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Is Your Hospital Ready for a Social Media Manager?

A few days ago I blogged about Arik Hansons’ digital case study of Swedish Medical Center in the Seattle area. His study included an interview with Dana Lewis, Social Media Manager at the Medical Center. Well, Dana is once again the feature of a story, this time an article written by Bob Cook in American Medical News. Cook’s article discusses the growing trend where hospitals are creation a new position for an employee who handles social media within the organization: the social media manager. Cook says that generally social media managers are hired by hospitals that are already active on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or other sites.

Social media managers / coordinators are slowly working their way into the healthcare industry as the communication between hospitals, physicians and patients continues to evolve. As well all know by now, social media allows physicians to communicate with patients on a direct and personal level. New media enables physicians to be relatable outside of the confines of the hospital. Lewis has trained an estimated 100 physicians at Swedish on the rules of social media engagement. With Lewis’ help, doctors have started blogging and tweeting, although some wish they could do it more often, given the free time. So what do you look for when you go to hire your version of Dana Lewis? And no, she can’t be cloned.

That very subject came up at at a dinner I held in Boston a couple of weeks ago with the VPs of Marketing for two different area health systems. One of the topics we discussed was what kind of person we would look for in a social media coordinator. Would we hire someone straight out of school for whom all this social media stuff is second nature? Or would we hire someone more seasoned in communications who shows an interest in social media but is not yet fully immersed in that world? Or would we look for something else entirely? My answer was that I would hire someone who can write well! I believe that good writers are usually good thinkers. To write clearly, you have to order your thoughts and tell a story in a logical manner. I want someone handling social media who is a clear thinker and has good judgment. Managing social media for a hospital or health system is not at all equivalent to managing your own Facebook page or Twitter feed. This is about managing the reputation of a major brand – online and offline.  So the answer, for me, isn’t to hire some kid fresh out of school who understands social media. If that kid is Dana Lewis, sure, go for it. But ask yourself if that same kid is going to be able to successfully coach your physicians how to use social media while soothing the folks in the c-suite who are terrified of this new frontier? That’s not just any college graduate with an iPad. What are your thoughts?

For more, check out Cook’s article on American Medical News: By the way, Lee Aase of the Mayo Clinic and Ed Bennett of University of Maryland Medical Center are also included in the story.

Post by Dan Dunlop with Stephanie Cohen, UNC-Chapel Hill Student and Jennings Intern

1 comment on “Is Your Hospital Ready for a Social Media Manager?

  1. Pingback: Social media’s evolving role in health care « Nancy Jean's Blog

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