The article Health Care and Social Media: Building Relationships via Social Networks by Hackworth and Kunz examines how people interact with “health 2.0” resources and how healthcare companies can best utilize them to develop better relationships with their customers. Unfortunately, the products and services healthcare organizations provide are intimidating to would be customers. Traditionally, healthcare organization marketers promoted their services through TV, radio, magazine and newspaper. However, with the emergence of blogs, social networks and other types of peer recommendation sites, healthcare organizations can take the opportunity to serve their customers with trust and honesty.
In any market, the goal of a company is to grow the organization. Healthcare service providers must do the same. Organizations can grow and generate more sales through the efficient use of marketing tools. Today with the proliferation of social media networks, good recommendations as well as bad opinions of service providers can be sent instantaneously between groups. The comments written about those healthcare organization or the services they provide are viewable by many others on that social network. Knowing this, healthcare organizations should not attempt to directly market to potential patients, but rather address any concerns they may have developing more meaningful communications with them.
Some healthcare companies, profiled in this article implementing web 2.0 marketing strategies where the Mayo Clinic, Scripps Health and Backus Hospital. Each of these healthcare providers used social media networks such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. This article’s authors advised that for healthcare providers, these social networks should not only be used as marketing tools, but to provide relevant content as well. Social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter should be used by healthcare organizations to offer solutions to customer’s questions, to alleviate their concerns and to provide information on healthcare topics. With 400, million users on Facebook, Twitter growing at more than 40% each month, and over 13 billion videos played each month on YouTube; the authors advise at this point, that it is not a question of if a healthcare provider should integrate social media into their marketing, but what platform they should be engaged in.
Social networks provide organizations the unique ability to establish direct, targeted communications between them and those whom they serve. The sheer size of these networks and their rate of growth allow the facilitation of relevant information from healthcare organizations to the individual on a large scale, something that was not possible before. Other sources confirm such facts. Statistics from the Nelson Company, report 75% of all US homes have computers, 70.2% of all US homes have high-speed internet, 33% of US consumers use their mobile device for email, 10.7% use their mobile device for social networking and YouTube is the top most watched mobile video channel. A Pew Research study finds that 46% of Americans use social media sites, 43% in Poland, 43% in Britain and at least 40% of South Koreans participate in sites like Facebook or MySpace. The social network phenomena is worldwide, one in five Kenyans are accessing social networking sites while nearly one in five Nigerians participate on Facebook and MySpace. Morgan Stanley publishes a yearly report outlining internet usage. In 2010, they reported that 238 million Americans use the internet, 384 million Chinese and 39 million Russians use the internet as well. Sixty-seven million Brazilians use the internet with an annual growth rate of 14%. The New York Times reports that Facebook is now reaching 1 billion users. Japan has over 1.7 million Facebook users, while over 25 million Brazilians use Facebook. Indonesia has 31 million Facebook users, while Turkey has 24 million Facebook users and France has 20 million accessing the site.
With the growth of social media users worldwide and the numbers of computer users connected to the internet, healthcare organizations would be wise to establish a presence on one or more of these major social media networks. Given many of these sites offer free service, it is not again a matter of why a healthcare organization should have a presence on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn etc… but why not. Given the potential to reach millions of healthcare consumer’s, yet focus on their individual concerns, social media networks offer a unique opportunity for any hospital, group practice, physician group, non-profit advocacy group, or healthcare consumer-based group to interact in ways impossible before. Many healthcare organizations such as Mayo Clinic, Scripps Health and Backus Hospital have a presence on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. I recommend any healthcare organization, which has a public relations and/or marketing department to purse such avenues as the above-mentioned healthcare organizations have. It can only benefit those organizations and their constituents. If done properly establishing a presence on a social media network can create lasting bonds between healthcare organizations and the people they serve.