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HIT Marketing Blog

Marketing in Healthcare Today

Healthy and Safe Social Media Practice

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Inbound marketing wizards at Hubspot promote blogging and social media best practices and tips on their very own blog. Things like…

  • Just write, don’t be scared or over think it
  • Write with empathy – people enjoy reading content that they can relate to
  • Take the good and constructive criticism with the bad
  • Cut corners – blogs are not a masterpiece of the most perfect content ever crafted
  • Show personality and have a unique voice that will stand out


As we know, blogging and engaging in social media can present risks and challenges for healthcare, so executing best practices in a tactful and graceful way is certainly important. Mary Beth Thomsen goes a little more in-depth with tips for healthcare social media in particular include:

  • Well balanced level of sharing within the Rule of Thirds – 1/3 about yourself, 1/3 about the industry and 1/3 about personal interactions.
  • Use of images and photos are super important.
  • Take the compliments with the complaints but don’t take the complaints personal.
  • Be clever and catchy in order to encourage interactions.
  • Short is sweet but be sure to check for grammar!
  • Be approachable to your audience by posting like a human – not an automated social media robot.


Image Courtesy of John Lynn’s actual Twitter page

John Lynn, the founder of the healthcare blog network,, demonstrates a well-executed blog strategy and strong use of best practices. From blogging real-time comments on social media regarding current healthcare topics, to sharing interviews with industry leaders, to fun and unique posts that add light humor to this normally less-than-sexy industry of healthcare, John Lynn is demonstrating that social media can really be executed in any industry, despite risks and challenges.


Image Courtesy of Mayo Clinic’s actual Twitter page

I know by this point, it has begun to sink in that Mayo Clinic is a healthcare-social-media-maven, but, I’m going to raise the example again. Mayo Clinic also demonstrates successful social media strategies and are strictly held to HIPAA compliance regulations. By using a broad spectrum of platforms, frequently yet relevantly posting quality and self-generated content and creating a human engagement, the organization achieves their mission “To inspire hope and contribute to health and well being” one post at a time.


Being Hip With HIPAA

ID-100261541People often say “social media isn’t for everyone or every business”.

Call me a millennial or tell me I’m biased because I am in marketing and all… but I disagree. Everyone and especially every business can use social media in some facet. Especially businesses.

It’s the strategy that matters… picking the appropriate social networks… organically creating a following… crafting unique and interesting content… engaging the appropriate audience.

As a few readers brought up one of the significant risks of social media in healthcare in my last post. HIPAA is a challenge and even a risk with “going social” for many. For those of you who may not know, HIPAA is government set rules and regulations that protect your privacy as a patient which includes the protection of any information that may identify you as a person.

The risk of social media in healthcare arises when sharing any content that discusses or shows patients in your healthcare setting. This risk is both financial and criminal. Violations of HIPAA are classified in several different levels of severity, but all include a financial consequence and many include a criminal consequence that could hurt your organization in many ways.

ID-100259900Avoiding identifying information or not showing patient faces is just not enough. Kate Cornelius shared some examples of violations that were unintentionally made. Pictures that appear to be harmless or even posts that refers vaguely to a past patient’s appointment can all inadvertently violate a patient’s rights to privacy and security.

In a business that is all about patients, this can create some challenges – especially in photo sharing platforms such as Instagram. However, fear not! This is does not create a roadblock but rather an opportunity to get creative and witty with your content.

Focus on the big picture of healthcare – what specific conditions mean in lament terms, special treatments and any current research, safety and health suggestions for the masses, organization events, or even industry related holidays like Nurses Week. By focusing on educational and positive themes, you can create a relationship with all levels of healthcare stakeholders without violating anyone’s rights. If you’re unsure, just take a look at some of the leaders of the healthcare social media pack.


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Instagram’s Face in Healthcare

ID-10037855Instagram is a great way to “share life with [followers] through a series of pictures” and although healthcare is slow to adopt social media, it can provide some cool marketing for hospitals and other healthcare organizations. This mobile based social media platform creates a great opportunity to use social media marketing to develop a positive image of healthcare environments which are often feared by many. (Did you know Nosocomephobia– the fear of hospitals – is a real thing?)

For starters, it’s all about the internal stakeholders – the employees. Capitalize on your staff that are the front line employees that are lucky enough to witness the miracles and happiness that can be found in healthcare. Find photos of staff enjoying time with each other or their patients. This associates real people and real faces to your organization which will engage followers and patients.

Next, maybe there’s a new development, staff member, product, or event happening at your organization. Let your followers know with a sneak peek preview on Instagram. This will help entice current and new followers while keeping your organization on the forefront of your follower’s minds.

Most people don’t see the inside of a hospital or other care organization unless you’re a patient or visiting a patient. Open the rest of your organization up to the masses by sharing “behind the scene photos” from around the facility or from organization sponsored events.

Humor is very important when dealing with healthcare. Although a level of professionalism and awareness is certainly required in healthcare marketing, humor still can lighten the mood of serious topics in a positive way. Even more so – keep it simple. Followers want to see lighthearted yet emotional content that will help entice followers to get involved.

These strategies all create a warmer and friendlier environment for your healthcare organization which can increase the engagement and recognition with patients. Personally, I know I would want to know that the organization ensure my wellbeing and safety in a time of need is up-to-date and “hip” with trends. If the organization is engaging on social media, I would assume that they are also in tune with healthcare trends and delivery of care best practices.

All these tips are fine and well-intended, but when it comes down to it, the only true way of knowing what works and what doesn’t is to conduct trial and error while measuring the effectiveness. The amount of followers would be a quick judgment but not always the best metric. Frequency of your posts and engagement in the forms of likes and comments are strong measurements of success. These data points can be taken even further to begin analyzing the best strategy for future post. Measuring the traction of personalized hashtags and taking note of which photos had the most engagement with what photo filters are great tools for future planning. All in all, social media can be scary for an industry like healthcare, but it holds so much potential for success. Just look at Mayo Clinic!


This post was inspired by Ragan’s Health Care Communications post here and Brian Honigman’s post here.
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“Healthy” Social Media

blackboard-backgrounds-wallpapersAs with most trends, healthcare has been slow and sometimes hesitant to adopt social media best practices. We already know that not every social media platform is right for every business, or every person for that matter, so it makes sense for the healthcare industry as a whole to be hesitant. However, the times are changing and healthcare providers, organizations and vendors are engaging their customers and patients in this network of socializing, the need is becoming more prevalent.

The Mayo Clinic is a great example of healthcare organizations diving head first into social media. Their website was named the top Health Information Website in the 2013 Harris Poll EquiTrend survey. With a dedicated area, “Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media”, the organizations “believes individuals have the right and responsibility to advocate for their own health, and that it is our responsibility to help them use social media tools to get the best information, connect with providers and with each other, and inspire healthy choices.”

Let’s take a look at how Mayo Clinic has built its success through social media…

Brand Recognition — Consistency is critical here. An organization needs to establish recognition among all its marketing channels – especially social media. Using the same profile photo and company descriptions is important to avoid confusing a follower or visitor when browsing the different channels.

Specific Mission & Values — Social media for a business organization must be done strategically. Content needs to be relevant and interesting while also being well timed. A purposeful mission is important to ensure that all activities are executed in the same direction and with the same core values being reiterated.

Patient Engagement — In 2012, It was surveyed that 41% of people said social media would affect their choice of a specific doctor, hospital, or medical facility and that parents are more likely to seek medical answers online, 22% use Facebook and 20% use YouTube. This goes back to knowing where your customers and patients are. If patients are actively seeking information online, it is important to be there for them to find you. It’s an age old concept – be there or be square!

Leadership Support — Support from the top of the chain is incredibly important. The executive level of leaders are the driving force in much of an organization’s strategies and goals. If an organization’s executive team(s) do not understand or support the value of social media being used, there is little chance for success.

Innovation — Mayo Clinic is willing to go where their patients are. With their Center for Innovation, the organization tries to stay fresh and engaging with new content through the use of video, graphics, quick posts and blogging.


Do you know of any other successful healthcare leaders in social media?

What have they done well or differently?

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