Social Networks, Health and Marketing

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Social networks are powerful marketing and communication tools in all sectors of society, even in healthcare.

In the US, where health institutions are seen as businesses due to their private or semi-private nature, social media play an essential role not only as senders of medical information, but also as powerful tools for disseminating and creating brand image.

According to the study carried out by eBennett.org, 1,229 US hospitals already use social networks, with Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter being the most used.

Through social media, hospitals build strategies based on engagement and patient education. Let’s look at some examples:

Mayo Clinic

The prestigious organization opted for extending its presence on the Web from the outset.

Currently, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester (Minnesota) has a center dedicated exclusively to social media. A place dedicated to “improving health globally through new communication channels”.

This selfless gesture of the organization regarding social network use doesn’t seem to match its private leitmotiv:

“With over 90 percent of Mayo Clinic patients reporting that they say “good things” to their friends after a visit, using social media tools to amplify those impressions seemed reasonable,” explained Lee Aase, Social Media Manager at the Mayo Clinic in an interview with Guy Kawaky.

The organization’s strategy focuses essentially on covering the patients needs. So it has created a free virtual community where patients can connect with healthcare professionals, an extensive space for medical information where they can access quality documentation, a mobile application, and several commmunication channels that resolve the queries of thousands of followers each day (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr).

Children’s Medical Center of Dallas

Personalized stories always generate a greater bond between the reader and the stakeholder. And if we add the possibility of making the reader participate in the story to the equation, engagement is increased considerably.

The Children’s Medical Center of Dallas found a revolutionary way in 2009 to publicize its services by involving internet users. The hospital broadcasted live a kidney transplant operation between father and son to anyone who wanted to follow it, tweeting the whole operation on Twitter.

The hospital argued that the initiative was motivated by the need to “make an appeal for organ donations,” aside from any promotional benefits that it involved for the center —thousands of impacts in communication media, considerable increase in Twitter followers, etc.

Ever since, several US hospitals have followed their lead and others have taken things a step further.

Lowell General Hospital (Massachusetts)

For the moment, we have only looked at marketing and communication strategies in the digital environment, however, several US hospitals have managed to optimize the combination between online and offline communication.

One example is Lowell General Hospital (Massachusetts) that uses multi-channel marketing to humanize its corporate identity by organizing TeamWalk for Cancer Care, a fun walk that aims to collect funds for cancer research.

The hospital promotes the event through leaflets and posters, as well as through social networks and emails, encouraging participants in such away that they broadcast the events in real time and rally their friends and followers to make a donation.

I suspect that these initiatives will have not left you indifferent, and you have wondered a few things about them. What do you think about the use of e-marketing strategies in healthcare? Should hospitals and health centers be present on the social networks? Do you think they should be more regulated?

 

Laura Diéguez is a journalist specialized in business and digital communication, and is also assistant lecturer at Escola Universitaria Creu Roja