With more Americans going online to obtain healthcare information, hospitals and health systems are jumping into the social media waters to market better patient care and attract patients.
But as the Mayo Clinic learned when launching its own free, open social networking community in July, in order for a hospital's social media presence to be effective, it can't be just another sales pitch, reports The eMarketer Blog.
"This isn't marketing and this isn't advertising," said Lee Aase, director of Mayo Clinic's Center for Social Media. "This is about being helpful. If you pursue it with an attitude that's too sales-like, it's going to be less effective, less genuine and less authentic."
Using social media to listen and respond to patients--and not just promote services--has created a community of sharing among Mayo Clinic's 180,000 Twitter followers and 54,000 Facebook "likes," who interact with Mayo's various social networking channels, as well as with each other, notes eMarketer.
"We've seen cases where someone finds a video helpful and shares that video with a patient support group," Aase said. "That draws another group of people to our community--that's why our growth has been so organic."
Other keys to Mayo's social media success were its ability to adjust its social media guidelines in response to new and evolving situations and its full-time nine-member social media team that constantly monitors the sites and reposts content across multiple channels.
Meanwhile, Mayo is gearing up for its Social Media Summit on Oct. 17, which is expected to have roughly 375 attendees, notes HealthcareIT News.
But the benefits of social media aren't just more informed patients or effective publicity. Two surgeons at the University of Buffalo found that Twitter use can accelerate and enhance medical training.