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Social Media is Serious Business for Healthcare Providers

Jacqueline Fellows, for HealthLeaders Media, July 10, 2013

Social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook are continuously evolving, even when healthcare organizations aren't ready. The Mayo Clinic and Baylor Health have embraced social media and are sharing best practices with others.

No hospital or health system takes social media as seriously as the Mayo Clinic. Its peers have looked to Mayo as a leader in healthcare quality and medical research for decades, and now they turning to the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media (MCCSM) for help with how to engage with patients and employees on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and an expanding array of social media channels.

"The whole idea is to help healthcare organizations figure it [social media] out," says Lee Aase, director of MCCM.

Mayo Clinic Social Media

For some hospital marketers, nothing is more cringe-inducing than social media. It can seem overwhelming to "figure out," as Aase says, even though the premise of every social media channel, whether it is YouTube or Facebook is simple: Communicate with patients.

One of the reasons that social media is still such a hurdle for health systems and hospitals lies in the fact that the technology supporting it changes quickly, therefore changing the way the audience views carefully crafted content.

Take Apple's new operating system for the iPhone, iOS7. A new camera, web browsing capabilities, and file sharing features will impact the way content is viewed, meaning that marketing messages may have to be reconfigured to maintain a positive user experience and audience metrics.

Facebook and LinkedIn are two other platforms that are continuously evolving, even when organizations aren't ready. The rapidly changing pace of technology and quantity of ways to communicate is enough to induce not only head-spinning, but head-burying (in the sand). Healthcare organizations are aware of the industry's reputation for being latecomers to social media, and most are at least acknowledging the need to join the conversation because patients expect it.

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