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The many roles of the healthcare social media manager

Posted Nov 10 2011 8:29am

by Nancy Cawley Jean

I recently worked on promoting a study by one of our physicians, which involved emergency department staff and how the perception of their roles can impact patient satisfaction. That got me thinking about the many social media-related roles taken on by healthcare communicators.

The Researcher: First, we have to figure out social media and our role in this big digital world. What is it, how can we take part in it, and how does it help our brand? Doing the research and connecting with others who also are doing this kind of work will benefit the background researcher.

The PR Rep: Yes, social media is helping us to reach out to reporters and media outlets to tell our story. We're pitching through tweets, Facebook status updates, and blog posts.

The Customer Service Rep: A big part of our social media presence is monitoring what others say about our brand. And it's not only monitoring but also responding to people with comments, questions, and concerns. If someone has a complaint, is there some way to rectify it? Many times I've connected people with our patient liaison to resolve a specific issue. But if it's a general "I hate your hospital" complaint, then it's up to the social media manager to respond and try to change that outlook. Amazingly, when people get a personal response to a complaint, it does wonders in changing their opinion.

The Marketing Specialist: We all have our marketing plans in place, with tools and tactics. Social media is just one of them. If you're engaging in social media for a hospital, then hopefully you are working closely with your marketing team to ensure you're helping to support the overall mission and the marketing priorities of your hospital. If you're not, it's time to sit down with them.

The Brand Manager: You are the representative of your brand out there in the social sphere. What you say and how you say it impacts your overall hospital brand.

The Health Reporter: A big part of being in the social media world is not only to make a good impression of your brand but also to share important health information. Breaking news about cancer or diabetes? You're sharing it. Encouraging people to live a healthier lifestyle? You're tweeting it. Connecting people with resources that can help them? That, too, is all part of your social content. You're acting as a health reporter for your community, identifying important stories and sharing information that can impact their health.

The Spokesperson: You are the face of your organization in the social world. In that respect, you're serving as the spokesperson. Your Twitter friends and your Facebook friends are (hopefully) personally connecting with you and know you by name.

The Health Advocate: You're cheering for people who have made accomplishments in their health. You're sharing information to help guide patients through the healthcare world. You're providing resources, answering questions, and directing people to the organizations, individuals, or websites that can help solve their problems. YOU are advocating for their health!

So, social media is not only a fun way to pass the time. It's a serious responsibility, especially when it comes to healthcare. It's one that requires you to wear many different hats all at the same time. It's not to be taken lightly. But social media IS a great way to connect with people on a personal level and possibly make a real difference in their lives without actually providing medical care. I, for one, am thrilled to have the opportunity to wear all these hats. But I'm sure I've forgotten some roles--so what other roles do we play? Share your thoughts!

Nancy (Cawley) Jean is a senior media relations officer for Lifespan. She is a communications and media relations specialist, focused on national media relations for research at Rhode Island Hospital and its Hasbro Children's Hospital, and managing social media for the hospitals within the Lifespan health system.

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