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Who Should Manage Your Social Media Strategy [Accepted for publication in The Physician Executive]

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By Kent Bottles, M.D., aka @kentbottles and Tom Sherlock aka @coloradohealth

Hospital and medical group leaders are facing the most challenging healthcare environment in recent memory. The need to decrease per-capita cost and increase quality to respond to federal healthcare reform and the global economy is a daunting task that requires two-way communication with a broad range of stakeholders. As reform unfolds, hospitals and medical groups of all sizes are embracing social media tools as soon as they realize that they’re no longer optional.

At least since the first quarter of 2010, analysts have been reporting that websites and search engines no longer dominate online communication.[i] Deloitte’s Social Networks in Health Care [ii] recently concluded that healthcare executives:

“who do not consider how to incorporate social networks into their future strategies risk being run over on the super-highway of health information sharing.”

Your social media strategy will work more smoothly when no one department has control, because it’s likely that before long employees in many of your departments will be using social media to do their jobs. It’s time for your Internet strategy to be managed by a qualified person — definitely one of your best-and-brightest — who reports directly to senior management and works with all department heads as an equal colleague.[iii]

You no longer have the opportunity to be an early adopter, but you can give yourself a big advantage by having people in every department who’ve been trained how to use social media intelligently, and who follow the lead of your social media manager. It’s essential that you understand that each of these tools is designed to nurture personal relationships and thereby strengthen loyalty to your institution:

  • We use Twitter as our principal example because it’s a more important business tool for hospitals and medical groups than Facebook.
  • If your organization isn’t already on Facebook, you should wait until you have a specific strategic reason for using it.
  • Blogs can be particularly effective business tools if they let readers get to know and understand the blogger. Paul Levy’s “Running a Hospital” blog[iv] has shown how a CEO blog can be a powerful communication and branding tool.
  • Many of your people should be listed on LinkedIn. Each person’s profile will be unique, but a certain amount of coordination is necessary to make sure your institution is identified accurately and consistently, for example.
  • Your YouTube channel can present videos that let people get to know some of your key physicians and nurses, for example. Your social media manager can see to it that the content, style, and production values of your videos will send the right message about your organization.

You might conclude that you need to hire someone new to manage your website and your social media strategy. But don’t rush into a decision to bring in someone new to be your social media manager just because they have experience with these tools. It would be far better to find someone who is already thoroughly familiar with and personally committed to your institution.[v]

Note right away that social media is not something you use for advertising or marketing, and that it doesn’t duplicate or replace any of the functions of your website. When you reduce it to its fundamentals, social media strategy isn’t complicated. It’s social. It’s about establishing and nurturing authentic relationships in ways that will build loyalty to your institution. Your social media manager will:
Listen to what’s being said about you anywhere on the Internet, with special attention to your own social media channels.Respond by engaging those who are talking to or about your organization.Establish relationships by showing people respect, honesty, and enthusiasm, and then nurture those relationships by authentic personal interaction. Your social media manager will…..   (Read complete blog post, here).

To listen to Kent’s sage yet witty podcast, ‘Muddling Through The Week In Healthcare’, click here or on the BlogTalkRadio image.

Kent Bottles, M.D., is a former medical school professor, president and ceo, chief medical officer, and chief knowledge officer who is now an independent health care consultant, keynote speaker, and writer. kentbottles@gmail.com and http://twitter.com/KentBottles

Tom Sherlock is an Internet strategist, Website producer, and content developer who has worked with businesses and healthcare professionals since 1994. tom@aicolorado.com and http://twitter.com/ColoradoHealth