March 21 will mark the 10th anniversary of the very first post on Twitter. That tweet from 2006 is now quite famous, and Twitter has grown into one of the most successful social media networks with an impressive history and list of milestones.
Now at 320 million users, this “microblogging” site has grown into the place to go for the latest news. A few hospitals recognized early on that the power of social media, and Twitter in particular, could be a boon to their efforts to connect with patients and increase brand awareness. Since then, according to the Mayo Clinical Health Care Social Media List, 1,014 Twitter accounts have been established by hospitals to support their marketing efforts and reach their patients.
Twitter is a favorite network of journalists who are looking for stories or experts. It’s also a place where citizen journalists tell their stories. Hospital marketing and social media experts have at their fingertips a fantastic opportunity to connect with reporters and establish a relationship with them.
It’s also a personal way to reach patients, even if they don’t know your hospital is taking part in the conversation. By monitoring and searching for your hospital’s name in Twitter, you can find a patient who, for instance, may be applauding your efforts in saving the life of his or her mother. Or you can also find the patient who says that your staff is rude and unprofessional.
Twitter gives you the power to reach out to those people and make a connection--a personal connection. You can thank the person who is recognizing your hospital and say how happy you are that the staff was able to be there in his or her time of need. For the person who is complaining, accomplish service recovery in the form of a personal response. Providing a phone number to call to discuss a complaint can go a long way toward repairing the brand’s image in that patient’s mind.
At least for now, Twitter is still free, even to businesses. Twitter can serve a hospital in so many ways, but only if you’re taking part in the conversation that’s happening all around you, in the “Twittersphere.”
Does your hospital use Twitter? If so, how are you using it? If not, why not?
Nancy P. Jean is the senior social media strategist for Lifespan Inc.