All Articles Marketing Social Media Mark Ragan: Health care flocks to social media

Mark Ragan: Health care flocks to social media

3 min read

Social Media

Cold. Sterile. Unwelcoming.

Not altogether unfamiliar terms for many when thinking of a hospital — due, in part, to the circumstances that often compel people to visit one. Hospital marketers need to fight this perception and social media can be one of the most potent weapons in their arsenal.

Coming off a successful three-day event in partnership with the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., late last month, Ragan Communications CEO Mark Ragan spoke with SmartBrief about how the industry is learning to overcome fears of regulation and breaking the mold of traditional outreach with social tools. Ragan’s company is partnering with Mayo to host three more similar social-media events for health care communicators over the next year, with Mayo having made its announcement of the formation of the Social Media Health Network, to provide “a place where providers can exchange otherwise sensitive information” about health care outreach and marketing campaigns, Ragan said.

“Social media allows an institution to create a warm, human face from what some people see as a cold, distant organization,” Ragan said. “[The] health care [industry] is loaded with interest in social media … and it’s particularly powerful because it’s all about exciting, engaging content.”

Presenters at the three-day forum on effective social-media campaigns touched on a variety of tactics, such as marketing, outreach and awareness. Laura Howe from the American Red Cross said one in six people get emergency news information via social networks, adding that the organization put that knowledge to good use during the earthquake in Haiti — using social media to send out information, as well as solicit financial aid for the victims.

Other presenters, Ragan said, touched on how effective hospitals and other health care institutions can be in directly reaching patients and potential patients by having doctors and upper management types foray into the blogosphere. He warned, however, that the content could not seem contrived or forced, otherwise failure would likely loom.

Ragan cited the tweeting and blogging of Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson of Seattle Children’s Hospital as a prime example of how to successfully engage an audience — by being genuine.

“She’s articulate, emotional and a good writer,” Ragan says. “If you get your doctors out there, get ones that are charismatic. You have to be able to speak to people like a human being … and not use jargon.”

Return on investment for social-media efforts is often a difficult to prove, and Ragan says that while social-media success can’t always be plotted on a graph, success can be demonstrated in other ways.

“You can’t look at social media like you’re just selling hot dogs,” he said. “It’s about building relationships.”

For more insights on the health care marketing industry, sign up today, for free, for SmartBrief for Health Care Marketers.

Image credit, sjlocke, via iStock