Are you aware that social media are powerful marketing tools for rural hospitals? An estimated 80 percent of Americans have a social media account, and research suggests that social media influence nearly half of the individuals seeking healthcare services.
In rural communities, it’s common for more people to follow their local hospital on Facebook than to subscribe to the local newspaper. This is just one reason why social media should be an integral part of your hospital’s communications strategy. Hospitals that don’t take it seriously or that treat it like an afterthought and delegate it to a Facebook user on staff are missing an incredible opportunity to engage users and attract attention.
Developing social media correctly can be a challenge, so many university marketing programs devote entire courses to learning the best strategies. However, by following a few simple guidelines and being persistent, you can improve your social media strategy and work toward an effective long-term plan.
Here are a few things that will help you develop a more-effective social media strategy.
Make social media a key component of your marketing plan
Treat social media like you would any other part of your marketing strategy. (You do have one, right?) Use your planning meetings to discuss progress and goals. Having an idea of your goals will help your plan your social media plan for the week, month and year.
Keep a list of upcoming events and promotions so you can time your posts to promote them. Talk to others in your department so that you clearly understand when new content should go online. Having a calendar will help you plan so that you can give key items maximum exposure.
Establish yourself as a voice in your community
Rural hospitals play a special role in the communities they serve. Through social media you have a platform to engage with your neighbors and local organizations. It’s likely that your hospital is already involved in numerous events and projects, so social media provide a great way to promote these causes and keep your audience up to date about community events. If you help your partners, they will return the favor.
Educate the public on important health issues
Social media provide a platform for sharing information as well as offering a great opportunity for healthcare providers to share their expertise.
Your social media platforms provide a great place to share information about topical issues such as vaccinations, healthy living and ways to stay healthy during the winter.
Keeping your community informed throughout the year provides them with valuable knowledge and helps establish your facility as the community’s authority on health.
Use analytical tools
Popular social media platforms provide useful tools for keeping track of your progress. From statistics about how many times posts are viewed to what time of day people check your page, you can find a wealth of information to help you better coordinate your social media efforts.
With such data, you can begin making smart decisions about what kinds of media engage your audience and when and how often to post. This is the kind of data marketing that departments could only dream of a few years ago—take advantage of it.
Don’t let your social media grow stale.
Keeping content fresh and responding promptly to messages and comments are vitally important to the health of your social media accounts. Think of social media as a platform for ongoing conversations. Consistently and regularly interacting with people online and providing fresh, engaging content will help you build an audience and establish a better presence online.
Social media are inexpensive and effective, but they take work and commitment. It takes time to build an audience and attract a large following, but a thoughtful, well-planned social media strategy will put you on the right path and set you up for success.
If you struggle to make time for developing social media or are looking for powerful tools to help develop your social media plan, SRJ Marketing Communications can help. Give us a call today at 214-528-5775 and let us help you develop a social media program that will be effective for your rural hospital.