Social Media and Its Impact on Brands

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For many of our healthcare clients, social media is a medium they aren’t quite comfortable using yet. Many question whether it’s useful, how the flow of information can be controlled, who is going to manage it (they certainly don’t have the extra time to do that!) and wonder if they should try using it.

We believe social media can be used advantageously. One way, which is currently playing out in several mainstream news stories, is to use it as a tool to share your side of the story, to provide facts when a crisis situation occurs, and sometimes, an apology, if one is warranted.  

 In a recent Hospital Impact article, Recent Headlines Provide a Lesson for Hospital, author Nancy C. Jean discusses how social media can be used in this exact manner. As you all know by now, BP is waging a battle against negative publicity due to the massive oil spill in the Gulf.  Social media provides BP a real-time venue to explain what they are doing to contain and clean-up the problem. Paul Levy, the well-known blogging CEO of Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center, has also been experiencing image problems lately due to lack of transparency regarding a relationship with an employee.  Levy, however, did issue an apology through a statement to the media as well as on his blog to his readers. Levy’s blog apology on May 3 has generated a fair amount of support from his readers and will probably help contain the damage to his brand.

Through social media, information (both truth and rumors) has the capability to almost instantaneously reach large numbers of people. It can reinforce or tarnish your brand. But, if you do not participate, you can not respond to threats to your brand.

 As my father used to say, sometimes negative reinforcement works better as a persuasion tool.  So, for those hospitals thinking about whether they should give social media a try, my question is: how can you not use social media as a tool to reach consumers?

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