Just my two cents

Musings on social media and the world as I see it


2 Comments

Facebook says you want to play you gotta pay, so what’s a brand to do?

dollar sign on money bagMy last post was about managing social media for my employer for five years. Every day brings something new — maybe just a change to what we’re used to in existing networks, or maybe even the next big thing in the tech world.

Unfortunately, the next big thing in the world of Facebook is if you don’t pay, you probably can’t play. Yes, sadly, the quest for the almighty dollar is invading the social sphere too. In case you missed it, here’s an article from Time on the changes in reach: “The Free Marketing Gravy Train is Over on Facebook.” So if you’re not seeing a drop in your brand’s reach, you probably will, and maybe as low as a dismal one or two percent. Yes, you read that right –and  it doesn’t get much lower than that, does it.

For companies using Facebook brand pages, if the advertising budget doesn’t include some Facebook advertising, then it seems to me that you have to consider whether the time you spend on this major social network is even worth it. If  this is all true, then without spending money brands will not get a worthwhile return on their investment (time & personnel resources) in Facebook.

This makes me wonder if brands will also begin migrating away from Facebook to other networks liked LinkedIn and Google+, where sharing content is still free, at least for now. We know that Google+ posts help with the ever-important  SEO. While researching this post, I came across some interesting stats on Google+ showing that it’s the second ranked network just below Facebook in terms of active users (I still think these “active user numbers are over inflated, but anyway…), and itt also shows LinkedIn in the top five networks as well.

Personally, I’ve always viewed LinkedIn as a professional networking site, however, recently, there was a story on publishing on LinkedIn from Social Mouths. Over the next few months, any user on LinkedIn will be able to post long form content. That certainly could cause brands to rethink their content marketing plan. There are also some marketing pros, like this one, who believe that brands must be in both of these networks.

I would tend to disagree, and suggest that brands only spend their time and energy developing communities on the networks where their audience already exists. There is no need to be on every network if your audience isn’t there – and with limited resources, it’s important to spend your time where you will get the most bang for your buck. Now apparently, brands who aren’t spending the bucks probably aren’t going to get that desired bang from Facebook, so perhaps it’s time to start investigating and checking in with your audience to see where they are, and if they’ll engage with you on other networks.

There’s also another camp that is making more and more sense to me. Gini Dietrich (a social media, marketing and PR wiz) and others strongly believe that you need to “always build your community on something you own.” Then you encourage people to engage with you there, by promoting it through the existing social networks.  This post is brilliant and the practice is sure to gather momentum as Facebook (and soon others) hop on the pay to play bandwagon.  It’s certainly more reason for brands to devote time and effort to developing its own blog or enhancing its existing blog and website. Also, when you think about the ebb and flow (think MySpace) of social networks, isn’t it better to build something that you own and control and not rely on the whims of others when your community is at stake? I say yes, without a doubt.

Now I can’t say that this is the direction my employer will be heading in, but I think it’s something that every brand must consider given the ever-changing landscape that is social media.  So, dear readers, do you think brands will begin shifting away from a social network that demands you pay to play? What will you do?


2 Comments

A milestone – celebrating five years in two different ways

The americanThis week my hubby and I celebrated our 5th anniversary. A milestone, some might say, especially those who knew us in our more, shall we say, “tumultuous” years. But things change, time passes and suddenly it’s five years later. Because we’re in the middle of trying to sell our home and buy a new one, our plans for a lovely tropical vacation to mark the occasion were out the window. So instead, we went out for a nice lunch, and I enjoyed the feeling of being quite decadent sipping cocktails in the middle of the day. (And if you’re looking for a great restaurant in Providence, RI, try The American. Highly recommend it! My grilled shrimp on fresh baked multigrain with a lemon caper spread was quite scrumptious, as was my cosmo!)

Anyway, enough about that. This year also marks another milestone for me — it’s been five years since I launched social media for my employer. It’s been an amazing, never dull, always something new, dip your toes in and try the water, learn from your mistakes and find the next big thing kind of five years! I’ve learned many lessons along the way, and I’ve met some amazing people.

There are so many people you meet in social networks, especially like Twitter and LinkedIn, who are always willing to help, or to listen, or to read a blog post and to share it or to laugh with you or offer their sympathy. Then there are also people who never cease to amaze me, and usually not in a good way. Below is a list of some of the more remarkable things from my five years in social media that will forever be embedded in my memory. All of these are real, but I won’t use names or exact quotes, to protect the not-so-innocent.

  • A tweet that stated the user would send a “bag of feces” to our patient financial services department if someone did not call him. He didn’t realize we were on Twitter, and was happy to get a response from us. Needless to say we were both happy he got a phone call.
  • A Facebook user who demanded the hospital take down a post from its page because he didn’t agree with it and he didn’t think we were presenting it accurately… to the point of calling a member of the management team to demand it be taken down. It was a link to an actual news story I might add, not an OpEd.
  • A post from an employee of one of our hospitals posting a picture of said hospital’s emergency department and saying never go to the [expletive] hospital. Lovely.
  • The hospital staff member who had a blog and went into very specific details of his patients that day, including physical descriptions and what they were wearing and the health issue they were having. Did you really think that wasn’t a violation of federal HIPAA privacy laws or did you simply think those didn’t apply to social media.
  • The child who was furious that his parents took him to one of our hospitals and had to be banned from the Facebook page because of his rantings, only to create a new Facebook page to “hate” said hospital. Obviously the warnings to parents we share about monitoring their children’s use of social media were ignored!
  • The girl who took a picture of the “no pictures or videotaping without authorization sign” and then tweeted it and posted on Instagram for all to see. Nice.

Now I know I represent my employer in all things social and so I have to watch what I say. I’m actually very nice and don’t say what I’d really like to say to these people when I respond. Although I do love surprising them when they don’t know we are active in social networks. But even if I don’t say it, I’m sure as heck thinking it! You can feel free to fill in the blanks.

So now, dear readers, share some of the things that have surprised you the most in the social media world.


Leave a comment

Social Media — forget technology: it’s all about the human connections

communicaitonsI’ve always said that my favorite part of social media is to be able to talk to people one on one. It’s a nice change. After years of issuing press releases, and coordinating interviews, and writing speeches and newsletters to SEND a message out, I was never able to get to know people in the audience, or receive

With the dawn of social media came a huge change. People are connecting with each other and those people may never have known each other if it weren’t for the networks and the changes and capabilities technology  has given us

Today, I read this article in the Huffington Post about why brands need to become more human in social media, and it’s a trend that’s needed because of the way technology is changing. There are many salient points in the article, and you certainly won’t hear any argument from me when it comes to technology changing. It’s a constant, ever-evolving  thing, and it can be hard to keep your finger on all those changes

Respectfully, though, I need to argue with the author about the reason brands need to be more human. It’s not because of technology changing, but it’s because the technology is now there that allows brands to BE human. The past decade has drastically changed how individuals can connect with others and how brands can reach their audience. I propose that the reason brands should even enter the world of social media is to strip away all the corporate speak and just talk to other people.

The days of one-way messaging are long gone. The days of a brand spitting out its mission and vision and a few ads are over. If brands are NOT putting a human voice behind their social media and interacting with their audiences, fans and communities as people, then it’s all pointless.

I’ve often said that my favorite part of my job is the chance to get to know people in our brands’ communities as individuals. These one-on-one relationships are important, not only for the brand’s reputation, but because it is done with sincerity… and that’s something that must be part of all of your communications. If it’s not, social media users today are savvy enough to know when it’s just corporate speak. And then it’s time to rethink your plan, because it’s just not working.


Leave a comment

What job candidates can teach health care communicators

Sometimes a fresh look can do a world of good for your communications!

Sometimes a fresh look can do a world of good for your communications!

Sometimes we do a job for so long that we lose perspective. We think “been there, done that.” But it’s never a bad idea to take a fresh look.

I recently had the opportunity to interview a candidate to fill an open position on our media relations team to replace a colleague who recently left. I developed four questions I thought would give me a good sense of her work style and skills and where her passion lies. Getting a better feel for that would help me determine if she was a good fit for our team.

The interview went really well, and the questions did exactly what I hoped. They led us to a much deeper discussion of how things have changed in the world of public relations, marketing, and inevitably, social media.

As I spoke with her, though, I realized our discussion was actually making me reexamine how we do things. As a result, I came up with some essential actions hospitals should consider when launching their own marketing plans and social media efforts.

Blogging – Don’t have a blog? That’s understandable. While incredibly valuable from a content marketing standpoint, they are time and resource intensive. So why not counter that by looking for guest blog opportunities for your experts. They could be either one-time posts on a breaking news item or a regular column on timely topics. Either way, by selecting well-respected and well-read sites (think KevinMDWomen’s Health or Psychology Today), you’re positioning your expert among a whole new segment in the population. Be sure to include links to your social sites so these new readers, in turn, can connect with you there.

What’s on your calendar – Hopefully you’ve got a calendar for social media, similar to an editorial calendar that will guide your content through the year, at least on a general basis. But is that working for you? How are you developing that calendar–are you building it in a silo, or as part of a team looking at the larger objectives and mission within the organization? Does the calendar include posts that will build engagement and trust for your brand, or is it only a placeholder to support tactics in the marketing plan? It’s a new year, and it’s time to evaluate your calendar and its content.

That brings me to another topic I didn’t discuss with the candidate, but something that needs to be addressed on a regular basis:

Analytics – That dreaded word. But the fact is, if you’re not looking at how your social media efforts are working, then they are probably not worth doing. We all know resources are short, especially financial ones, but the back-end analytics on many of the more popular social media sites like Google+, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter are all free. (As a side note, if you set up a Twitter advertising account, you will then have access to the analytics for your account. On Pinterest, as long as you verify your website, you also will have access to the analytics.) These give you a snapshot of what is and isn’t working in your social media plan.

You also can dig as deeply as you’d like in many of them. I’ve found Tweet Reach for Twitter accounts, campaigns and hashtags. For Pinterest, you can check out one of my favorites, Tailwind (formerly PinReach). If you do have a budget for it, then you’ve got even more choices. The fact is, though you can still analyze what you’re doing at a basic level for free, you want to be sure you’re moving in the right direction and not wasting your time in the social world.

Those are three things we should all be looking at, but there are plenty more. What are you reevaluating or working on in terms of your social media plan?

A version of this post was originally written for and appeared on http://www.hospitalimpact.org. One thing to note, we ultimately hired that fantastic candidate (hi Elena!). 


4 Comments

Getting the message out — keys to effective communication in the digital age

communicationsFor my entire adult career, my jobs have always been in the communications departments of large companies. In the many roles I’ve had over the years, I was usually involved with communications to a variety of audiences — employees, physicians, customers/consumers, media, board members, general public, etc. The rules of thumb of communications have remained consistent through the years, in that communications should be strategic, timely and appropriately tailored to each audience.  That’s all well and good.

The problem today, with digital tools like social networks, is the timeliness factor. We no longer have all the time in the world. The longer you wait to post an important message on your brand’s Facebook page or tweet it out or post it to your online newsroom can make or break a brand. If there is an important customer/consumer/patient piece of information to get out there, your brand can certainly take a lot of heat for not being timely and getting the necessary information out to the public as quickly as it should have. And if you don’t, what’s your defense? We couldn’t get our act together?

Working as a communication pro in the digital age means we no longer have the luxury of “working within a news cycle” to craft a message as perfectly as possible. We no longer have hours to deliberate as a group over one draft after another. Today, it’s much more important to get the key points of the overall message out as quickly as possible. And it must be honest, forthright and timely.

Personally, I think one of the worst impacts to a brand’s image is when a major piece of information about your product or service gets to the general public by any means other than YOU. You should be the one taking charge of the messaging and leading that effort by being the first one out there and using every avenue at your disposal to do so — traditional media, social media, websites, online newsrooms, blogs, etc. as well as internal communications so your staff is aware of what is happening too.

Once it’s out there, you can’t control what is said, and you can actively talk WITH your audience, not just send the message out there. That’s the beautiful of communication in the digital age. If negative comments or inaccurate information is out, you can respond to the criticism and provide the right information. You can be on top of the messaging, if you get out in front of it, and your brand will be all the better for it; even if it is delivering bad news, it’s all about being honest and forthright and timely. People will appreciate that and your brand will benefit from it.

Is your brand working with the new rules of the digital age in terms of timely communications?


Leave a comment

On being open and honest in social media

fictionEveryone has their own personality, their own unique self, and that is one of the beautiful things about social media — that the true self can shine through when people are open and honest.

Of course I’m willing to bet there are some people who aren’t completely honest. They may feel the need to put  their best self forward, slightly tweaking their own little personalities to be the best they can be in the social world. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I tend to do a bit of that, especially in my day job. Sometimes the things I think or would like to say might not be the most appropriate things to tweet while representing a brand. And that makes sense.

Then there may be other people who develop a persona just for social media. Like tweeting from their dog. They assume what they think is their dog’s personality and tweet out what they think their dog might be thinking. OK, I get it. Fun, quirky, and now sort of overdone.

Then there are those who are anonymous and like being that way, and feel free to say anything they want, because they are protected behind that veil of anonymity. And if their true identity were revealed, they would probably be mortified.

I tend to follow the rule of “would I want my mother to know I said that” when I’m in the social media or blogging worlds. If it’s something mom wouldn’t approve of, you probably won’t find me typing it out to the world.

I appreciate the relationships I have built through Twitter and Facebook and to some extent, LinkedIn. I feel like I’ve connected with and gotten to know some amazing people who I otherwise never would have. To me, the great thing about social media is being able to connect to people and feel like you know them. Some day you always hope to meet some of them IRL (in real life), but if that doesn’t happen, you can still stay connected.

Then there are others who love to start rumors, or lie outright and spread their lies through the social networks. And often times, the lies are believed to be true, because, after all, if it’s on the internet, it must be true, right?

Today, I came across this article: “Pheme: The social media lie detector being developed by EU Researchers.” And while it’s fascinating, it really kind of made me sad. I’m not so naive as to believe that everything said in social media is true, or everyone is representing themselves honestly. At the same time I like to think that for the most part, people are decent and good. Of course there are rumors that spread like wildfire through social networks, and sadly, many people believe them. When I read this article, I couldn’t help but think that if we need such “lie detectors” to determine fact from fiction, we’ve gone in the wrong direction.

While it may be a good tool, I’m going to rely on old-fashioned gut instinct and a little personal fact checking when I suspect something doesn’t really ring true. After all, that has worked well for many years, right? Or am I just old?


Leave a comment

10 health care marketing folks to follow on Twitter

I’ve been on Twitter for almost 5 years now. It has become my go-to source for everything: research, breaking news, trends, health care marketing information, and meeting wonderful people. Over the years, I’ve used the “list” function in Twitter to easily organize the people I follow so I can quickly browse through categories like “news outlets,” “journalists,” or “healthcare marketing” folks.This post is to highlight some of those on my list because if you are in health care social media you should be following them too. Now believe me when I say this list is not all-inclusive, and I know there are many folks who deserve to be on this list, but there’s just not enough space in a blog post to single out all the amazing minds who are sharing info!

@leeaase Lee Aase is probably one of the best known folks in health care social media. If you look him up on Wikipedia, here’s what you’ll find: “Lee Aase is an American pioneer in using social media tools in the hospital environment, and is an advocate for social media adoption in health care.” I’ve had the opportunity to talk to him a few times by phone, and even called him once to get his opinion on a course of action when we were going through a crisis situation. Of course his advice was amazing, but beyond that, he’s a genuinely nice person who has really figured out what it takes for a health care organization (or any organization for that matter) to be successful in social media. Be sure to check out his blog too .

@edbennett Ed Bennett is someone I came to admire admired several years ago when I  first I stumbled upon him and his blog, Found in Cache http://ebennett.org/. I was so grateful to make that connection. He’s got a  soothing voice, is quite witty and also loves dogs, which in my opinion makes him a great guy! I think of him as one of the pioneers in this field, and we have much to thank him for, including the big list of hospitals in social media (now moved over to the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media). While we haven’t met in real life yet, I’m hoping (fingers crossed!) it will happen one of these days. It would be my honor.

@nickdawson Nick is a guy with some wonderful, original thoughts about health care and the social media world but is also willing to talk about many subjects. I LOVE his LinkedIn profile: “Former hospital leader now using design-thinking to inspire better staff and patient experiences.” He seems to travel a lot more than I ever could think about, and is a speaker at many of the big conferences. I’m hoping to hear him one of these days, but until then, I’ll have to follow him on Twitter and I hope you will, too. And, don’t forget to check out his blog.

@hivedan Dan Hinmon is the head of Hive Strategies, and works in hospital social media.. He shares a wealth of information and personally is such an enjoyable person to chat with. He’s also got a blog that should be on your reading list, the Social Media Strategy Blog. And be sure to check out his 7 core values at the heart of social media.

@danamlewis Dana Lewis is one of those people who I consider simply amazing. She manages the social media efforts of Swedish Health Services and is the founder of Healthcare Communications and Social Media, #hcsm, a weekly Twitter chat. You can find information on #hcsm here. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked her a question on Twitter and always receive a quick, helpful response.

@riggrl When I met Jen Riggle on Twitter, she was working for a firm on the East Coast. She’s got a wonderful take on the industry and she is also a guest blogger here on Hospital Impact , so you may be familiar with her amazing work. She is kind, thoughtful, smart and witty, and shares fantastic information you won’t want to miss.

@ReedSmith Reed is one of those really smart guys who is thoughtful and is always on my “go-to” list with questions about the industryHe is the founder of the Social Health Institute and is also a consultant for health care organizations and practices that are using social media. Be sure to follow his blog for new insight into health care and social media.

@Ahaval I’ve followed Ahava Leibtag for quite a while, and recently had the honor of being interviewed for her blog. She is one of those people who never seems to stop! She’s smart, funny and so hard working that  her passion for this industry comes through loud and clear. She’s a thought leader on digital strategy and a talented writer who always shares valuable information. You can check out some of her publications here and her blog here.

@chrisboyer Chris directs digital marketing for Inova Health System, and is simply amazing. His blog says “Chris Boyer is an active participant in the rapidly evolving field of healthcare new-media marketing. He’s a speaker and educator and someone who puts talk into action by creating and testing new digital strategies.” He is, in a word, brilliant, in my humble opinion, and I’ve learned so much from him. Be sure to follow him on Twitter AND subscribe to his blog.

@dandunlop Dan Dunlop is the president of Jennings, a health care marketing agency. Dan is one of those folks who you feel as if you’ve known for a long time, even if you’ve never met him in real life. I chat with him often on Twitter, and also love to read his blog, The Healthcare Marketer, where you’ll find plenty of tips and tricks of the trade, as well as some through-provoking questions on why we do what we do.

If you’re using social media for your hospital or medical practice, or if you’re in the field and just tweet personally, be sure to tweet these folks and introduce yourself. And like so many people in the Twitterverse, they are all kind and willing to help you with questions you might have, or point you in the right direction.

There’s also a group of “health care influencers” who can provide an overview of the health care industry and trends.  Also, be sure to follow the hashtags #hcmktg and #hcsm to keep up with all the latest in the health care marketing field.

Now I know there are so many others I could and should have mentioned here, but I limited myself to 10. So let’s add to this list and share some of the “tweeps” on your health care social media list.

 This post was originally written for and appeared on www.hospitalimpact.org


8 Comments

Forget FOMO. I’ve got FOBF – fear of being forgotten

ambulance at night.This July, I took a two-week vacation from work. It was the first time I can remember that I took a hiatus that long from work. I promised myself and the Mr. that I was going to unplug. So with the exception of a few personal Facebook status updates and deleting unnecessary emails from my inboxes, I was mostly MIA from all things social & tech.

The day I returned, I wrote a post for my blog and I thought I would start doing more frequent posts, since I was feeling so rested and ready to get back to things. Then at 10:00 that night my mom called to tell me she had just called the rescue for my dad. My parents are in their mid-80s, and so that phone call in the middle of the night is something I always dread.

That night was spent in the emergency department, and my dad was finally admitted at 5:15 a.m. I drove my mom home as the sun was rising. I had to start working in just a couple hours, and I was just heading home. As I was driving, I thought to myself that I couldn’t remember the last time I was coming home at sun rise. Leaving for the gym at that time is much more my speed now that I’m a 40-something and not a 20-something.

Of course, with that night in the ED, the vacation and the relaxation that came with it quickly became a distant memory. For the next two weeks I would pick my mom up and drive her to the hospital, where I worked on my laptop from my dad’s hospital room.

During that time, I did everything I had to for work, but I feel like I was barely a presence on Twitter or Facebook or Google+ (which wasn’t often for me on a good week!). As for my blog, well, it hasn’t seen a post since this all started, until this one. While I’m thrilled to report that my dad is now home and on the second part of his recovery, I’m feeling completely forgotten in social media.

There were a few wonderful people (and they know who they are) who often asked how dad was doing and expressed genuine care and concern. I’m especially grateful for those amazing people both in Twitter and in the real world. It’s astounding how quickly you find out who your real friends are when you’re in a crisis. (And there’s a lesson in here for brands too… the same is true of those loyal followers you’ve built through your social media efforts. They will come to your aid in a crisis!)

It’s taken me all these paragraphs to get to my point: I get nervous about not being more visible, not being a regular contributor or a regular blogger. I feel badly about not keeping in touch with people on Twitter or reading their blogs with any set frequency. And I feel like I’ve let people down by not sharing the great info they’re putting out there. I’m not suffering from FOMO, I’m suffering from what I’m coining the “Fear Of Being Forgotten,” or FOBF.

But in the long run, is it just our own minds that tells us we should feel badly about taking this hiatus from the social world? Does anyone really care if we’re not visible or not blogging or commenting for a while? More importantly, does anyone really notice? I’m sure the people who we are in touch with regularly would notice, but in the big scheme of things, does it really matter?

Personally, I’m hoping it doesn’t matter, because this FOBF can really weigh on you! Have you ever felt this way?


1 Comment

Another day, another tragedy?

Photo from Wikipedia.

Photo from Wikipedia.

Is it just me, or does it seem like lately we’ve been hit with one tragedy after another? Today, we awoke to the total devastation in the town of Moore, Oklahoma, after a nearly 2-mile wide tornado swept through, leaving it in total ruin.

Because I had to be at an early morning panel discussion on the use of social media, my normal routine was way off. I did not see the morning news, or tune into Twitter or Facebook first thing this morning. When I finally did get to social, I find myself asking if people are becoming immune to these tragedies.

From my streams and newsfeeds, it seems that so many people were basically sticking to their own agendas. I even looked through the tweet stream of hospitals across the country and was shocked and slightly appalled to see that many were just carrying on with business as usual.

Is it just me? Am I being overly sensitive? Am I wrong to think that we need to be a little more respectful in the social sphere and acknowledge what is going on? Is it inappropriate to step away from our self-serving agendas for even a day? I know I’ve posted about this before, right after the Boston bombings. But for some reason, it seems like less attention is being given to the countless number of victims of Mother Nature’s latest wrath in Oklahoma than tragedies in the past, and I’m not sure why.

Even my hometown paper, the Providence Journal, apparently didn’t think Oklahoma was Page One news. Seriously? This has been called one of the worst tornadoes of all time. Families lost children, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles… not to mention those who were wounded, and all of their possessions gone. Of course possessions can be replaced, but people can’t.

I am saluting the amazing folks at @NormalRegional who in the midst of their own tragedy are tweeting and posting important updates to their Facebook page to help people find their loved ones, to direct moms-to-be as to where they can deliver their child, and other important information, from a hospital that was leveled, by the way.

And yet the rest of us go on tweeting about Lasik surgery (really?) and “want to make your hot body hotter?” (I kid you not.)

Maybe it is just me, but I choose to be respectful of what people are going through and put aside the company’s social media marketing efforts FOR ONE DAY in favor of supporting our fellow man. If that seems silly to you, then maybe I’m in the wrong business. (And I must add in here that I’m so grateful to have a director who is of a like mind and believes that we need to show a little respect during times of tragedy. Phew.)

But in this writer’s opinion, showing sympathy for your fellow man and trying to understand their plight during a difficult time will speak more loudly for your brand than any other tweet or Facebook post you might want to put out there. Do you agree or am I alone in this thinking?


Leave a comment

What a difference 10 years makes – the evolution of hospital crisis communications

old fashioned telephoneLike the rest of the world, I was in utter amazement as the story of the Boston Bombings played out, and it’s something I can’t stopping thinking about. I can’t imagine what the victims and their families have been living through since it happened, and all the recovery time still ahead of them.

In the aftermath, I can sit back and think more clearly from a professional point of view. The first thing that comes to mind is what those media folks were experiencing at the Boston hospitals. I totally understand. They were inundated with media trucks, media calls, reporters wanting answers to a myriad of questions, assignment desks calling for constant updates on patients, requests for interviews, and the list goes on and on. Then of course there’s the need to keep the public informed, and that’s when each hospital’s social media efforts came into play.

I think they did an absolutely phenomenal job in as difficult a situation as any we experience in this line of work. I recently came across a great article that speaks to the communications efforts by these three hospitals, and it warrants sharing, as do the kudos that these hospitals deserve.

It was this same article that brought me back 10 years to the horrible nightclub fire in West Warwick, R.I., at The Station. I was 10 years younger, and I have to admit, a lot greener about crisis communications.. I had only been working for the hospital for a year and a half when the fire happened. And while I am very lucky to be among the few in Rhode Island who was not personally impacted by it or knew someone who was, it is an experience I will never forget.

Of course those times were very different. Back then we relied on phones, faxes and emails to share information. What a difference social media would have made that night, and for the many weeks afterward, when we had patients at our major trauma center in Rhode Island. We received 63 patients that night. And many of them were critically injured and required care for long periods of time.

We were flooded with national and international media outlets, all following one of the worst fires in history, and one of the biggest stories to ever come out of Rhode Island. There were so many things about that night that could have been done differently if social media existed.

Families would have known immediately if their loved ones were safe or among the missing. As a hospital, we could have posted information immediately as it happened, with updated numbers of patients and conditions. We could have posted information for families on where to go when arriving at the hospital and resources for them to help in the aftermath, and even connect families who were experiencing the same things. The media could have turned to our social feeds for regular updates. The speed and immediacy of our communications response would have been drastically increased with today’s technology.

None of us ever want to experience a crisis, especially of the magnitude of the Boston bombings and The Station fire. But personally, I’m glad we have social media now to help us better communicate when we do experience them. I don’t think we can appreciate enough the increased power, reach and flexibility it provides us with, especially in a crisis situation.

Does/has your hospital use social media during a crisis, or do you plan to in the future? How?

This post was written for and originally appeared on www.hospitalimpact.org.