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5 ways hospitals can use social media

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Using social media may be a fairly new concept to hospitals and health organizations – hospitals, for the most part, are three to four years behind the general public – but the return on investment can be incredible, said Lee Aase. “If you keep your investment really small, you keep your ROI really high,” said Aase.

[See also: Social media becomes a business intelligence strategy ]

Aase, the director of the Center for Social Media at Mayo Clinic, knows a thing or two about social media. The Mayo Clinic has more than 416,000 followers on its Facebook page, more than 551,000 followers on Twitter and more than 2,500 videos posted on its YouTube page. Mayo Clinic’s social media approach is so successful it acts as a mentor to other health organizations by offering training and its resources, Aase said.

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Aase talked to Healthcare Finance News to share his keys to a successful social media marketing plan.

1. It doesn’t have to be Hollywood

Aase says YouTube is one of a hospital’s most successful outlets in terms of marketing itself to potential clients – and it doesn’t have to be high budget. YouTube is free, for example. “We utilize this for patients to get a sense of who we are and highlight our areas of expertise and focus,” said Aase. “It enables you to communicate in much more depth.” Aase also said his team utilizes simple technology such as consumer-grade cameras or even iPhones as a way to shoot video at a relatively low cost.

2. Use a messenger bird

Twitter may be blowing up your personal inbox but businesses are utilizing this popular form of social media, too. “For us, word of mouth has been the best way to get our name out there for the past 100 years,” Aase said, but Twitter has taken that model to the next level. While Twitter is free to use, it may cost a hospital some time and money to train employees on how to use it (and other social media tools), Aase said, but implementing a training program is helpful in order to maximize efforts.

3. The blue gorilla in the room

Almost everybody uses Facebook. That goes for businesses too – and the healthcare sector is starting to show up in everybody’s feeds now. “You’re building a community of former patients, current patients and future patients,” Aase said. Facebook acts as a forum for patients to interact with the hospital and with one another, similarly to Twitter, but Facebook lets its community go into more depth, and for doctors and patients, that can be extremely beneficial, Aase said.

4. Everybody has a blog even your hospital

Aase said blogs are a great way to communicate with potential patients beyond a static website. “It’s a great way to publish timely news,” he said. Blogs also offer the added benefit of tending to fare well in search engine optimization, he said, which can help point potential patients toward the hospital.

5. Use a tag-team approach

Aase said Mayo Clinic’s success in utilizing social media comes from its multi-platform approach in which the hospital utilizes as many social media outlets as possible. “Maintaining a standard look and feel as much as possible in keeping with your brand identity is very important,” he said. Aase emphasizes cross-posting by, for example, taking YouTube clips and posting them on the hospital’s Facebook wall or Twitter feed. If done properly, Aase said, health organizations will see an increase in patient volumes.

Photo used with permission from