A recent study published by the Journal of Medical Internet Research found that 94 percent of hospitals have a Facebook page, 99 percent have Foursquare (now called Swarm) check-ins and 51 percent have a Twitter account. But those impressive numbers mask another reality: most healthcare organizations are not yet using social media in sophisticated ways. They are largely using only the best-known platforms, and their use of those platforms is rudimentary.
UBM Tech recently partnered with Dell Services to survey 410 healthcare professionals to explore the use of social media in their organizations. According to the survey, 51 percent of the respondents believe there is plenty of room to improve their organization's social media efforts, while only 17 percent believe their organization's existing social media platform is "very effective."
Also, those hospitals or health systems or organizations aren't meeting their own high hopes. In the study, 71 percent of respondents expected improved brand recognition, however only 59 percent actually experienced it; 57 percent expected greater consumer engagement, while only 44 percent actually experienced greater engagement.
The survey also found that 73 percent of healthcare organizations do not offer social media training for employees, and less than 20 percent have engaged a social media consultant.
If organizations aren't satisfied with results, and if they see lots of room for improvement, why aren't they investing more in their efforts?
It could go back to the common misperception that social media is "free." It isn't. While there is no fee to use many of these social media platforms, the salary costs associated with a social media staff and mature strategy can be significant. The organization incurs these costs for the hours the staff spends monitoring social networks, interacting with consumers, creating a social media strategy and managing governance of that strategy. And those hours can add up to a lot of money over the course of a year.
While most healthcare organizations seem to have accepted the idea that social media is important (99 percent have some sort of social media presence) and are spending staff time on it, few have made the leap to investing in the tools and executive support needed to use social media effectively.
There is a telling corollary between the number of those who have invested in training and consultation (27 percent and less than 20 percent respectively) and the number that feel their efforts are "very effective" (17 percent).
Ultimately, healthcare organizations are already spending a lot of money using those "free" social media platforms, and most will see incremental benefits as they gain more experience. But those organizations that make wise investments in training and consulting services will be quicker to devise a solid plan and back it with a budget and be able to show an ROI. Those are the organizations that will see an effective response to their efforts, including greater consumer and patient engagement, wider brand recognition and a competitive edge.
In December 2014, UBM Tech conducted an online survey on behalf of Dell Services exploring the use of social media in the healthcare industry. The data set is comprised of 410 respondents at healthcare organizations with a social media presence.
Experts say that in order for any organization to be successful at social media, it needs to begin by defining a strategy. Dell has earned a reputation for having one of the most successful social media programs in the world, and its consultants regularly offer advice to firms in many different industries. Dell Social Media Services experts recommend that healthcare organizations follow five steps in setting up their social media strategy:
- Establish governance and assign responsibility for social media activities.
- Integrate social media use throughout every aspect of the organization; it's not just a function of the marketing department.
- Monitor and post to social media outlets regularly.
- Integrate your social media data with other data streams and apply analytics.
- Disseminate the data you obtain through your social media efforts to the people who can use that data in decision-making and operations.