4 Tips for Hospitals That Use Twitter: Follow, Complete, Engage and Be Regular

I recently read an article posted by the St. Charles Journal about local hospitals using social media. In the article, I learned that Progress West Hospital in O’Fallon posts emergency room waiting times on Twitter. While focusing on wait times alone seems, to me, like a silly, limited scope, I do applaud the hospital for dipping its toes into the online world.

After doing a little Twitter research, I’ve concluded there are a number of local hospitals using Twitter that could do more. From what I’ve seen, I would advise local hospital Twitter teams to: 

  • Follow lots of people – Just following media contacts is not the way to go. Media are conduits to the general public and – ta-da! – so is your Twitter page. You just cut out the so-called middleman. Go out and find other healthcare organizations, as well as local people and companies, to follow. And if your page is followed by somebody, seriously consider following back.
  • Complete your profile page – There definitely should be a bio for the hospital, and it should list the name of the person (or persons) who tweets on the hospital’s behalf.
  • Engage in conversations – Don’t just spit out news stories; instead, mix in some personal tweets, re-tweets and mentions. And put some unique stuff out there. Links posted to a hospital’s Twitter page should not be identical to those posted to its Facebook feed. Give people a reason to hook up with the hospital on both platforms.
  • Be a regular – At a bare minimum, post a few times per week. Posting once a week is not frequent enough.

Many of the rules listed above could be applied to a number of local hospitals using Twitter, including Barnes-Jewish, St. John’s Mercy Medical Center and St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

So why do so many hospitals – and similar organizations – shy away from fully engaging in social media like Twitter? I welcome your thoughts in the comments section. And if you work for a health care organization and would like to discuss ways to grow online communities, I’m happy to talk to you.

  • Marijean Jaggers

    Great post, Justin. This opens the conversation for all the different ways health care can make itself accessible to its public by using social media. Helpful information like health tips and reminders would be great, but just a presence by the hospital to provide a patient service contact to help facilitate information on behalf of the health care organization would go a long way in developing relationships and patient loyalty. I’ll be eager to see if other hospitals begin to adopt this way of thinking.