Facebook works for hospitals: 10 tips to get you started

As Facebook gets ready to go public with a value of more than $100 billion, more and more hospitals are using the social network and finding that it is a positive addition to their hospital promotion and social media involvement. As of June 8, 2011, statistics show that

  1. There are 1,018 Hospital Facebook pages and
  2. People spend more than 700 billion hours PER MONTH on Facebook. Facebook pages serve as an inexpensive model for hospitals as a marketing strategy. In the middle of economic instability, hospitals need to find inexpensive methods to promote their facility, get more patients and educate the community.

However, a recent survey proved that many hospitals were still not doing too well with respect to their Facebook usage. According to healthcare social media expert Ed Bennett:

  • 63% had no unsolicited feedback or questions on their pages
  • Fewer than 40% of hospitals posted daily
  • Only 5% used the wall to post upcoming events
  • 80% had no discussions on their discussion board pages
  • 58% did not allow members to share photos on their Facebook page
  • Only 49 hospitals (40%) uploaded video directly onto their Facebook page
  • 92% did not integrate traditional advertising into social media
  • Most hospitals (86% or 104) did not integrate blogs into their Facebook presence
  • 70% of hospitals had fewer than 1,000 likers/members
  • Only 10 hospitals integrated Twitter into Facebook
  • 90 hospitals (75%) did not integrate their clinical services into Facebook

In order to help hospitals overcome some of these social media mistakes, we have come up with 10 Top Tips for Using Facebook Pages that hospitals will find easy, educational and rewarding – to help get them up and going on Facebook quickly and easily, and to help hospital administrators get the biggest bang for their Facebook time and money. Here are the first five:

  1. How to set up your Facebook fan page the right way – Go to www.facebook.com/pages and click on “Create Page” in the upper right hand corner. Select a category from the list (such as “Company” or “Organization”) and fill out the information they are requesting. Don’t use the word “Facebook” for your Facebook page name. Upload a picture of your hospital or your logo, so that “friends” can immediately recognize that this is YOUR hospital’s site.  Use a 200×600 image – 4MB max – (the largest you can use on Facebook) so you will stand out from the crowd. Click on “Edit Page” under your picture or logo and fill in the information requested. Make sure you include a URL on your Facebook page that will link back to your website because ultimately, you are trying to get people to come to your website, where you have more control over content and services, than on Facebook.
  2. How to get more fans on your Facebook page – By using social media to provide accessible and accurate information online, hospitals can establish themselves as experts and ultimately attract more patients. An easy way to start is to get multiple influential users to invite all of their friends to become fans of your hospital’s page. If you can get 20 people each to invite 100 users, and encourage those users to invite their own friends, you’ll start to see growth. Encourage fans by holding contests, giving rewards for joining, etc. Facebook does have some specific rules about this so make sure you aren’t violating any of them. Put a link to your Facebook Page everywhere you can – on your website, on your blog, in emails you send to your employees and patients, on your TV, print and other advertising, on your press releases. The key is to funnel subscribers to the page so that growth starts to increase naturally by virtue of more people becoming fans.
  3. Creating great hospital-related Facebook graphics – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a large gallery of buttons and badges that you can use on your Facebook page. These buttons and badges are really just small web graphics or images that share info about health campaigns and causes. You can go to the CDC “Gallery” and copy, cut and paste the assigned code for the button or badge you want, right onto your website or Facebook page. There are buttons for campaigns such as Product and Food Recalls, How the Flu Virus Spreads, Foodborne Illnesses, Food Poisoning, and more. Consider getting your Facebook professionally designed so that your brand standards are consistent, visitors see you as professional and your overall marketing strategy is reflected in all that you do.
  4. How to integrate video into your Facebook page – Online video sharing can be a great way to exchange information, share personal stories and engage audiences. Because anyone with internet access can upload, view, share and comment on video footage, video sharing is becoming immensely popular. You can create videos in-house or with the help of experts. But either way, make sure they are relatively short and engaging. Facebook tells us that to upload a video, you should:
  • Go to the Home Page
  • Click the “Photos” filter on the left side of the page
  • Click the “Videos” sub-filter
  • Select which type of video you want to make. You can choose “File Upload” to upload a video from your drive, “Mobile Video” to upload a video from your mobile device, or “Record Video” to record a video with your webcam
  • Follow the on-screen directions for your particular upload type
  • A successful video upload will generate a story about your video and store the video permanently in My Videos

5. When is the best time to reach out to your fans on Facebook? – Activity peaks at 3pm EST, but the strongest involvement takes place between 11am and 8pm. This makes sense as many people interact with Facebook during work hours. At the same time, it also means your messages have higher competition during those hours. This is a wide time frame and the risk of that 11am post disappearing down your fan’s wall by 8pm is relatively high. On the other hand, posting at the height of the activity period means you stand a better chance of being seen. The most activity occurs on Wednesdays and the least on the weekends, though you’d be OK to post on any weekday. These times were brought to light in a study by VITRUE, a social media company that aids brands in building their customer bases on social networks. The firm has determined that, on average, a fan base of 1 million translates into at least $3.6 million in equivalent media over a year. (This is just part one… be sure to check back soon for five more helpful tips for hospitals getting started with Facebook)

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