RAQ: Tips for Selling Hospital Leadership on Social Media?

This is another in the Recently Asked Questions series. I’m glad to answer these via email (and have answered directly in this case), but by de-identifying the person asking the question (to protect confidentiality) and also answering in public I hope to provide a resource for others who may have similar questions. More importantly, it opens the process so if other SMUGgles have tips to share, we all can learn from each other.

So here’s today’s question from “Pat” (not his or her real name):

Hi Lee — I am the Manager, E-Strategy, at ________. While admittedly late to the party, we are preparing to launch an official presence on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn. But first, I have the pleasant task of selling our CEO and other senior leaders on the concept and benefits of social media. Do you have any resources/advice about how best to gain leadership buy-in? I’m not anticipating that it’s going to be a tough sell, but if there are any proven methods/pitfalls to avoid, I’d love to learn.

Dear Pat:

My presentations last week (embedded here and here) offer some basic guidance. I’d invite you to check them out. In essence, start by using social media tools to improve the efficiency of what you’re already doing (e.g. shooting Flip video for news releases and posting that to your Facebook site and YouTube channel…or just using the video to record your interviews and thereby do a better job of writing your old-fashioned text-based news releases). Use low-cost or no-cost tools so the out-of-pocket cost is negligible. Then when you get success at almost no cost you can build on that to extend into further applications.

If word-of-mouth plays any role at all in patients’ decisions to use your facilities (and it surely does), then social media will be a powerful means of spreading that word. You will be able to tell stories and describe treatments and services in much more detail than you could through mainstream media. And if you are spending anything on paid advertising, you can pay for your social media programs by channeling a tiny fraction of that budget. 

At Mayo Clinic we have been able to use social media tools to help tell stories, which has led to significant news coverage in the mainstream media, such as this story in yesterday’s Des Moines Register. And sometimes, as in this story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, we’ve had news stories about our social media efforts.

I’d also recommend you refer to Ed Bennett’s listing of other hospitals using social media to show your leadership that many others have begun using social media tools.

Finally, I wouldn’t exactly say you’re “late to the party.” I think there are something like 5,000 hospitals in the U.S., and Ed’s list has 250 using social media. You will still be on the earlier side of the adoption curve, and should be able to move relatively quickly since there are some examples of others to emulate and build upon. 

How about the rest of you? What advice could you offer “Pat” in selling social media to hospital leadership?

Author: Lee Aase

Husband of one, father of six, grandfather of 15. Chancellor Emeritus, SMUG. Emeritus staff of Mayo Clinic. Founder of HELPcare and Administrator for HELPcare Clinic.

4 thoughts on “RAQ: Tips for Selling Hospital Leadership on Social Media?”

  1. Pat –
    We were reluctant to venture into Social Media due to significant fears of “complaints” against the Health System. Instead, what we’ve found, is an overwhelming desire of the public to share their experiences and fondness for their caregivers. When we do receive the opportunity to improve a patient/family perception of a particular experience we can share what we do with everyone following the Health System. To my knowledge, that hasn’t happened yet. We’ve been live just a few months.

    The other issue that is probably much, much bigger and more significant for us is we’re reaching that audience that don’t read newspapers or have time to sit and watch TV. We recently had a skin cancer screening – over 100 community members attended with many being sent for further care. We heard – via Twitter – from community members that would NOT have known about the event or what was going on at the Health System without our daily Tweets. They were incredibly grateful. For us, a major win. We try to send about 4 a day – not a significant amount of time spent creating or following Twitter so it’s not a drain on our productivity.

    HIT was hugely supportive and gave my entire communications team access to the Internet. My staff understands that they may be audited on their overall use of the internet and are careful in what they do and where they go. Without this access we would not be able to communicate via Twitter. It’s key to your success.

    The other thing I was able to do was present to the Health System HIPAA committee what we were doing and what our feedback had been. It was a very positive meeting with many questions regarding Twitter and how it works. I was grateful for their support as well.

    One more thing – the contacts you’ll make via Twitter are immeasurable. Their help, guidance and support have been incredible. There is a Sunday evening chat where healthcare social media experts, physicians, marketing folks gather to share insights and experiences. I have had the great pleasure of speaking, in person, to Lee Aase, Ed Bennett from Univ of Maryland, Meredith Gould, Daphne Leigh, physicians and others on how to best reach our audience. I’m better for those relationships. You will be as well. They are eager to help. We all learn from each other – networking with people you would never have met. Priceless.

    Please contact me – or have your CEO or VP contact me for further questions. I’m happy to help. My email is above.

    Good luck – Brenda Finkle

  2. Hi Brenda..my name is Chris Martin..I’m writing a cover story for a Chicago health care association newsletter about social media and health care and your comment leads me to believe you might make an excellent source for the story. Would you be willing to email me at cmartin331@comcast.net so we can talk further?

  3. Pat,

    There’s a lot of unnecessary fear in healthcare over social media, but eventually it will become routine for organizations use these tools. It may help to show that social media can be used in a variety of ways . I have presentation on best practices from six different hospitals here: http://ebennett.org/jbpres/ – please contact me if you want more to discuss this in more detail. There is also a lively weekly twitter chat with healthcare folks that is great way to network and get help. Follow #hcsm at 9pm on Sundays.

    Good luck,

  4. Hi all!
    I agree with most arguments presented. But (there’s always a but isn’t it?), what i think it’s most difficult in selling scolia media to leadership is that they are reacting with fear, an emotion, and we’re trying to convince them with numbers and reasons. I think a good approach it would be to show them emotional success stories on how social media helps patients. I have to mention what Lee has done with http://sharing.mayoclinic.org/. I find that very inspirational and i think it’s a good way to show leadership how we can get people engaged in the same communication efforts through social media.
    Hope to hear your opinions.


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