Using Healthcare Social Media Effectively

Posted on February 6, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

As most of you probably know, Shahid Shah and I recently did a webinar on “how to differentiate your products and services.” In case you missed it, we have an archive of the presentation on the Influential Networks website (The webinar auto plays). I think we do a pretty good job talking at a high level about many of the mistakes that we see companies making when they’re trying to communicate their message.

Turns out that pretty much everything that we talked about in the webinar could be applied to all of social media. Many people try to make social media too complex. At the end of the day social media is simply a platform to connect and communicate with people.

Once you realize that social media connects people, then you realize why many people call it the social media community. It really is a a community of people and just like in person communities they have social norms and expectations. One of the big messages we shared in the webinar above was that the smartest strategy is to Be a Good Member of the Community.

Much like in real life, those on social media are going to quickly make judgments about your involvement in social media. Are you going to be one who gives before you get or are you going to be someone there just trying to sale something. You can imagine which strategy works best.

The idea of give before you get is a powerful one and not always easy to accomplish. By our very nature we start thinking about what we can get out of a situation. The ironic thing is that if you approach social media with a give before you get mentality, you end up getting much more than you give away. Many think that the idea of give before you get is an altruistic type of mentality when in fact it’s really not. It’s incredibly selfish.

The difference with give before you get and altruism is that there’s no transactional relationship. You’re not giving something of value to someone with a fixed requirement that they give something of value in return. Instead you’re giving something of value to multiple members of the community over time and over time the community will return the favor. This is a hard concept for many organizations to understand. It’s a long term investment in community that doesn’t have a direct ROI. Therefore, it makes it difficult for a marketing or PR manager to sell it to their company.

Full Disclosure: The idea of “Give Before You Get” was taken from Brad Feld‘s awesome book called Startup Communities. I don’t think Brad imagined them being applied to online communities, but it’s amazing to see how the philosophy is the same offline as it is online.

With some of the healthcare social media strategies laid out, I want to offer some practical suggestions on how to participate in Healthcare Social media.

My number one social media tool (and the only one I pay to use) is HootSuite. It’s worth every dollar I pay for it (Although, it has a fully functional Free 30 Day Trial and a limited, but useful free version). Here are some of the top features for me:

Supports Multiple Social Media Accounts – I have multiple Twitter accounts and so I find this extremely useful, but you can also use it to manage Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ all from one interface. I also love that it’s all web based, so regardless of which computer I’m using the interface is the same for me to be able to monitor and participate in social media.

#Hashtag Tracking – I love the way that you can add a stream to your Hootsuite interface for specific hashtags. For example, I have the #HITsm hashtag stored in my Hootsuite account under my @ehrandhit Twitter page. I’ll soon be adding the #HIMSS13 hashtag as we get closer to HIMSS. There are plenty of other ways to track hashtags, but Hootsuite is my favorite. Plus, it makes it easy to reply and/or RT messages using the hashtag.

Mobile – I’ve used a number of mobile interfaces (mostly for Twitter) and all of them were disappointing to me until I found Hootsuite. This is particularly true when you have multiple accounts. It’s really the only social media app I need on my mobile phone.

Scheduled Messages – While most of my tweets are sent when I think of them, there are also times when I don’t want a message to go out until a certain moment in time. The ability to schedule tweets to appear in the future is a real benefit to Hootsuite. For example, before HIMSS, I’m planning to schedule some messages about the New Media Meetup I’ll be hosting on Tuesday (more details tomorrow). It’s much easier to create these messages from my computer before HIMSS than trying to send them out during the business of HIMSS.

Auto Post – I mostly use dlvr.it to automatically send out my blog posts to my social media profiles, but Hootsuite can be used for this as well. I think that dlvr.it does a better job for this, but I do use Hootsuite to auto post to some social media channels that dlvr.it doesn’t support.

Social Analytics – I haven’t used this piece of Hootsuite as much since I have a lot of other analytics programs that I use. However, if I was a large organization trying to justify my social media spend, I’d be looking into the deep reporting that’s possible from Hootsuite.

Collaboration – Hootsuite provides a powerful set of tools for organizations to collaborate on social media. The best way for an organization to do social media is to involve a large portion of the company in the social media efforts. One of the biggest challenges with this approach is knowing who has done what on social media so you don’t have an overlap of effort which wastes time and can be embarrassing. Hootsuite’s team function is a great way to know who responded to which social media message and if there’s a message that still needs a response. Plus, you can do other things like assigning tasks to certain team members. Every organization that has more than one person participating in social media should take a look at these features.

I used Hootsuite’s feature set as a way for me to describe some different ways to use social media. Certainly each of the functions above can be found in many other social media tools. I’ve just found HootSuite to be the best implementation of all these features in one package, but at the end of the day it’s just a tool like many others. However, these tools can make your participation in the healthcare social media community much more efficient and effective.