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Health System Uses Social Media to Recruit Physicians

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, September 23, 2009

When Geisinger Health System in Danville, PA, was having trouble recruiting gastroenterologists earlier this year, Cathy Connolley knew it was time for an innovative strategy.

"When recruiting gastroenterologists we traditionally would do print ads in different medical journals and direct mail," says Connolley, Geisinger's associate vice president of marketing. "But this time, we weren't getting the types of responses that we were looking for."

So the Geisinger marketing team worked with Zero-In Recruitment Marketing, a Bloomsburg, PA, firm, to create a social media physician recruitment campaign.

Zero-In began integrating social media into many of their clients' recruitment efforts because it realized that the majority of physicians use the Internet to conduct their job search. According to a 2008 New England Journal of Medicines study, 71% of respondents said they hunted for jobs online. And the popularity of Sermo, a social networking site just for physicians, gives marketers some insight into how doctors spend their time online.

Geisinger wanted to develop a convenient, cost-effective way to communicate with physicians, Connolley says. "So we sat down with Zero-In and they walked us through what it would take to put a Facebook page up and direct gastroenterologists who met the criteria we were looking for to our page—and that tactic outpaced our direct mail approach and our email blasts."

Geisinger and Zero-In launched a Facebook page in January, which includes photos, recruitment event information, and links to the health system's site.

Attracting followers on Twitter
Seaboard Health Care Search, a physician recruitment firm based in Nashville, also worked with Zero-In to promote their brand via social media. But Seaboard focused their efforts on a different channel: Twitter.

"We're in a marketplace that is now shifting to people who are very young," says CEO William Herrington. "I'm always looking at how to position my organization to take advantage and get to physicians-in-training earlier."

Herrington's experience with physicians taught him that they have very little time to keep on top of medical news and other hot topics, so Twitter was the best medium for Seaboard to disseminate that information to busy physicians while building its brand.

The key to building a successful Twitter campaign is to provide people with useful information and not only promote your business, says Todd Cole, recruitment marketing specialist at Zero-In.

"You run a big risk of alienating your population by using social media as sales tools," he says. "We've been using Twitter to share information that's valuable to physicians and physician organizations and making Seaboard's name synonymous with those."

Seaboard's Twitter account posts links to articles that physicians may find interesting from a variety of sources.

"We're trying to develop an educational aspect to let physicians know what's going on," Herrington says. "We want to get to the point where they don't have to use us and we can still educate them and they will have a positive viewpoint on Seaboard healthcare because we're actually giving them something."

Turning fans and followers into employees
In addition to promoting positive brand awareness, social media sites are effective marketing tools because there are many ways to track their results. Though Geisinger and Seaboard's campaigns are in the early stages, both organizations have already seen an impact on their recruitment efforts.

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