In the healthcare industry, there is a clear giant in the social media space. Mayo Clinic has positioned itself as a leader in social media strategy for healthcare. Other health systems across the country benchmark themselves against Mayo Clinic, and oftentimes, mirror their efforts after Mayo Clinic, as well.

Currently, Mayo Clinic has a presence on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest and Flickr. The system also has a patient story blog and its own social network for discussions, news and videos hosted it on its website. Mayo Clinic uses their social presence to drive website and blog traffic, as well as to promote scheduling appointments, downloading their mobile application, and upcoming events. In addition, Mayo Clinic cross promotes their networks using Facebook applications, URLS in their Twitter background, and placing social networking icons on their website very visibly.

Cleveland Clinic, a health system in northern Ohio, has a similar social strategy with a presence on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest. Cleveland Clinic also has a blog; however, it is focused more on sharing health advice as opposed to patient stories. In addition to promoting blog posts on their social networks, Cleveland Clinic also promotes their health newsletter to encourage subscriptions. The Cleveland Clinic does not, however, visibly promote their social networks from their website as Mayo does.

When looking at performance metrics on each of the system’s networks, we can clearly see that both systems have exceptional brand recognition and large followings. While Mayo Clinic’s following as a whole is much larger than the Cleveland Clinic’s, the Cleveland Clinic does have more Facebook fans than Mayo and a much larger rate of engagement (“people talking about this” in relation to “likes”).

At a high level, Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic execute their social strategy very similarly. Both have identified the appropriate networks to reach their target audiences and execute their efforts around driving blog and website traffic, as well as promoting services and encouraging appointments.


Mastering the Twitterverse with Best Practices and Tools

Some say you can master Twitter in just 20 minutes a day; others say it only takes 12 minutes.

The fact of the matter is that creating a strong presence on Twitter does not take an excessive amount of time, but it does require dedication. You can learn how to effectively use your time by educating yourself on best practices and helpful tools.

For beginners, Mark Schaefer – author of the The Tao of Twitter – recommends for quick and easy ways to become a Twitter pro in just twenty minutes a day:

  1. Tweet three times per day at three different times of the day and vary your content. Send a tweet about: something interesting you saw, heard, or read that is non-work related; news related to your business or industry; and your opinion about something going on in the news.
  2. Monitor and respond to mentions and direct messages.
  3. Read through your Twitter timeline and retweet a few of the people you follow.
  4. Tweet a Follow Friday mention on Fridays.

If you’ve mastered the basics, Socially Stacked has tips on maintaining your Twitter presence in just twelve minutes a day!

Regardless of your level of expertise, Social Media Today has some quick tips and tricks to boost engagement with your Twitter handle.

  • Tweet from your brand’s handle on Saturday and Sunday; engagement rates are 17% higher on the weekends.
  • Send your tweets between 8am and 7pm; engagement rates are 30% higher.
  • Include image links in your tweets; they double engagement rates.
  • Trim your tweets to 100 characters or less for a 17% higher engagement rate.
  • Send a tweet with a link in it; tweets with links receive and 86% higher retweet rate.
  • Include hashtags in your tweets for two times more engagement.
  • Spell out “retweet” as opposed to using the shorthand of “RT” for a 23 times higher engagement rate.

Lastly, it’s important to monitor the metrics around your Twitter presence. There are a slew of free tools available that provide basic metrics including link clicks, retweets, mentions, followers, etc. My favorite is HootSuite. Not only does it provide metrics and reports with visually appealing graphs, but it also serves as a monitoring and publishing tool.

What other best practices and tools have helped you build and maintain a strong Twitter presence?

Risks of Taking Your Health System Social

In a recent post about the state of social media in the healthcare industry, I talked briefly about the major risks and challenges associated with taking a healthcare system social. But, there can also be immense benefits.

What are the risks?

The risk that gets the most attention from C-level executives is managing patient privacy.

Being a social health system requires that the proper people, policies, and protocol are in place in order to avoid HIPAA violations.


Make sure that you have a team identified for managing communication if a HIPAA violation is at risk, especially if you have a large social media workforce. These concerns are not something to be trifled with, and it’s important that each individual knows their place in mitigating the risk. Do you have a member of your organizations legal team available to review digital conversations? Who is responsible for crafting messages to social media users who have addressed a specific and personal health concern via social media? Whose final approval is needed before interacting with a user on social media that could potentially involve Protected Health Information (PHI) being shared?


Having a social media policy for both users who interact with your health system on social media is just as important as having a social media policy for your employees.

For the public:

It’s important to note in your social media policy that dialogue on social changes should not be construed as medical advice, professional services or recommendations. It’s also important to point out that social media is not a place for patients to post their own Protected Health Information. While this is not a fool-proof method for avoiding HIPAA violations, it is important to remind users and patients that their information cannot remain private if they share it publically via social channels.

For Employees:

While I am a firm believer that employees of any organization should be able to use personal social media accounts without interference from their employers, I am also a firm believer that the use of social media should not negatively reflect the image of your employer.  For healthcare professionals, there are greater risks involved. At the end of the day, all you really need to remember is: DO NOT post ANYTHING related to your day at work or the patients you encountered. Something as simple as communicating gender and symptoms can be considered a HIPAA violation, and it will result in the loss of your job.


While I’ve never been an advocate of “canned” social media responses, they are important to have on-hand when a possible HIPAA violation occurs. Sit down with your social media team and legal counsel to determine the best course of action if the risk of a HIPAA violation is imminent. Talk about things like messaging, terminology, and phrasing to be used in responses and protocol for removing posts, comments, tweets, etc. containing PHI from the digital space. Unfortunately, as we all know, once it’s posted, it’s never truly deleted, but it’s important to have a process in for mitigating the risks associated with PHI being shared.

What are the rewards?

With proper education for your social media team and organization employees, social media can be truly beneficial to a health system. Having a social presence allows a health system to build trust, place itself as a thought leader, and cultivate a digital community. Let’s discuss the rewards – and how to measure them – at a later date.

Managing the Online Reputation of Physicians

In a world increasingly dominated by social media and smart phones, it’s important to remember that prospective patients can access information about a physician almost instantaneously. As marketers, it is important to focus on the online reputation of employed physicians.

For restaurants, bars and spas, we look to Yelp to find out what other people are saying about local destinations. But what about healthcare? While Yelp has a home for health and medical reviews, we can’t forget about niche review sites dedicated to reviewing and rating specific physicians like Vitals and Healthgrades. Fortunately, a study by the folks at DocSpot shows that 65% of online reviews of healthcare professionals gave the highest rating possible, and 3 out of 4 reviews rated the physicians either a 4 or a 5 on a 5-point scale.

That being said, it’s important to ensure that physicians have listings on the popular review sites; they can be a very powerful tool in promoting a physician and building their online and mobile presence.

One of the more popular healthcare review sites – Vitals – even has a mobile app tailored to show the user the top 10 rated physicians within their area. The app has received 54 reviews in the App Story with an average rating of 3 out of 6 stars. One user reviewed the app saying, “A lot of useful information if you’ve had trouble finding good doctors.” Another user said, “Tried to schedule initial Dr. visit but was provided inaccurate contact information.” Both of these comments teach us very valuable lessons: consumers find physician reviews to be useful in making an informed decision about choosing a healthcare provider, and not leveraging these tools to provide current information for your physicians could be deterring prospective patients.

As a consumer, do you utilize review sites when searching for healthcare providers? As a marketer, have you built managing online review sites for physicians into your strategy?

The State of Social Media in the Healthcare Industry

Recently, the digital marketing agency I am lucky enough to work for – Fathom – published a whitepaper on the state of social media in the healthcare industry, accompanied by an infographic depicting the results of our findings (created by yours truly).

Some key findings of the study included:

  • 9 out of 10 consumers between the ages of 18 and 24 said they would trust health information they found on social media
  • 87% of the top 15 health systems have an official social media presence for their system as a whole
  • Only 4 of the top 15 health systems have an official Pinterest account, despite its massive growth of the past year
  • Only 2 of the top 15 health systems have an official system blog
  • Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are the most commonly used social networks among the top 15 health systems, with more than 80% of the top systems having a presence on each network

Do these numbers shock your, or were you expecting a majority of healthcare systems to have a presence on three of the top social networks? A few years ago, most of these health systems wouldn’t have dreamed of taking the risks associated with engaging in social media, because the fact remains: because the healthcare industry is so highly regulated, social media is a scary, scary place for healthcare executives. However, with the right strategy, the right tools, and the right advice, social media can be an alarmingly powerful tool for health systems to have in their arsenal.

One of the most unique challenges to the healthcare industry is the fear of violating HIPAA laws and patient privacy, especially when customer service issues need addressed via a publish social media channel. In contrast, there are also some very unique opportunities. Adults between the ages of 35 and 54 represent one of the fastest growing demographics on most of the major social media channels. As a healthcare marketer most likely targeting mothers in this age group, how can you not engage on social media? It also presents healthcare brands with the opportunity to demonstrate their organizations as thought leaders and gain the trust of a community.

To begin improve the standing of an organization within the healthcare industry on social media, take the follow advice:

  • Go to where the consumers are. Clearly identify your target audience, and create a presence for your organization on the channels through which they interact. Social media is not a “one size fits all” marketing program.
  • Content is King (as if we all haven’t heard that one before). Create and curate content that is going to interest your audience. Don’t spend an inordinate amount of time boasting about your brand; consumers will infer the strength and goodness of your organization through the ways you go about improving their health from a 360 degree angle. Share content from other sources that may not promote your brand, but will improve the health and lives of your consumer and your online audiences.
  • Invest in tools to help you maintain a solid strategy. Social media management and listening tools are crucial to ensuring success. Take advantage of online tools like Sysomos and HootSuite, among so many others, that can help you monitor and maintain the presence of your healthcare organization on social media.

Top 3 Social Media Management Tools for Publishing, Monitoring & Analytics

One of the most time-consuming tasks for a social media marketer is maintaining his/her company’s presence. This can be managed effectively using social media management and publishing tools. As a social media marketer, the top three tools I recommend for brands to use for social publishing are as follows:

SpredFast Logo#3: SpredFast is a social media management system targeted toward large, “enterprise” brands likes Weight Watchers, Whole Foods Markets and the Warner Brothers network. With SpreadFast, users are able to:

  • Segment activity into social initiatives by team, business objective, or geography
  • Manage all social media accounts in one location
  • Publish an plan content distribution across multiple social networks
  • Monitor real-time social activity
  • Discover social profile data, including Klout scores
  • Engage directly with comments, likes, retweets
  • Coordinate with team members by assigning activity, highlighting interesting items
  • Archive all conversation histories and activity to never lose social data
  • Measure the impact of programs across all social channels
  • Integrate with Google Analytics, bit.ly and Omniture

SpredFast currently only integrates with 4 of the top social networks for publishing purposes (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube), but does have listening capabilities for Google+ and Pinterest.

Pricing information for SpredFast is not readily available.

Sprout Social Logo#2: Sprout Social is another great option for social media management, including publishing, listening, and analytics. Sprout Social offers:

  • A unified “Smart Inbox” that collects messages from all networks to streamline engagement
  • Social CRM tools including shared customer records that allow users to save contact records and keep editable contact notes
  • Advanced scheduling & publishing tools that allow the user to shorten links, attach photos, target the audience on Facebook and customize posts
  • A Team Content Calendar with a comprehensive view of scheduled messages across, allowing the entire team to review posts, make changes to the existing schedule and add content where needed
  • Sophisticated analytics & unlimited custom reports for both high-level and low-level data
  • Customer support features like tasks and Helpdesk integration
  • Team collaboration tools including live activity updates
  • Mobile apps for easy access to the tools from any device

SproutSocial’s downfall lies in the fact that it can only integrate with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. However, its list of extensive features for its modest price is appealing to smaller brands with fewer networks to manage.

Sprout Social is competitively priced with three plans ranging from $39 per user per month to $99 per user per month.

HootSuite Logo#1: HootSuite is one of the most popular management tools, specifically for twitter. It allows you to manage multiple accounts across multiple social platforms, and is my go-to choice of tools for social media management. HootSuite allows users to:

  • Listen and engage from one, comprehensive dashboard
  • Create custom reports utilizing Facebook Insights, Google Analytics, Ow.ly Click Stats, Twitter Profile Stats and Google+ Page Analytics
  • Manage large-scale teams as well as the granular level of control suited to smaller teams that is designed to match any unique organizational setup
  • Coordinate with team members by assigning activity
  • Draft, schedule and publish messages, with additional bulk upload and geo-targeting for Facebook posts features
  • Use mobile apps for easy access to the tools from any device
  • Use the tool minimally for free

HootSuite is the least customizable but most extensive tool. It integrates with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn profile and company pages, YouTube, Instagram, Google+ Pages, Foursquare, Yammer, Evernote, Reddit, Vimeo, MySpace, WordPress and others. HootSuite also integrates with other apps including: Salesforce, HubSpot, Statigram, MailChimp, Constant Contact, and others.

HootSuite is the cheapest of the three tools, offering a limited, free version, a Pro version for $9.99 per month and an enterprise version for larger organizations.

What is your go-to tool for social media management?

Facebook FAQ: Is Facebook right for my brand?

Many brands struggle with whether to invest valuable time and effort into Facebook, and it is not a decision any marketer or business owner should make lightly.

The fact of the matter is: creating and maintaining a Facebook page that will be beneficial to your brand if it is, in fact, a good fit, will take work – a lot of work! Many people create a page willy-nilly and get frustrated when spending 1 hour a week maintaining it is not getting the results they had promised their superiors. So before creating a page, ask yourself the following questions:

How will a Facebook page satisfy my business goals?

Facebook can be instrumental in driving website traffic, increasing brand awareness and providing exceptional customer service among many other goals. But what are you trying to achieve, and how will you achieve it? If you’re goal is to drive more traffic to your website where users will sign up for a free demo of your product, Facebook is certainly a tool to help you reach your numbers… IF you enact the right strategies. Make sure Facebook offers a unique incentive to prospective leads (like a discount of 20% if they choose to buy your product after your demo) to entice them to sign up.

Is my audience on Facebook?

There are two key components to discerning whether your target audience is on Facebook.

  • Check out the data. Pew Internet research details precise demographics of users for various social networks and outlines which networks are best for reaching which audiences.
  • Put on your listening ears. There are many great social listening tools out there that can help you evaluate whether your brand is already being talked about on Facebook (or other networks) – even tools at no cost to you!

Does your brand have a Facebook page? How did you decide if it was the right network for your business?

Brands Do Care…

What’s said about them in the public sphere, that is.

I recently had a bit of a run-in with Time Warner Cable. They charged me twice for the month of June and I was not pleased. As a poor college student, deducting an extra $101.48 (yes, it’s that much) from my account is in no way acceptable. To solve this problem, I chatted online with an “Analyst.” She told me that they had not received multiple charges no matter how many times I tried to convey to her that the money was removed from my account, therefore they obviously had received it. After the pseudo-pleasant conversation with the “Analyst” during which I did my best to keep my cool even though I was wrapped up in a frustrating situation, I took to Twitter.

I received a reply less than 30 minutes later.

By end of day on June 3, my bank account was credited with a $101.48 refund.

Here’s the real kicker: my boyfriend’s roommate ran into the same situation last month. He called Time Warner Cable several times before being able to convince them that they had charged him twice. Finally, he was told he would receive a refund within 24 hours. It was two weeks before his account was credited.

Why the discrepency? No consumers in the Columbus area will hear the many calls my friend made to TWC, but the tweet I sent on June 3 is visible not only to the Columbus community, but the whole world. This is now part of the crisis communication PR professionals are trained in. Brands don’t want bad blood circulating around the web and the only way to rectify the situation is to create a timely resolution to the problem. In my case, TWC did, and therefore they received a tweet from me thanking them for their speedy solution to my problem. And while word of mouth is still a huge part of a brand’s communication strategy, it may no longer be a brand’s main concern.

Two Key Blogs for PR/Marketing Pros

As I began to expand my Twitterverse back in October 2010, I started coming across a variety of different PR, marketing, and social media blogs. While the “traditional” PR blogs offered good insights, I find myself taking more interest in posts and stories about how to effectively use social media as part of your marketing efforts. Although I have been studying traditional PR (among many other things), I’ve found that my interest lies more in the realm of social media marketing, and I’m one of the very lucky individuals that has secured a post-graduate career in my field of choice.

One blog that has offered me great insight and advice over the past 6 months or so is PRtini.com, written by Columbus resident owner of Geben Communications (@gebencomm) Heather Whaling (@prtini). Having had a personal chance to meet Heather and hear her speak in a class at Ohio State made reading her blog a “no-brainer,” but what lent to her credibility even more was her prominence in her field. Heather’s blog is recognized nationally as one that all PR/marketing professionals should be reading.

While much of her content focuses on social media in relation to PR, media pitching, blogger relations, etc., you can find occasional posts regarding social media in the world of marketing. Heather recently posted on her blog a link to a story she wrote for Mashable – “5 Ways Social Media Has Changed Marketing Campaigns.” What I liked most about Heather’s post is her format and her use of external sources. Typically, Heather’s posts contain a bulleted list with main points, which make for easy take-aways and mental notes. Heather also uses outside sources (typically other PR/marketing professionals) to back up her claims – and she includes their twitter handles.

That leads me to my next source of social media marketing news – Mashable.com (@mashable). I often peruse the Mashable site looking for insightful posts or posts that will help me with current endeavors. I often find one or two extremely useful posts per day, but I typically stumble upon (no, not using StumbleUpon) quite a few posts that I probably should read, but they don’t immediately spark my interest. What I like about Mashable posts is that authors often provide real examples of what companies around the world are doing. For example, today I read the post entitled “4 Creative Ways to Reward Your Facebook Fans.” Mashable writer Leyl Master Black (@mktgalchemist) shared specific examples of ways companies have increased their fan base and rewarded those fans.

Another feature of Mashable that has proven beneficial is searching for content by author. I often find that the author of a post I enjoyed reading and actually learned something about has authored posts in the past that are also relevant to my interests.

Pingdom.com reported that there are 152 million “blogs on the Internet (as tracked by BlogPulse)” in January 2011. Finding the ones that fit your niche takes time and research, but in the realm of social media marketing, PRtini and Mashable.com are key providers of compelling content that any young PR/marketing professional will benefit from.