Watch Out Healthcare Digital Marketers – Cambridge Exposed Us!

Ever since Facebook opened up their advertising platform, we have been running ads! We started running ads when we could target individuals in ways will never be ale to now. Before Facebook pulled back the reigns, we talked about the good ole days of Facebook targeting; and now…we are truly exposed.

The public always knew something was weird when they would use their phone to buy something on Amazon then noticed that same product in an ad on Facebook.

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Digital and Social Media Impact of Zika Virus: Strategy Recommendations


There is increased search on Google for information about Zika virus, based on data supplied by Google Trends. Charleston, SC is leading the state geographically with increased Google search about the virus along with our neighboring state (Georgia) seeing an increased amount of search. Bottom-line, people are searching and seeking information.

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Should hospitals use social and digital to talk about Zika Virus?

I am watching the digital curve surrounding Zika virus from inside Google Trends alongside monitoring the amount of conversation on Facebook using the Signal product. It was just yesterday that we noticed that Zika Virus moved to the trending position in Facebook after the media covered President Obama’s announcement surrounding funding to attack Zika virus.


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4G is a game changer in hospital social media policy

The more and more marketing professionals I chat with across the country, the more conversation I hear about Social Media policy. So what is at the heart of the matter when it comes to Social Media policy in hospitals…usage. When can employees access Social Media outlets. This is a cultural issue.

Many of the arguments discussed, will Social Outlets change productivity and effect bandwidth. Another issue, one that I think is even more exponential is patient information. Can we protect patient information and privacy. Do we want healthcare professionals engaging with patients online and discuss healthcare matters that deserve to stay inside the walls of the examining room.

From a marketing position, hospitals want to grow fan bases and followers fast. It is the new age marketing outlet that has more mass appeal than the billboards and other collateral. Many hospitals are restricting access to Social Media outlets on internal networks. But, if you are not opening up the opportunity to access to Social Outlets inside the walls of the hospital, you are marginalizing your biggest fan base, your brand ambassadors…hospital employees. They are the true touch points to the patients.

So if the internal IT departments can lock down access to Social Media outlets inside the walls based on the social media policy…you can control usage. Not anymore, that is changing and changing FAST. I wrote a few months ago about the effects of Verizon’s 4G LTE inside the walls of a hospital. I detailed my fears how this technology can penetrate walls further with faster speeds, faster than what is available inside the internal networks. Bottomline, mobile devices provide the access that the internal networks restrict.

4G is changing hospitals’ Social Media policies. Why, because now controlling access is so much more difficult. Bandwidth is no longer an issue and productivity is now truly a management/leadership issue. Even more, hospitals will be writing Social Media policies that include patient usage. 4G speeds and penetration will now allow employees, healthcare providers, patients to access social outlets outside of the cubicle/workstation. Walking around the halls, typing under desks and conference room tables, patient rooms, etc. are the areas individuals with mobile devices will Tweet, update Facebook, post pictures, comment on videos, Google doctors’ names, check-in, and the list goes on.

The speeds of these devices and the broader access no longer requires a hospital employee (healthcare provider) to go through the login process of the terminal or workstation to look at Facebook or watch a video. Just pull out the iPhone, Droid, Blackberry, or whatever to surf, scan, update, and connect. Then, if someone walks by, it is small enough to pop back in the pocket. 3G and now 4G provides the faster access to do this where walls used to restrict. The desktop computer is not necessary to access the outlets.

The mobile 4G offering is forcing the hand for many organizations. But more than that, the numerous devices with the ability to offer these speeds is part of the equation. If you walk inside any organization, walk down the halls, count the number of devices in the hands of people. Regardless of the place, we do not think about what people are typing on these devices, how they are surfing the web, if they are typing a work email or updating Facebook. Mobile devices are everywhere.

Hospitals are now going to have to think through policies, procedures, and education. Yes…educating not only the employees but also the patients. When it is appropriate to use devices, where it is appropriate to use mobile devices, how to use the Social Web. Social Media policy is about usage…not about restriction but about access. 3G and 4G now brings patients and their families into the Social Media usage policy equation. It is a game changer.

Recent Related Blog Posts:

4G LTE Technology: The Good, the Bad, and the Hospitals.

Healthcare Innovation & Mobile Devices

Hospitals should open the “pipes” for Social Media!

Innovation: Print & Social Media Working Together

A few weeks ago, I was having lunch with one of the Social Media team members with Greenville Hospital System. They showed me this little idea they created! Little cards that had intriguing little quotes that complimented a Social Media outlet they were trying to promote. These cards were  used to hand out, place around town, used to give out in the hospital, or even at events.

How cool! They are almost the size of playing cards using the branded colors of the Greenville Hospital System. Each card had a different phrase or quote promoting a Social Media account, whether it was the Careers Twitter Account (@ghs_careers) or the main Facebook account for the hospital (Facebook.com/GreenvilleHospitalSystem).

What a fun little way to spread the word or even prompt a conversation about  the information or community surrounding a Social Media account. So simple, thoughtful, and intriguing. It is so hard to find intriguing ways to promote Social Media accounts. So many organizations and people are using Social Media to promote Social Media. When you are trying to build community, you have to assume that most people have not used these platforms or do not know the actual URL (account username) to find these accounts online.

I even see many organizations advertise on billboards/flyers and use the Twitter bird or the Facebook logo with the phrase “Follow Us.” FAIL! Nice Try! You cannot assume that people reading these promotions know how or where to find these accounts online. If you look at the bottom of each of these cards, you will see the actual URL address for the Social Media account they are promoting. Even the Facebook cards have an image with the thumbs up “Like” logo indicating the action item desired.

I just think these is so smart, it is fun to watch organizations find innovative ways to use media to engage a community with new forms of media.

To learn more about Greenville Hospital Systems Social Media presence, CLICK HERE or go to http://www.ghs.org/socialmedia

Hospital Social Media Bandwidth Demand is Heating Up

Evolution, evolution, evolution. Word of mouth gone digital…and the result, a CIO’s worst nightmare: SQUEEZE MORE IN THE PIPES!

BizReport.com reported in April, 2010 stats that we already know intrisically…7% of all business Internet traffic is going to Facebook and 10% of bandwidth used in a business is getting chewed up with YouTube. Makes sense because YouTube has become the number two search engine below Google.

Let’ look at the Facebook stats:

  • More than 400 million active users
  • 50% of active users log on to Facebook in any given day
  • Average user has 130 friends
  • People spend over 500 billion minutes per month on Facebook

WOW…so, we know that people are accessing Facebook at work in some capacity. Let’s look at another statistic that I found interesting: There are more than 100 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices and people that use Facebook on their mobile devices are twice more active on Facebook than non-mobile users.

Well…if you can’t get it on the company computer then you can pull out that iPhone, Blackberry, Android, etc. to access you favorite social media site. I have already tackled the reality of why hospitals and organizations should open up the pipes to Social Media, so I wanted to look at what are the hesitations for corporate decision makers. What are the top two arguments for not opening up the pipes to Social Media: 1) employee productivity and 2) bandwidth.

Infrastructure is a huge issue. Think of it this way. I have a house that was built in the 1920’s. The plumbing in the house was probably re-built in the late 70’s. I have a half-inch pipe servicing my house…so when someone is the shower, you better not flush the toilet or turn on the washing machine. And…do not plan on taking two showers at one time or consider doing the ole Navy Shower routine: turn on water and rinse, turn off water and wash, turn on water and rinse.

So…using this analogy…think of bandwidth in the same regard. Lots of hospitals have the same position when it comes to IT infrastructure. Legacy wiring, switches, etc. to support an ever increasing demand for bandwidth. So imaging opening the flood gates to all social media and other resource intensive web based, community platforms. There is only so much a hospital or organization can support given the current infrastructure. So with the demands of increasing bandwidth needs and access to information…there are policies and procedures that have to be put into place to decide how to allocate resources. The Department of Defense just recently opened up the pipes to Social Media but put into place strict guidelines for use…a “Consistent Policy.” “There has to be since 47 million of Americans visit Facebook daily, which is nearly as many who watch TV daily (55 percent),” states Neilsen.

So how do we get hospitals’ and organizations CIO’s and IT Departments on-board with opening up the pipes for Social Media’s:

  • First – Build a team to assess this demand. This includes heads of marketing/pr, IT (CIO), finance (CFO), and service area department heads.
  • Second – Build an advisory team built of individuals on the ground level. These are the individuals actively accessing Social Media as brand ambassadors.
  • Third – Build policies and procedures for implementing Social Media usage on all levels. Whether it is a patient, visitor, employee, or leadership…all users should have guidelines for usage.
  • Fourth – Assess current infrastructure and how the increase in demand of data will affect infrastructure and costs associated with opening the pipes.
  • Fifth – Implement a strategic plan for who and when can access Social Media platforms. This is based on access and cost to access data.

Bandwidth costs money, whether if it is the amount of data transfer, the physical pieces of technology that manage the pipes, or the human capital accessing the networks…time and usage is money. So what type of investment should we allocate to this growing demand for information?

Remember the one stat that I mentioned earlier, one that I am sure is making a CIO happy: there are more and more people accessing Facebook on mobile devices. Is this out of necessity because corporate pipes have been locked down or is the mere fact more and more mobile devices have access to fast data and applications. This is diverting the bandwidth issue but raising the problem of whose mobile device is being used to access the Social Media’s? Is the company footing the bill for the device or is it a personal device; regardless, people are accessing Social Media.

People want access to stories and they are connecting with stories via social media’s!

It is a Social Media Revolution…I am still thinking!

Well it is a two days after the South Carolina Hospital Association’s Social Media Revolution and day two of synthesizing a ton of good conversations. One thing that has been re-affirmed…it is still Social Media and it needs to stay social. Seriously, they are media’s and they are controlled by the social masses.

Reed Smith finished with this parting question,” Who Owns Social Media?” My opinion, the masses. The people that are using these media’s to socialize, share information, connecting with others are the ones that own social media. Organizations are just one of the many people in this vast paradigm interacting with other colleagues,  constituency bases just like my mother sharing pictures of her Vegas trip. She has an audience, she engages with her audience, shares information, receives a level of response, and continues to engage in conversations. If people were not responding, commenting, engaging, sharing, and generating conversation…then Facebook would not be the Number One website jumping over Google (Via Ed Bennett)

We as marketers, hospitals, organizations should understand and respect the paradigm, or we will find one more way to shape a vastly growing medium into a form of one-way conversation…one more time! So, it comes back to audience…knowing our audience and finding ways to join the convesation instead of creating one more marketing stream, hoping that some mom from the age 25-34 is going to by into our poorly created message as we cram it into a medium with a sledge hammer. We have big sledge hammers!

Social Media is no longer an after thought when it comes to hospitals marketing strategies. VP’s and Marketing Directors are quickly trying to evaluate staff resources and figure out how to staff the shift.  The shift is not just Social Media, but New Media and Rich Media. We are asking questions to those large organizations how they are staffing a marketing/pr and comparing it the numbers of the web/media staff. Some do not have a web/media staff, outsourcing to a vendor in the hopes it will create a band aid until the next fiscal conversation.

Ed Bennett told the crowd of 125 at SCHA’s Conference Center that his staff at the University of Maryland Medical Center is 8 web/new media professionals servicing all social media and web outlets compared to the marketing/pr staff has 8 members as well. They are making the shift and taking control of creation and distribution of the their message. Amen brother…preach it to us, we will follow. Trust me, every decision maker in that room was jotting down that number and thinking about integrating those stats into their strategic capital requests! Bottom-line, that is where the ROI discussion should be located.

Social Media efforts are now being integrated into every aspect of a hospital’s and physician’s marketing efforts. They are learning that Social Media has another ROI point of interest, it is generating direct hits to their web portals, directing audiences to the message, reducing bounce rates, and creating strategic linkage systems that bolster rankings in the search engines. It is a search engine war as hospitals in the same geographic areas are competing for the search engine space. Not only with Google but with YouTube…why, because YouTube is the Number 2 search engine right now, today! (Via Ed Bennett) Hospitals are creating rich media that gives audiences palatable information that helps potential clients make decisions from service lines to which ER (ED) to choose.

Social Media efforts are being integrated daily into all campaigns. It is no longer the game of just creating a billboard and “brochure” and then create a totally different message for web/social media/new media outlets. Now, these efforts are being combined, where there is a conversation of consistency in design across the whole board. You no longer see the Facebook and Twitter logo as an after thought at the bottom of a print piece, it is taking over as a major position in the design and including the exact URL to find this social media outlet. Oh yeah…we are in a mode of securing our domains before someone takes over our message. Look at what happened to BP, someone created a Twitter account (@BPGlobalPR) to post off color messages about the oil spill in the gulf. Is it really a pr nightmare?

And…OH…AND…TWITTER AND FACEBOOK ARE NOT THE ONLY SOCIAL MEDIA’s! Conversations are being created on Flickr and YouTube. People like to share pictures and video. They like to be creative and find others that share their vision. So campaigns are being created so that audiences can take part in the media creation. Organizations are creating campaigns allowing audience to submit videos and pictures that lead to idea generation and community building. We all have a way to express ourselves so why not capitalize on user generated media. Plus, marketing departments know they are biased based on strategic messaging (that waters down the social conversation), it makes more sense to let the audience lead the way. Once again, the masses own Social Media.

Policies and Procedures…oh yeah, that too. It is time to dust off that HR generated web policy that we have employees signed, the one that was created in the 1980’s. It is time to realize that we cannot close the pipes much longer inside hospitals and organizations. There is this new little nifty thing called a mobile device. Yes, those phones that are now media generators and media distributors. We can now walk around hospitals until we find that service bar on the phone, take a picture, and upload it to Facebook. Do not mind the fact that I cannot log onto Facebook from my company issued computer…we will show them. Do not mind that the hospital’s Wifi is in and out, we can get close to a window, get service, and send a picture of Uncle Harry that just got out of surgery and is ok now! Oh, there is this new thing called an iPad and a Netbook that does not need Wifi anymore and it has a the ability to do more than the mobile phone. So we need to generate a policy that is more than just a social media policy, it is Media Communication Policy for not only employees but patients as well. Signs need to be put up around hospitals to remind of best practices when taking pictures and sharing information.


So where are we now and where are we going? Heck if I know, but I know this…location based technologies like FourSquare and Gowalla are hear and gaining traction. They are the real Social Media ROI generators, when people check into a location, it provides an exact location for all the masses to see. We now can start targeting information and strategies based on where the masses (or audiences) are checking in. We should, because Starbucks is doing it, providing incentives for those who check in the most…DISCOUNTS! Hmm, this could work well for hospitals that have wellness programs integrated with work-out facilities.

I tell you what, that Reed Smith and Ed Bennett are smart peeps…and Micheal Shetterly of Ogletree Deakins Law Firm got me thinking about this Social Media Revolution. It is about audience, purpose, delivery, engagement, and right to privacy. Yes, Right to Privacy…and what is your expectation to privacy. These new policies and procedures need to include how, when, and where information is created and distributed, especially if the company is footing the bill for that Balckberry, iPhone, or Android you are carrying. If they pay, they might have a right to access the information you generate on that device.

Social Media is here to stay and we cannot avoid it…AT ALL. So it is time to find ways to staff it, generate best practices, follow the audiences that own it, and be prepared for it’s evolution. This Social Media Revolution is going to evolve into the next media revolution that has the acceleration of an “E” ratio…forward and fast!

BTW – The Adams Group had two great recaps of Social Media Revolution: Part One & Part Two

Hospitals should open the “pipes” for Social Media!

Hospitals need to start opening up the pipes to social media inside the hospitals. Like most large organizations, hospitals clamp down on whether employees can access certain web properties: whether it is ESPN, Yahoo, and now Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites. Here are couple simple reasons I think IT Departments and Executive Leadership should jump in and open up the pipes:

1) Mobile – If employees cannot access the same sites on the hospital computers, they are using mobile devices to access this information. With 3G and soon to come 4G devices, access to information is coming faster and more assessable each day. Whether if you have an iPhone, Blackberry, Android, etc…you can access all the social networking sites, post and update, and even take pictures and post right inside the hospital walls.

2) Internal Brand Ambassadors – Employees are engaging with patients via social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and even geo-location apps like FourSquare.  They are using their mobile devices and finding other means to connect with patients outside of the firewalls. Building communities is important right now and there is value in allowing those conversations to foster inside the walls of the hospital rather than outside the walls.

3) Patients are Talking –  Patients and making status updates from inside the walls of the hospital. They are using Twitter and Facebook to tell family and friends medical updates of their loved ones. This is a great opportunity to try to engage or see the conversations in real time inside the walls of the hospital.

4) Geo-Location – Patients/Visitors of hospitals are updating with a location inside the walls of the hospital using Foursquare and Gowalla. They are telling the world they have just arrived for a procedure or picking up a loved one, stamping their location, and then describing the experience. There is value in engaging with these conversations.

5) Doctors are using the Internet to gather information – “A recent study by Google, 86% of U.S. physicians said they use the Internet to gather health, medical or prescription drug information. Internet technology allows physicians to also offer their opinions on medicine, or other matters, through blogs (including links to other sources of information) and to consult colleagues by e-mail and through social networking.” – via AMA in February 2010.

Bottomline…the argument is no longer about employee performance, it is whether you want to engage with the patient in real time. I will leave with this quote from the AMA in February 2010 – “Social networking has tripled in the past year, a Nielsen Company survey showed, and physicians have joined the social networking revolution. According to a survey by Medimix International, 34% of physicians use social media.”

Paul Levy, CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA gives an example conversation he had with someone inside a hospital concerning allowing Facebook to become available for hospital employees. This is a GREAT!

Social Media in Large Organizations & Motherships

Large organizations like universities, hospitals, and major businesses are trudging through how to deal with implementing an effective social media policy. This policy has become more than just how to communicate with a constituency base, but how to manage the many silos within the organization.

Take a hospital for example, especially one that is in a major metropolitan area. They are dealing with major branding, implementation, and a execution strategy. A typical large hospital will have the main branded image with sub brands that represent service lines of their vertical revenue streams. Beyond those service lines, they have departments, doctors offices, and smaller groups that need some treatment with respect to the social media branding guidelines and short/long term execution strategy.

Another issue a large organization deals with the fact there are so many people within these service lines and departments that have taken their own initiative to set-up their own accounts. Since many of these technologies like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Foursquare cost nothing to set-up; “brand ambassadors” take it upon themselves to start connecting. They are the front line touch points for the organization. They understand their community. But how does one “reel all of this in” and make this a manageable process.

Like any marketing group, there is a:

  1. Time to evaluate the organization, the brand, and what is already in place.
  2. Evaluate mission statements and audiences of the organization.
  3. What problem do you want to solve.
  4. How can social media provide a new tool for the tool box and reach/engage a whole new audience in a new way.
  5. Establishing the “mothership” for the organization as a whole and all the other sub-brands within the organization.

We are trying to engage with audiences and provide a clear path for those audiences to receive information about the organization…the “mothership”.

Definition of “Mothership” – An online property where all of the “information” flows to and from the organization, to one stop shop funnel of information. This can be an organization’s main website or can even be an organization’s Facebook page. This is the main communication distribution point where organizations want to drive audiences back to receive “the message.”

Along with creating an effective social media strategy, there needs to be a new media strategy in place. What I mean by this, these large organizations need to have there “mothership” (web presence) positioned so it clearly displays the message and audiences can find information easily. Also, permalinks are crucial so audiences can find information on a defined URL and the social media’s can point back to a specific URL. Most large organizations use video messaging on a regular basis, so a consistent workflow with video email blasts and newsletters need to come into the conversation. Then away from just technology implementation, establishing a team that coordinates marketing efforts so the online presence coordinates with “traditional marketing efforts.”

Implementation of social media accounts for a large organization has to happen in stages and establish a tier system…basically, the brand treatments for each part of the organization.

Tier One – The Over Arching Brand for the organization (hopsital name, university name, company name)
Tier Two – Sub Brands in the organization (service lines, colleges, etc.)
Tier Three – Tertiary Brands (Individuals within the organization)

Here is where you think aesthetically with graphical treatment and naming conventions, creating a since of consistency across the brand organization so that if the audience is connecting with an individual, they would know that they represent the organization. This is where it gets fun, deciding whether individuals within a large organization want to use their name and face to represent the organization. This is part of that strategy conversation. This is both a personal and business conversation to have with people you want to represent the organization.

Honestly…this is only the beginning of a Social Media and Communication Strategy Assessment. Social Media Strategy integration into a large scale organization takes time, patience, and willingness to listen to not only the organization but also the “Brand Ambassadors” of the organization.

Brand Ambassadors Leading the Brand

The more and more I work with large hospitals working to integrate a social media strategy, educate the organization, and build a community of social media communicators…the more I am learning that the only way you can eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Not as social media communicator, but as a practitioner.

The next task on my agenda, work with a department outside within a “service line”. I had an appointment and met the director and a nurse. What I realized, they had already built a solid strategy for this department’s social media approach: build a community. They just used technology to connect and share branded information that allowed the patients to trust and learn more about the organization.

I sat back and thought…large organizations have so many tentacles, so many messages, so many “brand ambassadors.” We as practitioners need to be careful when implementing a social media strategy before evaluating a the communication strategy. A communication strategy with the organization’s audiences and with the organization’s “brand ambassadors.”

More and more large organizations are talking about a huge social media issue, they have tons of “brand ambassadors”! This is a good thing and can also pose a challenge. If you take a large hospital that has lots of service lines, departments, and thousands of employees that represent the face of the organization…there are probably lots of active social media accounts that are not a part of the strategy.

We are social creatures and we are also technology creatures as well. We want to use something that will connect us with other people that share the same ideas and conversations. It may be a receptionist in a doctors office of a major medical university. The front line relationship for that office because they are the ones who meets the patients on a daily basis. they might think, hey…start a Facebook group to connect with patients and offer them some information that might help them. Connect with them daily and build a relationship with them. The reality, they are one of many people out there doing the same thing, inside an organization.

What comes of this can lead to some interesting conversations. Right now, hospitals across the country are scrambling as fast as they can (especially in marketing departments) to not only understand the social media’s but also create repository of all the accounts and set-up some best practices. Their is a brand identity conversation and for hospitals, a HIPPA conversation.

So…what to do? COMMUNICATE!

You now have “brand ambassadors” within your organization that you can work with to build a Social Media strategy for the whole organization. They are the front line people meeting with those who use the organization’s services. Empower and engage the “brand ambassadors.”

First step…build a team! Empower those “brand ambassadors” in your organization and engage those who are the tentacles to all of the service lines and departments. Build an advisory team and meet regularly.

Second…do a social media assessment of the organization. Spend time finding all of the social media accounts that have been created and identify those who are managing these accounts.

Third…after you have built a list of all the social media accounts within the organization (or someway represent part or whole of the organization), do a message analysis of these account. Learn what messages they are transmitting, what conversations are taking place, and the frequency of these messages.

Fourth…identify the audiences each one of these social media accounts are engaging. Be as specific as possible, drilling down to the very core of this group.

Fifth..compare notes between the messages of the “brand ambassadors” and the organization’s brand. Find the consistencies and the discrepancies.

Sixth…write a social media mission statement for the organization and all the tentacles that fall under the brand. Engage your “brand ambassadors”.

Engage, Communicate, and Tell the Stories.