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4 Social Media Strategies to Build Patient Loyalty

Carrie Vaughan, for HealthLeaders Media, March 8, 2012

2. Integrate your social media channels
For any contest or marketing campaign using social media, organizations should include as many channels as possible, says Falls. For Movember, Sherman Health used Facebook applications to run the contest, but its blog helped connect all of the social media channels. For example, its Twitter posts would drive people back to the blog where they could connect to Facebook and look at photos, he explains.

The blog allowed people to read about the contest without having to get onto Facebook and like the page. "While we like having ‘likes,' we are trying to build up our e-lists by having people sign up for e-mail communication so we can directly communicate with people," Falls says.

3. Keep the budget low
Sherman Health had a $500 budget for its Movember contest, and it plans to stick to that same budget for future contests, says Kustra. "Since we already have a lot of [blog] pages built and e-blasts in place, we spent that money mostly on prizes." For Movember, the grand prize was Blackhawks hockey tickets that were donated, the second- place prize was a Kindle Fire, and the third-place prize was a Norelco™ razor system.

Stebbins agrees these types of contests don't need large marketing budgets. The most St. Peter's has paid for a social media campaign is $350 for a Facebook ad for its women's health event featuring Patty Duke. The prize for St. Peter's baby photo contest was an overnight hotel stay, lunch, and dinner, a total value of about $200.

Based on her experience with that contest, Stebbins cautions hospitals about offering too big a prize. "People were amazingly competitive," she says. "One of the mothers had a relative who specialized in social media and sent the contest to one million friends. Obviously, this baby won with over 3,000 votes, the next nearest being about 200 votes."

Unfortunately, this activity resulted in people writing negative comments accusing the contest of being rigged—and some people wrote mean comments about the other babies, Stebbins explains. "We never anticipated this activity, and our webmaster spent nearly two days monitoring and deleting the nasty comments. We met our goal of increasing friends, but I'm not sure we'll keep them."

Still, Stebbins would do another baby photo contest, but with a more modest prize, she says, adding that she would probably use third-party software to administer the contest and offer a prize tailored to a more mature audience, such as a dinner with wine (which would require entrants to be at least 21 years old).

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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.