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4 Social Media Strategies to Build Patient Loyalty

Carrie Vaughan, for HealthLeaders Media, March 8, 2012

In order to build relationships and truly connect with members of your community through social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, hospitals are learning that it takes more than simply pushing out a weekly bit of health advice.

Social media can be a great tool for patient education and brand messaging. But to really build loyalty—and possibly even grow market share—hospitals need to engage consumers in two-way conversations. Photographs, contests, and links to interesting stories can be a great way to get those conversations started.

St. Peter's Hospital in Helena, MT, is a relative newcomer to social media, having just launched its Facebook page in April 2011. "At first, we were using the page mainly to promote community events. We added monthly health tips and usual hospital news, but struggled to obtain friends," says Peggy Stebbins, director of public relations and marketing. After roughly nine months, the 123-bed hospital had only about 80 friends—many of whom were employees.

"The only increase in activity we saw was when we posted photos of a special women's event we held featuring Patty Duke," says Stebbins. So St. Peter's decided to join the growing number of hospitals conducting cute baby contests online.

The nonprofit hospital launched its own contest with media coverage of the first baby of the new year. And just like that, St. Peter's number of Facebook friends increased to 1,153—it gained more than 1,000 friends from the contest.

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1 comments on "4 Social Media Strategies to Build Patient Loyalty"


Angela Keen (3/22/2012 at 12:35 AM)
I work at a hospital in Honolulu and have been involved with social media community since the early days. I now use social media to assist me in recruiting physicians. This article is spot on! Kudos to the writer who used great examples! When it comes to health care facilities and social media, it's important to have a Social Media "geek" specifically charged with this task. Too often, health care facilities set up their social media accounts as a broadcasting device. It's like the phone number where you "can't reach a real person". We all know patients loath getting caught up in the automated phone system. Think of Social Media and your health care facility or clinic the same way. You don't want an automated system. You want a real person to connect with patients. Many hospitals or health care facilities get interested in social media. They have someone set up accounts with pre scheduled tweets and broadcasts. It is like "set it and forget it". Then, there is no live person manning the accounts. This means there are no live interactions with patients or potential patients. If a health care facility or a clinic is going to have social media, it takes a dedicated social media manager who will engage, engage, engage. Complaints can get out of hand if you don't answer a tweet, Yelp!, Facebook, G+ message from a patient. However, helpful tips and engaging with social media savvy patients can garner more raves and positive feedback from patients that are broadcast to an infinite number of people and ultimately build loyalty.