A Brilliant Reason to Dive Deep into the Social Media Health Space

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 18:04

By Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA

Recently,  I had the pleasure of being surrounded by brilliant health care thought leaders.  First, I delivered a social media presentation at the Eyeforpharma conference.  Secondly, I sat in the audience at the Social Communications and Health Care 2011 conference to listen to others present on social media, and participate in a round-table discussion on social media.

It’s clear from the personal discussion that followed with folks from the pharma industry, medical device companies, and hospitals, that they understand the need for social media (or social networking), but they are cautious to dive in.

A few concerns I’ve heard:  “Social media can be paralyzing,” “Senior leadership in the pharma industry is looking for the FDA to make decisions because it’s such a highly regulated industry,” and “It’s still so new, what’s the ROI?”  Concerns are real; however there will always be concerns and questions.  Sometimes, the best approach is to just dive right in.

The brilliant reason to dive deep into the social media health space is because it fosters engagement.

Define your social media strategy.

Is it to collaborate with colleagues and other thought leaders?  Is it to promote a brand or product?  Is it to monitor consumer behavior?  Is it to help educate the public with valuable and trustworthy health information?

Regardless of the reason, always remember to provide valuable, relevant and trustworthy information.  Think about who’s receiving the information.  How will it benefit them?  How will it help impact their lives?  How will they utilize the information into forming actionable steps to help improve their health?  Social media is about “them,” not you.  It’s about being a leader in your field and offering ideas and information to help educate consumers.  It’s about engaging, collaborating and communicating information with honesty and complete transparency.

Use your unique voice, stay on message, always remember to engage with empathy and heart, and always be respectful.  Be mindful of what you tweet and post.

HIPAA and patient privacy considerations are paramount.  Be aware that tweets are archived in the Library of Congress.  Think before you tweet.

Learn what other industries have done to implement social media.

Zappos has been successful because of the culture, according to a blog on Social Turbine.

Sure, Zappos is about shoes and not about big pharma, medical device companies or hospitals, however it’s a company that can help offer insight into establishing useful social media strategies.

“Unlike their competitors, Zappos treats social media as a tactic, not a strategy. While some firms use social media to sell a product/service (and then ditch it when ROI gets low)—Zappos doesn’t believe in social media metrics. According to Hsieh, “The various tools of digital communication—blogs, microblogs and streaming video—have a different purpose […] these tools give the public “glimpses into how we act.”” [Source: Social Turbine]

Social media allows doctors, nurses, other health professionals and health care companies to deeply connect and engage with the community and their colleagues.

Social media is fast and fierce. Social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and blogs are a powerful and phenomenal platform that offers value and real-time communication.

Social networking sites help educate patients and consumers, raise awareness of health issues and it offers a forum to collaborate and connect, and it’s easy.  People are signing in on-the-go from the smart phone or tablets—communication is continuous and in real-time.

According to the World Health Organization, “Mobile phones are now the most widely used communication technology in the world.”

Excellent social media resources to help you engage

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) The Health Communicator’s Social Media Toolkit http://www.cdc.gov/healthcommunication/ToolsTemplates/SocialMediaToolkit_BM.pdf

Mayo Clinic Center for Social Mediahttp://socialmedia.mayoclinic.org/

Cleveland Clinic Social Media Policyhttp://my.clevelandclinic.org/about-cleveland-clinic/about-this-website/social-media-policy.aspx

Kaiser Permanente Social Media Policyhttp://xnet.kp.org/newscenter/media/downloads/socialmediapolicy_091609.pdf

Social Media Governance –  http://socialmediagovernance.com/policies.php

Intel Social Media Guidelineshttp://www.intel.com/sites/sitewide/en_US/social-media.html

IBM Social Computing Guidelines http://www.ibm.com/blogs/zz/en/guidelines.html

Web 2 0 Governance Policies and Best Practices http://govsocmed.pbworks.com/w/page/15060450/Web-2-0-Governance-Policies-and-Best-Practices

AMA Policy: Professionalism in the Use of Social Media http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/meeting/professionalism-social-media.shtml

New AMA Policy Helps Guide Physicians’ Use of Social Media http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/news/news/social-media-policy.page

David Harlow, Esq. – HealthBlawghttp://healthblawg.typepad.com/healthblawg/

Hospital Social Network List – Ed Bennetthttp://ebennett.org/hsnl/

Healthin30/Social Media | Social Networking https://healthin30.com/


Social Turbinehttp://socialturbine.com/

Social Media Todayhttp://socialmediatoday.com/

Social Media Examinerhttp://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/9-companies-doing-social-media-right-and-why/

Lee Aase – Social Media Universityhttp://social-media-university-global.org/

Bottom line

There’s no magic bullet for overnight social media success.  It’s an investment in time.  It’s about knowing that you can sincerely make a difference and help improve the lives of consumers as well as share valuable information with your colleagues.  Social media takes patience and time.  Like all relationships, it takes time to build and cultivate trust.  Be mindful of what you post, be respectful, learn from others outside the industry, always be transparent, be genuinely concerned and empathetic and most of all embrace this new and exciting platform.  Dive in and dive deep and embrace the relationships you make along the way.

Your turn

We would love to hear your insightful thoughts and comments.  What’s your social media strategy?  What have you gained from engaging in social media?

As always, thank you for your valuable time.

[Image:  iStockPhoto]
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5 Responses to “A Brilliant Reason to Dive Deep into the Social Media Health Space”

  1. Andy De says:

    July 19th, 2011 at 8:18 pm


    Greatly enjoyed your post (as always) as well as the valuable resources you have listed here. Healthcare and Life Sciences companies would do well to learn from best practices in Social Media from leaders in Retail and Consumer Products re: engaging Consumers in entirely new ways leveraging Social Media, that enable novel forms of value creation and Return-on-Investment (ROI).
    I have elucidated this thru my ‘7 stage lifecycle of Customer Engagement’ in my recent blogpost – http://bit.ly/o4oF96 

  2. Barbara Ficarra says:

    July 19th, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    Hi Andy,

    Thank you so much, and thank you for sharing your valuable blogpost, “7 stage lifecycle of Customer Engagement.” – http://bit.ly/o4oF96

    It’s very detailed and offers an abundance of helpful information.

    To quote from your post, “this and the previous blogpost has presented a new and innovative model for engaging customers leveraging social media and mobility platforms and tools that are being deployed by leaders in retail and consumer products. These models show enormous promise, value, return-on-investment (ROI) potential and present new and novel opportunities for life sciences and healthcare technology companies to engage patients, physicians, clinicians, nurses and other healthcare stakeholders and also bring health-sciences innovation to market.”

    Well done!



  3. Christopher Roseberry, MD says:

    July 19th, 2011 at 10:18 pm

    Social media is here to stay. I see such reluctance on the part of hospitals and health care providers to join in. But I believe that much of the reluctance is the usual fear of the unknown. When handled professionally, social media can certainly be a benefit to the health system in it’s ability to quickly disseminate information among peers and those looking for information. Your piece is a great resource for those wanting to get started in this endeavor. 


  4. A Brilliant Reason to Dive Deep into the Social Media Health Space « My Lymphoma Journey says:

    July 21st, 2011 at 5:24 am

    […] A Brilliant Reason to Dive Deep into the Social Media Health Space : Health in 30. […]

  5. Barbara Ficarra says:

    July 22nd, 2011 at 11:23 am

    Hi Chris,
    Thanks so much. Yes, I agree–social media can benefit the health system and it is very easy to quickly spread information. Social Media is a phenomenal platform. It’s important that health providers share accurate and trustworthy information. Social Media is its infancy and I think we’ve only skimmed the surface. Thanks again and yes, the list offers some very useful resources.

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