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4 Social Media Strategies to Build Patient Loyalty

Carrie Vaughan, for HealthLeaders Media, March 8, 2012

1. Incorporate humor
Many healthcare issues are life- or-death topics that have a very serious tone or message. When it comes to social media, however, organizations should splice in some health-related topics that focus on the lighter side of healthcare. Otherwise, people may stop reading your posts.

When Sherman Health started using humor, its numbers began to climb, says Kustra. "We are up to 5,000 Twitter followers and a couple of thousand Facebook fans."

It's important to have your social media presence mimic the ups and downs of your patients' lives— meaning you should cover both serious events and fun events, says Charles Falls, president and owner of DC Interactive Group, the agency Sherman Health has partnered with for social media. "We don't want to cross lines, so we try to keep fun events that everyone would find fun and interesting. We are not looking for controversy," he says.

One of Sherman Health's successful forays in using humor to disseminate health information was its Movember mustache contest that took place in November 2011. "It was men's health month, so we were trying to think of creative ways to engage the community and remind them that there are a lot of men's health issues out there, and the big one is prostate cancer," says Kustra.

Sherman Health's marketing team meets with DC Interactive Group on a monthly basis to develop a social media plan for the next one to two months. During its brainstorming session, the idea of tying a men's health campaign to Movember, a global initiative to raise awareness and funds for men's health issues, was formed.

In addition to asking people to send in mustache photos, the hospital had blog posts on famous mustaches over the years, ranging from celebrities all the way to Ned Flanders from the television series The Simpsons. "We had to talk about what we were doing, but also had to talk about the things that were interesting to people to draw them in and connect them back to the contest," explains Falls. The blog posts also included information on the importance of having prostate screenings and eating healthy.

The mustache contest far exceeded Sherman Health's goals of 15 photo submissions and 1,500 unique page views. The hospital received more than 40 submissions and had more than 2,500 unique views for its Movember-related posts. In addition, the mustache contest also engaged employees at Sherman Health, many of whom were telling their family and friends about it, says Kustra. "It was a really fun experience all around."

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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.