinic also reflects a strong desire to bring doctors out of the medical office building and the hospital complex and back to the neighborhoods where they belong.

We offer 24/7 Urgent Care and House Call services with an On Call Doctor available after hours and on weekends to meet patients that require Urgent Care services.

They also have interactive exchanges on their site with information about H1N1 and patient feedback such as this recent post:

Hi – just thought I’d add a post. My husband Lawrence and I recently became patients of Care Practice. I found them through a Google search, on a Saturday, during what was a horrible time for us both – our long-time doctor had suddenly closed up shop and disappeared with no referral or notice.
Dr. Blackledge came in on his day off (sorry to out you, Dr., I don’t want to set up any unrealistic expectations!) – and saw
Lawrence. The office is lovely, the office manager is sweet and very kind, and Dr. Blackledge treated us with respect and dignity. It was by far the most positive experience I’ve had with a medical professional.
I can’t say enough about this clinic, and Dr. Blackledge -if you read the mission statement above, you can get an idea of what they’re about, and it’s not P.R. B.S.. They care about their patients. They don’t waste your time, but more than that, they’re willing to spend time, and they listen. Care Practice is fantastic – can’t recommend highly enough! – Sarah


There are many ways to use Twitter. A physician and Twitter enthusiast wrote in a recent blog post, How Physicians (Should) Use Twitter. In his post, Dr. Lara categorizes the three main applications of Twitter for physicians. He provides specific examples for 1) Information Collection, 2) Information Sharing and 3) Communications Regarding Direct Patient Care.

Dr. Gwenn is Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Pediatrics Now who also has a blog and tweets. A recent post from Dr. Gwenn:

Video passed on FB by @doctor_v “ode to Jenny McCarthy from Measles,Mumps,Rubella”. (someone pass this to Oprah!)12:16 PM May 15th from web

Twitter can be used as a remarkable listening tool. If you are not ready to put yourself or your practice persona out, consider finding out what others are doing and thinking. There are some very good patient advocates on Twitter who deftly articulate the experience and feelings of patients. Check out ePatientDave and TrishaTorrey.




Some Health Care Social Media Examples (hospitals)

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

In my last post, thanks to the Pew Survey Data, we know that many people are on-line and engaging in a variety of activities. Some of the activities include simple searches and project/service investigation while others are engaging in social media. Organizations have to decide if they are going to enter into this conversational mode and how they will meet their objectives.

In this post, I just want to provide some examples of what some health care organizations (mostly hospitals) are doing:

The American Cancer Society is on Twitter (@AmericanCancer). Their updates center on the latest cancer news and research. You can also catch the Lance Armstrong Foundation on Twitter (@livestrong). Cancer survivors are sure to follow LiveStrong and discuss and celebrate their news.

Many hospitals and health systems also are on Twitter. Some provide health updates. Here is an example from Beth Israel Deaconess (@healthwithbidmc) in Boston:


  1. Obama Administration May Recommend 3 Flu Shots for Americans This Fall. 23 hours ago from web
  2. Swine Flu Likely to Return to U.S. Next Winter. 23 hours ago from web

Henry Ford Hospital is experimenting with various social media outputs – they recently transmitted the robotic procedure for the removal of a cancerous bladder by satellite to the International Robotic Urology Symposium and they also provided updates on Twitter. Physicians “tweeted” directly from the operating room in a detailed description of the procedure. Physicians also answered question “tweets” about the surgery. The hospital indicated they hoped to provide awareness of the hospital’s new surgical capabilities

The Henry Ford health system has utilized YouTube and podcasting as well, offering medical advice, educational updates and a variety of health information.

Some organizations are experimenting with FaceBook accounts. Scripps Health in California has a Facebook account where they provide information about their organization and health tips. Here is a recent post:

Sneak peek! See the online version of the Scripps 2008 Annual Report, complete with video. This year’s edition, “A New Era of Medicine,” focuses on the many exciting medical advancements that Scripps employs or is helping to develop.

Mayo Clinic’s penetration into social media was recently detailed in the Star Tribune:

These days, Lee Aase of the Mayo Clinic is a walking, talking, blogging, Twittering, Facebooking, YouTubing force who’s blasting Mayo into the social networking world faster than you can say “Mayo Brothers.”

Aase says Mayo is simply spreading its reputation as it always has: through word-of-mouth. In fact, Mayo spends very little on advertising. It has had the same logo — three overlapping blue shields symbolizing research, education and clinical practice — for years.

The Web, however, seemed a natural move to Mayo executives. “As we see people communicating in new ways, we want Mayo Clinic to be part of the conversation,” said Dr. Thoralf Sundt, chair of Mayo’s marketing committee. “We know the conversations are happening out there. This is a chance for us to join.”

Does any of this actually get patients in the door?

Several patients with rare diseases have told their doctors at Mayo they came after watching another patient’s video on the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog. But numbers are hard to pin down, Aase said. What he does know is people are watching.

What this produces in patients and revenue remains to be seen, said Bevolo. But since Web tools are free, he added, “the risk of it is so little.”

In my next post, we will look at what medical practices and physicians are doing in the social media realm.


Social Media Use in Hospital Marketing

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Thanks to Ed Bennett, a web manager and creator of “Found in Cache,” we can see exactly which hospitals are involved in social networking and what tactics they are employing. Ed’s statistics for April 19, 2009 show the following hospitals in the United States that are taking advantage of some sort of social networking tool:

• 240 hospitals using some sort of social media
• 129 YouTube channels
• 88 Facebook pages
• 155 Twitter accounts
• 23 Blogs

Since there are over 5,000 hospitals in the United States, it is fair to say that the 240 currently involved with social networking are the early adopters. They are taking advantage of the opportunities and experimenting.

Just who is on-line and why should a hospital or medical practice enter the social networking culture?

According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project December 2008 Tracking Survey:

Age Groups 18 – 32 33 – 44 45 – 54 55 – 63 64 – 72 73+
Use Internet 87% 82% 79% 70% 56% 31%
Use Social Networking sites 67% 36% 20% 9%  11%  4%
Create Social Network site Profile 60% 29% 16% 9% 5% 4%
Read Blogs 43% 34% 27% 25% 23% 15%
Get health Info 68% 82% 84% 81% 70% 67%
Research products 84%   84%  82% 79% 73% 60%

In March, 2009, according to unique visitor traffic at the following sites looked like this:

Facebook   91,054,535
MySpace    55,594,761
Twitter       14,031,985

The numbers above are national but do provide a sense of the volume of online traffic. Based on the volume of younger adult use, it might make sense to start utilizing social networks by having a sports medicine or birthing/maternity “presence.” Use social network sites as a tool that integrates with traditional promotion tactics – not as a substitute – at least not until you are able to measure your reach and penetration.

Before you embark on the social networking element of your outreach, consider how social media should fit in with your overall strategy. Just because it is a fun, new tool doesn’t mean you forget about employing basic marketing analysis. Consider the outcomes you are hoping to obtain and plan backwards.

Once you have made a plan and have set some targets, you are ready to begin. Keeping in mind, you already have a full plate and plenty to manage makes adding something new a little scary. Start small and keep it simple. You will encounter naysayers, so work hard to prove your concept and support your work with solid data. As you become more comfortable and develop your metrics, you will be able to layer in new elements.

My next post will profile how some organizations are using social media.


New Tools in an Evolving World

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Over the weekend I attended two discussions/lectures in our college town. Each touched on the elements of communication. One presenter positioned technology tools in a perspective of time and evolution. The other position, taken by a NYT journalist was less pragmatic and surprisingly less open. The journalist suggested that blogging and other forms of social media might actually dilute a brand. The juxtaposition of these two sentiments might have been generational (Boomer vs. Gen X) but as a Baby Boomer myself, I wanted to think further on the younger sentiment.

This Gen X presenter is a serial entrepreneur and his first professional business was a pre-cursor to today’s social media sites. As he spoke to the young (college-age) audience, he quickly listed some “historic” points to where the web used to be – one of the points: “You could surf the whole web in one day because it was so small.” I was reminded that 10 years ago, some people thought the world wide web might not be for them and weren’t sure they even needed a web site to promote their organization. That thinking is obviously “old-fashioned” by today’s terms.

In another ten years, will we look back on this time with the explosion of social media networking and see the journalist as “old-fashioned?” Yes, I think we might. Whether we like the idea of Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn or MySpace, these sites are building momentum daily. Now is the time to investigate, experiment and sample. In the next few posts, I will expand on social media concepts with some tips and how-to get started suggestions. For today – the take away point: just because we are not comfortable with something, doesn’t mean it is not a good idea to use it as a tool.