Hospital Impact: Choosing the right social media channel is a lot like picking the right shoes

If LinkedIn were a type of shoe, it would be pair of work-appropriate black pumps. (Getty/YakobchukOlena)
Jenn Riggle
Jenn Riggle

Social media channels are a lot like shoes. They give us ways to communicate something about ourselves, but they serve different purposes. For example, you wouldn’t wear a pair of killer black heels to run a 13K or wear your favorite Chuck Taylors to a black-tie event. So too, hospitals should use different social media channels to reach different audiences.

Snapchat

If Snapchat were a pair of shoes, it might be lavender Lumpy Space Princess Dr. Marten boots. Super cool and comfy, but definitely not for anyone older than 20 or unfamiliar with the Adventure Time comic. But if you’re a children’s hospital or a pediatric practice, Snapchat might be the perfect communications tool to reach teens and college students.

Young people are addicted to making playful selfies and watching their friends’ Snapchat stories, which give their friends a look at what they’ve done in the past 24 hours.

In addition, Snapchat recently introduced World Lenses, which brings Snapchat filters to regular photographs and allows users to add 3D elements to any camera image, giving them a fun and whimsical look.

Snapchat provides hospitals with a great way to educate young people about issues that impact them, such as depression, nutrition or STDs. Or consider creating a Snapchat filter for your next hospital event (i.e., Christmas party, charity run, etc.). Your millennial employees will be surprised, and you’ll gain some “street cred.”

Instagram

Instagram is more like a pair of Adidas Stan Smith sneakers. Versatile and comfy, Instagram appeals to a larger audience than Snapchat, even though it offers many of the same features.

Instagram’s primary goal is to share photos and videos. Instagram users tend to be younger than Facebook users, consisting of teens and millennials. However, it keeps adding new Snapchat-like features, such as “stories” and most recently, selfie filters.

It’s no surprise that some of the hospitals that make the best use of Instagram are children’s hospitals, since their patients are avid Instagram users and love to have their photos taken.

Community hospitals and children’s hospitals should use Instagram to promote health and wellness programs, educate people about service lines that are relevant to younger people (i.e., orthopedics and maternity services) and to promote upcoming events. Or post photos and videos of past and current patients and hospital employees to bring your stories to life (provided they’ve signed press release forms).

Facebook

If Facebook were a pair of shoes, it would be a pair of nude flats or kitten heels, because it reaches the largest and most diverse audience. As Facebook has matured, it has become the social media channel for baby boomers, GenXers and millennials. Why? Because it’s user-friendly and provides a simple way for parents to share photos of their kids.

It should be no surprise that college students and teens have fled Facebook; they don’t want to use the same social media channel as their parents, and they’re probably embarrassed that everyone can see their family photos.

Hospitals are starting to embrace Facebook Live, which allows users to broadcast video from their mobile devices. Facebook videos have always been popular, but research shows that people spend three times more time watching livestreaming videos on Facebook than watching nonlive content.

For example, Erlanger Hospital recently used Facebook Live to share tips on how to protect your skin this summer. And hospitals in Canada posted livestream videos on Facebook of a colonoscopy and even a kidney transplant as educational tools. There are lots of ways hospitals can use live video. They just need to learn to be comfortable not working with a script and going live.

LinkedIn

If LinkedIn were a pair of shoes, it would be a pair of black pumps that are perfect for work. LinkedIn has 470 million users and continues to be the best social media platform for organizations to communicate with future employees. As a result, it’s important for hospitals to update their LinkedIn page for the new user interface for desktop users, which was introduced in January 2017.

But more than that, hospitals need to use LinkedIn to promote the organization’s culture—whether it’s to post photos of their employees having fun and why people enjoy working there.

One important change with the new user interface is that LinkedIn is again supporting hashtags. One hospital that’s doing a good job using hashtags is Stanford Health Care in Stanford, California, which uses the hashtag #HealHumanityTogether on its posts, whether they’re about health and wellness or career opportunities.

Twitter

Twitter is more like a pair of well-worn hiking boots. It serves a specific purpose and does it well, but it really isn’t for everyone.

While I was once a big fan of Twitter, it has changed over the years and has become less of a channel for two-way communication and more of an RSS feed to help people stay on top of the news that interests them.

While hospitals still need to own their Twitter handle and post content two or three times a day (ideally with photos), this is the social media channel that offers the least opportunity for engagement.

Like finding the right pair of shoes, it’s important to pick the right social media channel for each audience. Otherwise, your great content won’t be seen by the right people—and you’ll end up running a road race in a pair of killer black heels.

Jenn Riggle is the senior director of public relations for Compass Professional Health Services.