To compete in the increasingly competitive digital marketplace, hospice providers must become more sophisticated in their use of social media, experts say. Using these tools effectively helps develop and promote your brand, identify and attract prospective patients, and recruit good staff.
Social media offers marketing opportunities that few businesses can afford to underestimate or ignore, particularly as the tech savvy millennial generation are increasingly engaged in purchasing, health care and end-of-life care decisions related to aging parents and other loved ones.
The average person spends more than six hours hours online every day, according to a report released in January. Plus, more and more people turn to social media first when making decisions about everything from which restaurant to try to which hospice providers to use.
“Due to the sensitivity of this line of medical work, the internet and social media offer hospice organizations many benefits as they reach out through direct-to-consumer avenues,” a 2007 study indicated. “Using the internet and social media offer hospice organizations a way to: centralize communications, discover more cost effective ways to drive revenue, build a company knowledge base, collaborate more effectively, leverage staff and customers in new ways, drive traffic and increase leads and enhance recruiting efforts.”
If it’s not possible to have a dedicated marketing department, be sure that whoever maintains your social media accounts receives training on fundamental marketing strategies, Matthews recommends. For example, they should be able to run the fundamental market, industry, and environmental analyses that support the creation of a cohesive marketing plan.
An organization’s social media presence is not limited to information put out by your marketing department. Patients, families, current and former staff, employees of other organizations—all these people might talk about your company on social media. What’s more, their opinions likely hold greater weight with your audience than any ad campaign you might develop.
Good marketing requires well-trained marketing staff, but in smaller organizations where individual staff members may perform several diverse roles, managing a social media campaign can be a challenge for even the most effective personnel.
“Our 2017 study of regional hospice providers revealed that fewer than 25% have dedicated marketing staff,” Michael Matthews, associate professor of health care management at Winthrop University in South Carolina, told Hospice News. “For the rest, the responsibility for marketing (including digital marketing) falls on people with little to no relevant training or experience—not an ideal situation.”
Social media marketing involves more than messaging; it can be used to build community. Effective use of hashtags or online groups on social media platforms are two methods of accomplishing this. This can encourage current and prospective patients and families to share stories, seek peer support, and learn about issues related to death, dying, end of life care, grief, loss, bereavement, and other topics. Be careful not to use the community to push your services. The goal should be to facilitate relationships among your audience and build a trustworthy brand.
Facebook and Twitter are two social media giants, but don’t miss the potential of Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, and other sites. If you have a website, add a blog feature and promote new posts through your social media accounts. This can help generate traffic to your site, where readers can learn more about your organization, according to Matthews,
Taking advantage of tracking software and services to monitor the who, what, when, where, why, and how your company is mentioned online is a solid practice. This information is extremely valuable when designing improvement efforts, ad campaigns, recruitment materials, policies and procedures, and so on. Hospices in addition can use social media platforms to research their competitors, examining new initiatives and their message. This can help inform efforts to differentiate a hospice in the marketplace.
“If you’re not tracking return on investment, how do you know if you’re wasting money or not?” Matthews said.
Written by Lea Anne Stoughton