The Banal Use of Twitter by Many Hospitals

Last week my friend Chris Boyer wrote an excellent blog post asking people to stop using social media. Chris’ point was that the true spirit of social media is communication and connection, so please stop expecting so much from this particular set of tools! Social networks do not represent a marketing silver bullet. I could not agree more.

Today I am here to rant about the way in which so many hospitals (and other organizations) misuse Twitter! Going back to Chris’ main point, the spirit of social media is communication and connection; I would add “community building.” Yes, you can use social media as part of your marketing program, but to be effective, you should do it in the spirit it is intended. That means you should use Twitter to engage your target audience, to communicate with them and to connect. Think about the word “connect.” It doesn’t mean to spew information in their general direction. When you are at a party or in a business meeting and you make a connection with someone, it means that you’ve found some common ground – something that brings the two of you together. It is usually as a result of a meaningful conversation and exchange of information. When connections happen, the world gets a little smaller and the distance between you and the other individual is reduced.

Back to Twitter. I know you don’t do this, but tons of hospitals’ Twitter strategies almost exclusively involve feeding Twitter with the organization’s Facebook posts. Why do it this way? It is easy and effortless. What’s wrong with this strategy? Everything! When you do this your tweets aren’t written for the 140 character format. The text gets cut off mid thought. And it is obvious that the tweet wasn’t written for Twitter. You also don’t have hastags so you limit your ability to reach out to individuals who share your interest in a given topic. But most importantly, your Twitter strategy is completely devoid of engagement! You aren’t retweeting or responding to the tweets of your followers. You aren’t thanking people for retweeting your content. You aren’t engaging in conversation. And you aren’t building relationships. Frankly, you aren’t participating. You are just phoning in your Tweets. And you aren’t listening! It is important to note that there are conversation taking place on Twitter that involve your constituents, and you aren’t involved in those. To be an effective marketer, you need to listen. That’s marketing 101.

What’s the difference between an engaging Twitter strategy and a crappy Twitter strategy? About 15 to 20 minutes a day. That’s all it takes to infuse some engagement into your Twitter presence. It isn’t hard. But it makes all the difference. So please, step away from the social media. As Chris Boyer suggests, take a time out and give yourself a moment to reflect upon how you use these tools and what you expect from them. Then come back to Twitter with a renewed understanding of the opportunity you are missing by not engaging your audience.

If you’re not really sure whether or not you are engaging anyone, there are tools that can help you figure this out. Check out how your Twitter handle stacks up on TweetReach.com. From Tweet Reach you can get a sense of the reach and impressions of your Twitter feed. You can also use Klout to see what percentage of your followers are actually engaged by your tweets. You’ll find that it is only a small percentage of your followers who are actually sharing your content.

Post by Dan Dunlop, The Healthcare Marketer

9 comments on “The Banal Use of Twitter by Many Hospitals

  1. Amy Marshall

    Excellent points, all. Will share with our Twitter expert on staff, but I think we’re already trying to do this. I’m glad that social media challenges those of us in marketing & communications at hospitals (and beyond) to not just ‘sell’ the brand but to engage the consumer – which is what excites me about the web/ social media in the first place.

  2. LOL I really wan to share this via twitter but then I might be doing exactly what you suggest is the problem with how hospitals use twitter. šŸ˜‰

    • dandunlop

      Thank Sherry! Retweeting other people’s content is a great form of engagement and community-building. As is commenting on blog posts. Thanks for your feedback – and your sense of humor.

  3. Well said and I could not agree more. I am tired of companies pushing messages while NOT interacting. Beer Breweries are really bad about this, they have not clue what their followers are saying all they are doing is pushing information about the next best beer they have. No engagement!

    • dandunlop

      Thanks for your comment Hazel. I appreciate the engagement!

  4. An excellent article and I think it is accurate. Social media is about engagement not short ads. It is an excellent means to take the pulse of or reach out to those whom you serve. Using it mindlessly for promotion only makes you seem less caring.

  5. Share-worthy post, Dan. A good way to tell if an organization “gets” social media is to look at who they’re following. It amuses me when someone on Twitter isn’t following anyone. It begs the question: What’s the point?

    • dandunlop

      I definitely agree. To me it is so annoying to see an organization that doesn’t follow anyone. They clearly don’t understand the medium. Thanks for your comment Beverly!

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