Health-related tweets are up 51 percent in 2012, Melissa Barnes, Twitter's head of agency and brand advocacy, told attendees at the Health 2.0 conference in San Francisco this week. And while the company wants to encourage healthcare marketers' use of the microblogging service, she offered some caveats as well, reports GigaOM.
For instance, Twitter can't support pharmaceutical advertising and it can't give legal advice, she said, so marketers must determine their own effective strategies.
"[Health] is something that's interesting to us, like many other opportunities that we see, but right now we're approaching it with caution," Barnes said.
However, she urged healthcare marketers give it a try, suggesting use of the platform as a way to offer thought leadership advice, general disease information and content related to some current events, according to the article.
One of the biggest Twitter events occurred in June when the Supreme Court handed down its decision on the Affordable Care Act. Tweets on that decision peaked at 13,000 a minute, coming close to the most-tweeted recent political event, President Obama's State of the Union address, which elicited more than 14,000 tweets per minute, according to Mashable.
The service has been put to some interesting uses of late, though, including the live tweeting of open heart surgery in February and its use to predict flu trends in New York. The app MappyHealth, which won the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' recent challenge, tracks community health concerns in real time via Twitter. And specialists in Japan have been using Twitter on smartphones to provide consultations to stroke patients.
While more than 1,200 hospitals reportedly have a social media presence, many in healthcare have qualms about it. It certainly takes a specific strategy and dedicated staff. The biggest downfall in most organizations' use of social media remains the tendency to merely broadcast information rather than taking advantage of its capability to foster dialogue.
In a recent survey of social media use by hospitals and health systems by Falls Church, Va.-based consultancy CSC, author Jared Rhoads said it's time to go beyond the basics.
"We believe that, having built familiarity and comfort with basic social media use, it is now time for hospitals to use social media in a more advanced way to achieve their strategic goals," he wrote. "They should look for opportunities to go beyond just listening to consumers to connecting consumers and providers, gaining insights to inform product development, and responding to patient needs more rapidly."