Hospitals add video to healthcare marketing toolkits

"A picture may be worth a thousand words," but to paraphrase a popular credit card commercial, "a video is ... priceless." Jenn Riggle

Videos have helped hospitals become better storytellers and create an emotional response with viewers, which ultimately, help drive engagement. Hospitals have used videos to humanize their brands, educate consumers, provide virtual tours of their facilities and provide real-time documentation of surgeries.

Each month, YouTube, the videosharing website, has 1 billion unique visitors, who watch more than 6 billion hours of video. It's no surprise YouTube has become the most popularsocial media platform among healthcare marketers.

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And while YouTube may dominate the video space, two new video tools, Vine and Video for Instagram, are gaining in popularity. Since hospital marketing teams have limited resources, it's important for them to prioritize which video initiatives they should pursue.

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First, let's take a quick look at the two new "micro-video" tools:

  • Vine is a mobile service offered by Twitter that allows people to shoot and share six-second, looping videos. Introduced in January 2013, Vine created instant excitement and currently has 40 million users. These videos also can be shared via Twitter and Facebook.
  • Instagram, the popular photo-sharing app that was acquired by Facebook in 2012, introduced Video on Instagram in June 2013. The service was rolled out tomore than 100 million people on launch day. Its videos are nearly twice as long as Vine videos (15 seconds), and the app also includes a video stabilizer to provide higher quality videos.

Both Vine and Instagram provide the same function as Flip-camera videos: They allow people to shoot quick, raw video footage that can be easily uploaded to the Web. They also allow users to add a caption, location, hashtags, as well as tag people and post to other social media.

The biggest difference is Vine videos are shorter and automatically loop, while Instagram videos play once and stop. The good news is both offer low-cost videos that almost anyone can shoot with a smartphone.

Hospital marketers should think of Vine and Instagram videos the same as posting a tweet on Twitter. They are short and sweet, and convey a limited amount of information with a limited shelf life.

What's interesting is despite Instagram's higher reach numbers and tools, Vine continues to be a major player. Hospital marketers seem to have adopted Vine faster than they're adopted Instagram videos. Why? It may be because Vine has been around longer and was the first micro-video tool.

However, it may simply be that hospitals are comfortable using Twitter and this has made adopting Vine videos easier.

There have been a number of hospitals that have successfully adopted Vine. Detroit Medical Center has been tweeting Vine videos of a Zumba class and construction of its new heart hospital. Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center live-tweeted the first brain surgery using Vine and Instagram photos.MultiCare, a health system based in Tacoma, Wash., created Vine videos of gallbladder surgery and the University of Colorado Health used Vine videos to document a partial knee replacement surgery.

However, before you start using one of these cool micro-video apps, here are a few things to consider:

  • Have a clear objective: Be clear about what you're hoping to achieve with the video because this will impact the approach you take. For example, if you want to create a teaser for an event, you may want to have a series of different short videos. If, on the other hand, you want to increase awareness about a service line by live-tweeting during a medical procedure or maybe following a patient through his/her recovery, it will be important to think of these videos as a series that needs to work together.
  • Create a storyboard: Because Vine and Instagram videos are so short, the videos need to be carefully planned. The best way to do this is to create a storyboard of the images you want to capture in the video.
  • Provide context: If you're using a combination of live-tweets, Vine videos and Instagram photos/videos, the best way to capture this activity is through Storify. This will save information together to help tell the story. Micro-videos are so short; they have more meaning when shown in a series or in combination with tweets and supplemental images.

Videos have the potential to change the way hospitals communicate with consumers. However, to be effective, hospital marketers need to have clear goals so they can find the video format that is right for them.

Jenn Riggle is a vice president at Weber Shandwick Worldwide and member of its healthcare practice.

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