Just my two cents

Musings on social media and the world as I see it


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Allay fears and build loyalty in a crisis through social media

Hospitals are not exempt from the economic woes our country is facing. More and more, we hear of hospitals facing layoffsto address budget deficits. This can undoubtedly cause concerns among patients and members of the community. They may worry about whether they will be able to get the care they need if your hospital appears to be downsizing.

Hospitals that use social media for marketing are often inclined to NOT use these tools during difficult times. Take these two instances:

Let’s look at St. Francis Medical Center in CT. Earlier this year, the hospital laid off 200 of its 3,500 staff, according to this Hartford Courant story. Searching the hospital’s website, I could not find any information on this major news. The hospital also has a Facebook page, although there was nothing posted over the months when the layoffs took place. An article on the Hartford Guardian site indicated that there was a written statement, but I never found any comments directly from the hospital through a Google search.

Last week media reported that UMassMemorial Health Care in Mass. would lay off 350 of its staff. A tour of the system’s website and online newsroom turned up no information on the announcement. While they are not on Facebook, they are on Twitter. A quick glance of their timeline shows no response at all to the news of the layoff, although there were several tweets the day of the Boston Globe story, but not about the hospital’s situation.

While it may seem counter-intuitive, tough times are the perfect opportunity to use social media. Both Twitter and Facebook can serve as customer service tools, a vehicle to promote your quality of care, a way to be transparent with your staff and your community, and a way to allay fears and continue to build loyalty within your online community. It’s also a way to get your message out in your own words.

The use of social media needs to be based on openness and honesty. It’s important to recognize not only the good but the bad. Issuing a statement or press release to the media is fine, but in today’s social media savvy world, people are tweeting and posting on Facebook and leaving comments on news sites about your hospital and the news that was generated.

It’s important that you be part of the conversation and not appear invisible, or appear to be ignoring it. Let’s take the example of Beth Israel Deaconness in Boston earlier this year, when its CEO, Paul Levy, was in the news for a “lapse in judgment.”

Originally, the story played out in the media with written statements and interviews with hospital PR folks. This seemed out of character for Levy, who has been a strong advocate for transparency, on his well known blog, Running a Hospital. In his post called “Going Public,” he stayed true to form and was open and honest about the situation, and gained a lot of respect in return. I, for one, saluted him and was relieved to see that he had not cast his belief in open communication to the wind when confronting a crisis!

I believe that addressing both the good and the bad is vital when it comes to having a presence in social media. It’s critical to continue to have a presence during difficult situations, and respond to concerns. It’s an opportunity to show that you recognize those concerns.

It really is okay to show you’re troubled by the event or situation, just like it’s okay to apologize when mistakes are made. But it’s also a chance to show what you’re doing to address the situation and allay the fears that patients and their families may be having.

What can you do in tough times? Build a page on your website to show what you’re doing to address the situation, use Twitter and Facebook to post information that shows you’re recognizing and addressing the problem, and point people to the information on your website. It’s also an opportunity to encourage feedback. Knowing what people want to know can help you tailor your message and directly address what they are worried about.

It’s time to embrace social media, because that’s where the world is turning for information. Hospitals are no exception.

Have you seen good examples of a hospital using social media in an internal crisis? Share them!

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


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Social media’s evolving role in health care

The past few years have been quite a whirlwind in the communications and marketing field, and the hospital sector is right in the middle of it all. Despite patient privacy and some resistance, social media has taken hold as a vital part of our everyday lives in the world of healthcare and hospital communications.

Its humble beginnings may be traced back to something as simple as a Mayo Clinic video of an adorable couple who played piano in the atrium. I don’t think anyone, including Lee Aase, had any idea that this would grow into something as big as it is, with now over 7 million views.

Now, Aase and the folks at Mayo have become known as leaders in the use of social media in healthcare, and this year launched a first of its kind Center for Social Media, which I’m sure will lead the way in the future.

How hospitals use social media continues to evolve. We’ve come to realize that we can have fun in this technological world while still getting a message across. St. Vincent Medical Center’s Pink Glove Dance video gave the hospital an opportunity to spotlight staff from every area of the hospital while promoting breast cancer awareness. With more than 12 million views, it was so successful, they went ahead and made a sequel. But this one is a compilation from hospitals in the U.S. and Canada, with staff and survivors donning their pink gloves and dancing in the mission to raise awareness and show breast cancer patients they’re not alone. Brilliant!

While not quite as fun, hospitals are also using social media in incredibly practical ways. Scottsdale Healthcare was the first to post ED wait times on a website, and others like the Akron General Health System are also doing this on Twitter and Facebook. Some people have expressed concern about this practice and have written articles like the one in American Medical News(and on iHealthbeat at the previous hyperlink) arguing it could discourage patients from seeking care when there is an extended wait.

Social media and crisis situations seem to be a natural union. The quick, accessible media allow someone within a hospital to post quick updates as information breaks. Some hospitals are to be commended for their clear-thinking and rapid-fire approach to using social media during these times. Those that come to mind are Scott & White, during the Ft. Hood shootings , or Johns Hopkins tweeting and posting updates on their website during a hostage/shooting situation.

Hospitals are now hiring social media managers like Dana Lewis at Swedish. Dana is the perfect person for this position, and in a tweet said she can’t imagine being anywhere else. With the focus on engagement and conversations growing by the day, this is definitely a smart move. Promoting fundraising events is also a natural, because you’ve already got a captive audience of followers.

So what does the future hold? The possibilities are endless.

  • Tomorrow’s Facebook can be a storefront for a hospital complete with secure checkout for cause marketing related sales (think selling Christmas ornaments that benefit the hospital right from your Facebook page!).
  • Find and recruit patients who are willing to tell their stories in videos, or become advocates who can serve as defenders of your reputation when a crisis hits.
  • Use Twitter and Facebook to conduct focus groups on new ads, mission statements, etc.
  • Offer a formal complaint process through Facebook.
  • Use social media as THE internal communications process for staff.
  • Offer mobile apps that allow users to track their status for certain conditions and report directly to their physician (this may actually already be in use).

How else do you see social media evolving among hospitals?

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


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Hospitals that excel in social media

Most of us in the healthcare field who are using or interested in social media know of Ed Bennett and his fantastic blog, Found in Cache. If you follow his blog and its regular updates of the big social media list, you know that more hospitals are jumping into social media.

As of January 23, 2010, the list includes 906 hospitals using 3,087 social sites. Of course, just because a hospital is using social media doesn’t mean it’s successful at it. So I decided to look at some of the top hospitals and see what they’re doing, what sets them apart, and what makes them so successful.

First, I realized that I’m falling behind the curve, because not only have we not launched a blog, but we haven’t claimed our hospitals on Foursquare (a location based social networking site that allows users to “check-in” to places they happen to be visiting, dining, receiving care, etc.), , and we haven’t established LinkedIn accounts for the hospitals either. Many hospitals are using all of these social media outlets and more (FlickR, YouTube, etc.) to build a loyal following and talk to people about what matters to them. And clearly there are leaders.

On Twitter, in terms of followers, Mayo Clinic is the leader of the pack. No surprise there. They’ve been considered the leaders in social media for hospitals for a long time, thanks to Lee Aase. Mayo now has nearly 120,000 followers through 2,815 tweets. So what are they doing with their tweets? They provide quick, helpful health tips, promote sources of getting health info like podcasts or interviews with their experts, they solicit questions from people, promote videos, and call attention to media stories. It doesn’t seem like anything unusual, though. So what am I missing? You can’t help but wonder if their well-known name helps with increasing followers.

On Facebook, Mayo does well here also, with nearly 22,000 “likes,” but that’s just a drop in the bucket compared to the leaders. Tops is Children’s Hospital Boston with 500,537 likes, or fans, as of February 7. So how did they get there?

I absolutely love what they’ve done. When you visit their Facebook page for the first time, you’re invited to like them to read patient stories and submit your own. Brilliant. Their tabs are pretty standard, but they also have a “Give” tab to support philanthropy, their “photos” tab has 65 albums, with an additional 1300 or so posted by fans, and they also have an “Invite” tab that allows you to invite your own friends to become a fan. Apparently it’s working.

Next on Facebook is St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. They boast a whopping 358,154 fans, or likes. It doesn’t hurt that they advertise nationally and of course childhood cancer tugs at the heartstrings. But what are they doing on their Facebook page to set themselves apart? They’ve got a special tab for “Patient of the Month,” a customized tab with a timely promo called “Game Day. Give Back,” and a “Shop” tab to purchase items from the hospital that support its fundraising efforts. If you look at their wall, it almost appears to have more posts from fans than from the hospital itself. It’s a truly impressive effort.

Also of note, the third on the list is another children’s hospital, Arkansas Children’s, with 77,791 fans/likes. It seems that social media and children’s hospitals are a natural. It’s an engaged audience with lots of moms on social sites sharing info and experiences, gathering tips, and discussing their own stories. Seems like a perfect match. In my own experience, Hasbro Children’s Hospital is far and away the most “liked” and the Facebook page with the most engagement of our five hospital accounts.

What I find interesting, though, is that the hospitals are all doing very similar things. Yet clearly, we have some that are excelling in terms of engagement and followers. That leads me to a question: Is name recognition and reputation an important aspect of social media success, or can a small community hospital build such a following simply by doing the right things? I’d love to hear feedback on this topic and get a discussion going. And in my next post, I’ll be taking a look at hospitals using LinkedIn and foursquare–a rapidly growing list.

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


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Healthcare checks into Foursquare

I have to admit I am NOT a Foursquare user–that is, until today, when I signed up to do some research for this post. For those who don’t know about Foursquare, it’s a location-based application that allows you to build a network of friends through your email, Facebook and Twitter accounts to see where your friends are, and also “check in” at venues, restaurants, airports, malls, etc. (Here’s a great overview.)

Either I’m in the minority–I’m not as tied to my phone as I could be–or I’m just too old, but I never understood the need to continually proclaim my whereabouts or why anyone would care (unless they wanted to rob my house when I announced I was at the airport waiting for a flight). I guess for people who have active social lives or travel a lot it can be fun and helpful, but I don’t fit into that category. I also have to admit I get a bit annoyed when Twitter feeds or Facebook walls are crowded with “I’m at Joe Schmo’s Bar and Grill with 4 friends.”

But when I saw Foursquare posts in Twitter searches that showed people checking in at our hospitals, I became a bit more interested. Now, I’m glad these posts show up in Twitter and Facebook feeds, because I can respond to anyone who’s checking in to make sure things are OK, or just send best wishes. It’s actually resulted in some nice conversations.

I’ve also come to understand why businesses care about this particular social network. It’s a virtual gold mine when it comes to finding out who your customers are and building loyalty/rewards programs for them. Things like “get a free sandwich after your fifth check-in with us” at your local deli or “get an upgrade to first class after 100 check-ins on our airline” (ha!) can easily build customer loyalty. It can also generate testimonials from devoted customers who are tweeting, Facebooking and Foursquaring the brand name to their network of friends–and we all know the most trusted form of advertising is recommendations from family or friends. From this standpoint, I completely understand the benefit of this unique social network as a marketing tool.

Yet, it still eluded me how Foursquare could benefit the hospital sector. Sure, Facebook and Twitter make sense, but how could a hospital possibly use this tool? Then I saw a post by Ed Bennett on his Found in Cache blog, where he notes that while not all hospitals have claimed their venue on Foursquare, “almost every U.S. hospital has a Foursquare venue.” In Ed’s ever-expanding look at hospitals using social media, he has added a list for Foursquare, noting the number of unique individuals who have checked in at a hospital, the total number of check-ins, and whether or not the hospital has claimed its venue.

According to Ed’s list, as of January, around 60 hospitals had claimed their venue. That’s a very small percentage. But here’s what important to note: if you’re a hospital and your venue hasn’t been claimed, that doesn’t stop people from checking in. More importantly, they can leave comments.

I have not yet claimed the venues for the five hospitals for which I manage social media. But when I looked at the venues, to my horror, people had commented–both good and bad–after checking in at some of them. This is something I’ve totally missed until now, and since I’m committed to responding to all mentions of the hospitals, I’m breaking my own rules by not being involved in this network.

The problem with Foursquare is that unless you check into a venue, you don’t know what that particular venue is doing in terms of customer awards; so I still remain stumped as to how this can benefit hospitals. But as I mulled this last week, I saw this tweet from Shawn Wells at Sarasota Memorial in Florida (@SMHCS on Twitter):
“Next time you visit #Sarasota Memorial Hospital, check in on #foursquare and have a #Starbucks on us. http://4sq.com/igFS84 #bradenton.”

Brilliant, I thought. Getting people to check in helps you identify people who are coming to your hospital, who may be commenting on your service or treatment, and who may be recommending your hospital to friends and family–or maybe not. It’s a way to build yet another relationship with someone in your community. The light bulb over my head finally went on. Thanks, Shawn!

A further search on Twitter for “Foursquare and hospital” found a few tweets, but that was the only one I found coming from a hospital asking users to check in with them. So, that leaves me still wondering how other hospitals are using Foursquare as part of their overall social media strategy.

If you’re using Foursquare at your hospital, please let us know what you’re doing and how it’s working out. Either leave a comment, or feel free to email me at njean@lifespan.org . I’m sure I’m not in the minority of being very inquisitive about this network and how it can help hospitals as we continue to expand our reach into social media.

In the meantime, I will start checking into places I visit to see what happens. And I’ll keep my fingers crossed that I’m not checking into a hospital as a patient and no one is robbing my house.

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


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The art of hospital blogging

We are behind the curve. I hate to admit that, but since we have not yet launched blogs for our hospitals, I have to face that fact. Many would say that launching a blog should be the first step in a social media plan. There’s good reasoning behind that…

Blogs are important for hospitals for a myriad of reasons. First, with a dwindling media market and very few reporters who are dedicated to covering the health beat, a blog is a perfect way to tell your story the way you want it told. Want to highlight a patient success story? Put it on your blog. Want to help with recruitment for a hard-to-fill position in the hospital? Have a guest blogger explain a day in the life of working in that job. Want to talk about a hot news topic? Include a column by one of your doctors or nurses, thereby getting the word out to the public on what they need to know while positioning your doctor or nurse as the go-to expert on the subject. Want comments, feedback and engagement? Just ask for it. Photos, videos, podcasts? The more, the merrier!

It makes so much sense for a hospital to have a blog as an important part of its marketing efforts and brand loyalty. And it should definitely be considered a key tactic within an overall strategic marketing plan. As I began to develop plan to launch our own blogs, I of course had to do some research to see what other hospitals are doing. As always, I started at my go-to place, the blog of Ed Bennett, Found in Cache. (Seriously, I don’t know what I would do without Ed!) He reports that as of January, 106 hospitals had a blog.

So what are they doing?

They’re getting media placements from good blog posts.
In a recent webinar, Lee Aase of Mayo Clinic reported that sometimes blogs are incredibly helpful in getting a story into mainstream media, and he cited a video they shot with a professional baseball player who had a procedure done at Mayo. While traditional media were reluctant to do the story based on a pitch (pardon the pun), they later landed several placements in major media outlets. First, they had the baseball player’s story, then they had a follow-up story of a woman who learned about the procedure through Twitter and Facebook, had the procedure, and met the player! The result was great stories featured in major media outlets. By the way, Mayo Clinic has a total of eight (yes, eight!) blogs, all designed for different audiences. That’s more than I could even begin to manage, but nevertheless, amazing.

They’re telling their patients’ stories, and more.
The Children’s Hospital Boston’s Thrive blog is a wonderful mix of patient stories, a variety of medical topics and safety issues for kids. It has posts from the “blogger in residence,” a former Boston Globe reporter, as well as three physicians who blog regularly (one is the medical communications editor), and the hospital’s director of family and patient communications. The blog features timely posts calling attention to major news stories featuring Children’s Hospital Boston. The Thrive blog also includes a great section called One Patient’s Story, devoted exclusively to patient stories told from the viewpoint of the bloggers, clinicians, or parents, and includes many photos.

Life in a Medical Center is the University of Maryland Medical Center’s blog. It is designed for “patients, employees and friends of UMMC” and contains a nice mix of patient stories, health advice and feature articles on different programs. The bloggers are a diverse group of web writers from UMMC–clinicians, experts and patients themselves. At UMMC, they also use their blog to share great stories, and many are from the perspective of the patient or the parent of a young patient. Who wouldn’t want to read a story about a 14-month old with a MRSA infection, told from the point of view of the terrified parent?

They’re keeping it fresh.
In order for a blog to be successful, new content must be created regularly, at least once a week, as recommended by Lee Aase in his social media pyramid. Unlike a hospital website, which tends to be more static, a blog needs to be regularly updated to keep people coming back to read it, and of course to leave comments. This can be daunting for small hospitals or small communications departments that already handle many other duties. Given this, it’s understandable why blogs are the least used social medium for hospitals.

What are some other benefits of blogs? You can include your Twitter feeds right on your blog page, link to your hospital website for more info, and, of course, create your editorial calendar well in advance to align with your overall communications/marketing strategy and meet the community’s needs.

So why aren’t more hospitals (like us!) using a blog? Is it the resources and time, or is it something else? Interested to hear your feedback.

(The post was written for and originally appeared on www.hospitalimpact.org)


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Patient complaints: To delete or not to delete, that is the question

When we decided to add social media to our arsenal of healthcare marketing tools, we knew there was an inherent risk in doing so. We understood the potential of negative comments appearing on a Facebook wall, or a disgruntled patient tweeting about how many hours they’ve spent in our busy emergency department. But when it actually happens, it’s unsettling nonetheless.

In my own experience, we sailed along happily on our hospital Facebook pages for quite a while until one day we found a post that identified a doctor by name, and not in a flattering way. Thus began a series of many meetings and discussions and ultimately, the development of a protocol to address such negative postings.

As the hospital’s representative in the social media world, I understand that we need to expect these posts, and part of me feels that deleting a post is simply censorship. Deleting a post goes against the grain of social media, where people expect to have their say and be heard. Another part of me, however, understands that a doctor’s reputation is being called into question by one unhappy patient. And that is exactly why you need a policy for what is acceptable and what is not. But just having a policy isn’t everything. Let me explain.

Our policy contains some very straightforward information that nearly anyone can understand, followed by the more formal, legal jargon. Included is a section that indicates a user should not post anything that is “abusive, harassing, embarrassing, tortuous, defamatory, obscene, libelous,” etc. Seems clear, right? Well, we learned those words are very subjective. In my opinion, the post was none of those. In the doctor’s opinion, however, it was, and the doctor also questioned whether there was a legal avenue to investigate if the comment remained online.

So, what did I do? I listened to our department’s leader, of course, but I also listened to the doctor. Was it right that her name was being smeared on a public social site? Of course not, but the same could be done by a patient writing on a personal blog, writing on his or her own Facebook page, or going to the news with a sexy story about how he or she did not get the care that she felt was required.

In any case, it opened our eyes to the subjective nature of the policy, and it also led to a protocol being developed so that in the future, if a member of the hospital staff is identified by name in a way that COULD be considered as “abusive, defamatory, embarrassing…”, then the post would be removed and the user would be notified that the post was deleted because it went against the policy. The protocol, however, does allow for negative posts about the hospital in general or a particular department to remain online.

It was an interesting experience, and one that happened again just a few weeks later on another of our Facebook pages. This time it was a lot easier to recognize that it wasn’t censorship, but protecting the reputation of an individual physician. And I am quite happy that if I were on vacation, any member of the team who was covering for me would know exactly how to handle negative postings because of the protocol we developed.

But I’d be very interested to hear what other hospitals are doing. So what say you: To delete or not to delete? Do you agree with our approach?

(Written for and originally posted on www.hospitalimpact.org)


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Things my mom taught me and how they apply to social media

As I was growing up, my mom had lots of sayings. It took me quite a while to figure out their relevance, of course, but wisdom does come with age. I was thinking today how much they also apply to social media.

“The walls have ears” Being the youngest in my family, many conversations took place around me. Some I paid attention to, others I ignored, of course. But it always seemed that when a conversation got interesting, my mom would say, “The walls have ears.” Suddenly, the conversation would take a drastic turn. And being very young, I literally thought the walls had ears. Bizarre! Of course what she really meant was that I was listening. I was the wall. Nice, mom. ūüôā But the point of this is that we do need to be those walls. We need to be listening to what is a hot topic, how our brand is mentioned and the sentiments surrounding it. Being that wall with ears is the only way to really know how other people think and feel.

“Don’t leave home without wearing clean underwear.” I always thought this was a strange statement. Why would anyone wear underwear that weren’t clean? But mom always had a fear of being in an accident, and wouldn’t it be terrible if you went to the emergency room and your underwear weren’t just that? (Well this certainly sheds a bit of light on the source of my anxiety, doesn’t it?) But her point was that you always have to be prepared because you never know what is going to happen. We never know what the next big thing is, or what the next viral video might be, or what the topic of the day is. And if we’re not prepared, and not using the right tools (hence the clean underwear!) we’ll easily be left behind. Social media gives us the tools, the conversations, and the connections to people¬†to stay up to date, and then we can follow my mom’s rule.

“Because I said so. That’s why” I can’t even begin to count how many times I got this response to the question, “Why?” And I’m willing to be that every mom has said this at one point or another. But in the world of social media, this one just doesn’t work. Just because you say something and believe it to be true, you can be sure that someone will disagree, and who can now be heard. Loudly. Everywhere. So just because you say something, don’t expect that people are going to buy it and accept it to be the truth. And that’s why we have conversations with people in social media. When it comes to social media for brands, this is a golden rule. We can’t just feed our own agenda to the masses, we need to talk WITH them. Without it, there’s no trust.

So this one is for mom, and I thank her for these lessons and the many others she taught me, even if it did take me years to figure out what they meant! So what did your mom teach you and how does it apply to this social world we’re living in?


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Barely a whisper…

We all know the key to social media is engagement and interaction. The corporate speak doesn’t work in this realm, and it’s a great tool for customer service and building brand loyalty. But what happens when there is little to no engagement? Tweeting for five hospitals, I try to tweet interesting, helpful tidbits and post the same kinds of things on Facebook, but in a way that is unique to each hospital. I’ve found that the engagement level is varying greatly though from one hospital to another, and what works for one is clearly not working for another.¬†

I’ve always said I’m no social media expert, and at this point, I’m feeling like a newbie, trying to¬†wade through the waters to find new things that will work in helping to increase engagement.¬†¬†I also find myself facing another, more critical decision: if the engagement does not increase, then do we simply call it a day? There’s a part of me that knows that we need to be visible here, and connect with people through these social channels. Yet there’s another part of me that can’t help but feel that we, that I, have failed in this endeavor, and the leaders of the company, of course, want results. HELP!

The best part of social? The ability to connect with others who ARE experts. So I’m calling on my friends in the social media world for some advice and guidance. How do YOU increase your engagement levels when they seem to have reduced to barely a whisper?


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Connectivity

I was talking to my mother this morning. My parents recently switched their cable/phone/internet provider and were having all kinds of trouble, including billing issues. They were also billed by their insurer for shots that should have been covered. In both cases, when they tried to get help from the company, they were greeted by the ever-so-popular “press 1 for…” And of course, in both cases, many minutes were spent attempting to actually speak to a live person.

That got me thinking about our “connected” world. Technology has created a lifestyle that generations before us never thought possible. We may not have the hover cars of the Jetsons (yet, though I’m still waiting for them!), but our techie lives have created a generation that is always accessible, available, and in contact. We’re connecting through posts on Facebook with friends, family and, in some cases, customers and clients. We’re constantly checking and responding to e-mails. Tweets can inform millions what we think, how we feel, or what we ate for breakfast. FourSquare is telling everyone where we are. We can be reached by phone wherever we go because they’ve taken on the American Express tag line–we¬†don’t leave home without them. We are connected like no generation before us.

This same technology is allowing companies to reach out to customers and connect with them, frankly, honestly, openly, without the corporate messaging. It’s a whole new playing field in which everyone with a keyboard has a voice, and will be heard. And it also gives us an excuse to forget how things were done in the past, because we are so focused on using all those tools that are available to us today. We can e-mail a thought to a client at 2 a.m knowing they’ll receive it first thing in the morning. We can respond to a customer who didn’t like our services through a tweet while we’re running to a meeting. We can hold meetings through web cams from across the country. We can watch the video of a family reunion that we were unable to attend.¬†This connectivity has freed us and given us more ways of interacting with so many people in our lives.

But it’s important to remember that a post on Facebook is no replacement for a hug from a parent, laughs shared over a glass of wine with a dear friend, or a handshake with a client. The connectivity has given us a virtual world, but it’s not a replacement for in-person experiences. Those can never be replaced.


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So I lied…so much for not talking about social media!

In my first post, I said I didn’t feel like I had enough expertise to focus on social media. But tonight’s post is about just that!

I’ve been working in the social media arena for over a year now, and I’ve seen the power it has… from building brand awareness to getting information out, to taking the pulse of a brand’s reputation. But the REAL power of social media is in the connections — meeting people and sharing a meaningful interaction. Coming from the PR and communications side of healthcare for many years, this is pretty new to me, and is really my favorite part. I just want to share something that happened today, because it’s the inspiration for this post.

Today, I posted a status update on the children’s hospital Facebook fan page, asking for fans to contact me if they would like to help us spread the word about the hospital through media or fundraising by telling their story. I was contacted very soon afterward by a woman who told me a heart-wrenching story about the extensive medical care her twins have received. I was so amazed at the conviction of this woman to go out of her way to help the hospital. She is dealing with some very serious medical issues with her kids, yet she is organizing a fundraiser for the hospital and is more than happy to tell the story of what the hospital has done to help her beautiful twins. She even shared a picture of these adorable kids with me.

Therein lies the TRUE power of social media:¬†Meeting people you otherwise wouldn’t have and sharing a conversation, learning something new, and getting a good feeling from what you are doing, knowing that in a small way, it’s making a difference.