Making Meaningful Use of Hospital Social Engagement Strategies

Posted on November 22, 2013 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

My latest healthcare field trip took me to the Health 2.0 Atlanta Meetup group, a blossoming community of startup professionals, investors and folks like me who want to stay abreast of innovation happening on the fringes of our industry. Previous events have been dedicated to startup showcasing, but this most recent meetup turned the tables by gathering a panel of marketing executives from three of Atlanta’s most well-known health systems – WellStar, Piedmont and Emory.

I think if this panel had gotten together last year, or even two years ago, all the talk would have been around how to market their EMRs to current and prospective patients. (WellStar and Piedmont are on Epic, while Emory is on Cerner.) EMRs were mentioned once or twice. The big theme that seemed to run throughout the series of moderated questions was … wait for it … patient engagement. More specifically, all three panelists stressed the importance of using social media as a patient acquisition and retention tool. As Sandra Mackey, Executive Director of Marketing at Emory, so succinctly stated, social media is no longer a “need to have,” but rather a “must have.”

Matt Gove, CMO and SVP of External Affairs at Piedmont, noted that he has been able to demonstrate solid ROI from the health system’s social media efforts, connecting the dots between Piedmont messaging in Facebook feeds to booked appointments and revenue-generating procedures. Both Piedmont and WellStar have turned to third parties like Brightwhistle, Tailfin and ReachLocal to help them pinpoint the best places for social messaging. Gove’s efforts have been so successful that he has focused more staff on social media management, and now integrates social media into more campaigns than ever before.

All three panelists seemed to agree that marketing spend going forward won’t be on big media like radio and T.V. ads, but rather on messaging that reaches a patient’s inbox or Facebook feed. Mackey noted that people are growing up on social media now, and they wouldn’t dream of going anywhere but to their social networks for healthcare recommendations. Her comment directly correlated to Gove’s simple wish for physicians to do their jobs well. A positive experience lends itself to stories that can be shared among patients’ social networks, potentially garnering that hospital exponential exposure and brand recognition.

I wonder how hospitals will adapt their social engagement strategies over the next year. What will be top of mind for hospital marketing executives in 2014 and beyond? Give me your take by leaving a comment below.