CHPRMS General Session Day One: Social Media Best Practices from Chris Boyer

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The CHPRMS Fall Conference kicked off with a general session featuring Chris Boyer, Senior Manager for Digital Communications at Inova Health System. Chris is a long-time Tweeter at Twitter healthcare marketing hashtags #hcmktg and #hcsm and for good reason. He has great insight for both those wading into social media for the first time and for those who consider themselves experienced users.

Rather than rehash what was a great presentation, I’ll pass along what I found to be my biggest takeaway from Chris’ session: pure positioning.

Many hospitals are positioning themselves with a product mindset: with the subject being a surgery, doctor, da Vinci robot, or new patient tower. But the answer is not a pure service message that’s based on amiability and compassion. He suggests it’s somewhere in the middle: a message that focuses on building trust. Patients want to know that hospitals can effectively address their issues and that they won’t get hurt in the process.

One of the greatest tools for building trust in today’s marketing budget: social media.

Whether your hospital participates in social media or not is 100% irrelevant. The conversations are already happening around you. People are telling several hundred friends about a nice nurse who went the extra mile for their family member in a status update. People are crabbing on Twitter about waiting too long in their doctor’s waiting room. People share triumphs, joys, petty complaints and sometimes untruths mistakenly attributed to your hospital. Social media is an opportunity for two-way communication with fans and foes but you have to be there to take part.

There are a million blog posts out there that tell you how and why to get involved in social media already so rather than go there I’ll share these points from Chris as he wrapped up his presentation today.

First, hospital marketers have to realize the role social media has and will have now and in the future. You have to change your message and how you market it. Facebook isn’t going away and it’s somewhere people live; it’s not like search. People do not spend hours sharing and liking on Google.

Second, if your organization is not participating you have to start or risk being left behind. If you participate in social media already, you have to get better.

Third, you need a good social media policy (so everyone knows the rules), to open doors (so everyone has access) and you need a plan (so you’re not wasting the precious little time you have).

Fourth, you need the right team and you need to target the right audience. And last, you need to measure. Rather than striving for friends, fans and followers, search for deeper meaning. Broaden your reach. Build your reputation. Cultivate relationships. And measure your results.

Chris shared several great case studies. The first, from Swedish, promoted their sleep lab services. The second was Innova’s Fit for 50 wellness initiative.

He shared way more than what I have covered here but it’s a lot to think about whether you’re tweeting, blogging or still watching from the sidelines. How will you move forward?

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