As the winter snows recede here in Boston, hospitals and the general public alike tend to experience elevated levels of baseball--and more specifically Red Sox--fever. It's in this context that I like to think of hospital social media.
I remember attending endless conferences and seminars on social media before ever having engaged in its practice. Discussions of how people interact through social media made sense immediately, but what resonated most was how something as simple as a tweet, YouTube video, or blog post could turn into an instant national or global sensation. For hospital communicators, a viral sensation--positive, of course--is like hitting grand slam. But what happens when, despite your best efforts, you just can't seem to get one out of the park? The answer: Don't try to.
The reality is we all want the well-earned smash success of the pink glove video but what we really need to focus on are the mechanics of our swing and grinding out base hits. For hospital communicators, that means a quality tweet, video, post or interaction one at a time. Sure, a retweet from someone with 44 followers may not blow up the web and land you on the Today Show, but quality execution builds a solid foundation.
Admittedly though, getting started can be like hitting a month-long slump in August. Followers and "likers" are slow to come. Fans aren't cheering your performance and no one's trading for your Topps card. It's at these times hospital communicators, like ball players, need to have faith in their technique. If your swing is good, then it's only a matter of time until your slump is a distant memory. If you notice a flaw in your social media campaign, adjust your swing.
Like a ball player, you build technique through practice so you're ready for the game. Constantly assess your content and the quality of your interactions. And remember, numbers don't tell the whole story. It's better to engage with a long-term devoted fan base than a crowd loyal only during championship parades.
It's also important to remember we as hospital communicators aren't necessarily looking to sell out a stadium. Meaningful interactions can happen one by one and have great impact. Sharing information or answering questions through day-to-day conversation helps a hospital execute its mission by focusing on patients first.
For those getting started in social media I suggest simply stepping up to the plate and aiming for a solid at bat. When the YouTube views, retweets, comments and interactions start coming, consider yourself a solid player. And should you hit that grand slam in game seven--which would be a Twitter mention from Ashton Kutcher --stay humble and don't charge for autographs.
Mike Morrison is a Media Relations Officer at a large Boston teaching hospital and a Red Sox fan. You can follow him on twitter @MDMorrison82 .