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.