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.
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.