With more than 117 million users and counting, there is no doubt that Facebook still reigns as king of the social media world. Naturally, hospitals in recent years have joined the fray in droves. According to a list compiled by the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, about 1,292 hospitals actively rely on the little blue thumbs up from their patients to indicate support.
Leveraging Facebook to increase brand awareness and communicate well-thought out content can produce a reasonable return on investment. In fact, there are entire books on the subject. At minimum, pages cost little to maintain and content can be populated easily by driving traffic to existing resources, like your website. But in a world where time equals money, putting all of your eggs in one basket could be detrimental to the success of your efforts. No matter how much ownership you feel over your account, you will always be at the mercy of Facebook’s terms and ever-changing algorithms that decide whether the pages you follow are interesting enough to appear on your feed. Furthermore, break the rules and the page you so lovingly spent time and money to create can disappear in an instant.
Over the past six months, Facebook has changed the way it functions more times than we can count. At one point, graphics were the sure way to get the message across. Most recently, they announced that a simple, auto-generated link share would be sufficient. Still, the only way to really be certain your maximizing your post is to spend money to expand its reach. Many hospitals have successfully implemented this method, acquiring thousands of fans by peppering in ads in unsuspecting places or promoting contests and engaging potential patients with fancy apps that rely more on bells and whistles to capture a user’s attention rather than on promoting actual medical services.
Considering the way Facebook is now operating, it takes a lot more time to get it right. Also, a great deal effort can be put into finding or creating material, and the pressure to stay on top of industry trends while remaining engaged with the right audience can be a challenging balance when the budget just won’t cut it. Managing an online community for a hospital requires knowledge of health care laws and current events, the patience to remain professional in the event of a negative comment exchange, and the confidence to communicate information on behalf of the organization in a way that is personable, yet, authoritative. Facebook and other social sites also still remain forums in which success relies completely on the effort put in. Given that most hospital budgets are tight these days and the digital world is always evolving, the way you participate ultimately relies on three things: money, staffing, and enthusiasm to participate. We all know that we need to be on the space, so the question is how? Is your organization over Facebook and venturing on into creating a stronger presence elsewhere? Or are you tip-toeing back to more traditional advertising methods altogether?