Hospital leaders: Words of caution for social media outreach

So you’re tweeting, posting to Facebook, updating Pinterest boards and maybe putting pictures up on Instagram—that’s great for your hospital and your brand awareness.

But here are three factors you might not have considered when it comes to social media use:

Employees behaving badly

When it comes to employees and social media, we hope that workers will behave appropriately, but unfortunately that’s not always the case. What do you do when you find out that an employee has a personal blog that contains information that could potentially identify a patient? Or when you get a call from an administrator saying an employee had been having an inappropriate conversation with a patient through Facebook? These are true stories, and such situations, or worse, could happen at any hospital.


It’s vital to have an employee social media policy in place so you can address any violations with the appropriate disciplinary actions. That means your human resources folks must be on board, and your legal team should review the policy to be sure it doesn’t violate the latest regulations from the National Labor Relations Board. It’s also good to have that policy as part of new employee orientation, and as a requirement during annual performance evaluations.

Addressing negative comments

Wouldn’t it be nice if social media users saw things through rose-colored glasses? Sadly, it seems that more and more people are using these networks to troll and voice their (often negative) opinions, or harass people. So do you have a plan to address negative posts?

When we started out, we thought that we should leave everything, even the negatives, because it would affect our credibility if we were taking down posts. But what happens when you have a person who is naming a doctor in a post on your Facebook page and potentially damaging that doctor’s reputation? We decided then and there that negative posts naming a member of the staff of the hospital should be taken down immediately. The issue also should be resolved offline, when possible. Having a public policy about your social media pages made available to the public can explain why a post was removed--and is important for your credibility.

Monitoring content

We’ve probably all heard “content is king.” It’s true that you need good content in social media to draw attention and engagement. But if you’re spending all your time creating that content, and not monitoring what people are saying, then your efforts could be all for nothing.

If you have a follower on Twitter who is threatening to report a security guard for the way he treated his fiancée (again, true story) and you’re not responding, that can have more impact on your brand than a year’s worth of great content. Or if someone is being a “citizen journalist” and reporting erroneous information about your hospital, such as saying you have an Ebola patient (again, true story), then your brand could be seriously impacted by incorrect information. You also could have a public panic on your hands from such erroneous information.

Social media is not just about voicing what you want heard, it’s about listening to your community and responding to their concerns, complaints and questions. That also doesn’t mean responding only between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. You should have a plan in place for monitoring for negative comments after hours, as well.
Are there other things your hospital has experienced that you didn’t expect in social media? Reach out in the comments.

Nancy P. Jean is the senior social media strategist for Lifespan Inc.