Using Social Media to Build a Healthy Brand

More and more Americans are turning to the Internet as their sole source of information about everything in their lives- for many, that information comes directly from other people through social media. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 73% of Americans use the Internet on a daily basis; of those online, some 60% of Americans engage in social media- using websites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and LinkedIn. The phenomenon of social media is still in its infancy, and to what extent it will continue to grow is uncertain. However, I doubt Facebook will shrivel to irrelevancy like did (does anybody even remember that site?) The statistics are undeniable. Social media is dominating web use: according to Neilson Media Research (the same folks who publish TV ratings), Facebook is now one of the most frequently visited websites in the United States (fourth behind Google, Yahoo!, and YouTube).

The importance of utilizing social media as a channel to build your brand (and image as an employer) is becoming clear to companies both large and small- from brands like Ford and Starbucks to local family-owned restaurants. Why? Because they recognize the incredible value in the personal communication that social media has to offer.

However, a recent study by Ed Bennett, a Hospital Web Manager and popular blogger, shows that only about 250 U.S. Hospitals are engaging social networks – that’s a tiny fraction of the more than 5,000 out there.
Those 250 hospitals on Bennett’s list are ahead of the curve; as the popularity of social media continues to increase, more healthcare organizations will recognize the deep reach social media creates with key local audiences such as patients, healthcare professionals, community leaders, local media, and the public-at-large. From a national recruiting perspective, social media can help build your brand and educate potential candidates- a valuable channel in today’s competitive marketplace.

Why should hospitals care? Beyond connecting with your patient base, it’s a great way to connect with passive candidates- those healthcare professionals who aren’t actively looking for a job but might consider an opportunity brought to their attention.

Nurses, physicians, allied health and other industry professionals abound on sites such as Twitter and Facebook; we’re communicating with them through our social media networks here at Inhouse Assist. And, we’re meeting (or should I say “Tweeting”) more and more of them everyday. In fact, doctors have been Tweeting (posting updates on Twitter) during live surgeries so that other surgeons can follow difficult procedures and learn from them.

If your healthcare organization is not leveraging social media yet, why not give it a try? For those who are unfamiliar with the social mediaverse and don’t know where to begin, I suggest creating a personal profile on Facebook to get started. Experiment and you’ll see how it works- chances are you’ll run into some old friends along the way, no matter how old you are. I also suggest creating a personal Twitter profile and experiment with that- if nothing else you can keep up with notable celebrities, from Shaq to Oprah- even President Obama.

However, before you engage social media connected to your brand, remember that it’s not about building up a massive audience (such as followers on Twitter) and blasting them with information- that’s nothing more than spam. It’s about connecting and networking with individuals through these platforms so you can educate them about your organization and build relationships. It’s a safe bet that people are already talking about your organization through social media- why not join the conversation? Be sure to look me up (JoePRguy), and I look forward to Tweeting you!