Social Media: Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde?

by Kari Foster, social media marketer

When I tell people that I help healthcare organizations establish their Facebook and social media presence, the responses vary from “Cool!” to “I don’t have a Facebook account and don’t intend to get one.” You can likely imagine the age of those commenting, but not all of them fall within the likely stereotypes. In fact, we recently posted an article on this blog about the shrinking gap between older adults and millennials when it comes to online activity.

The commonality I find among naysayers, however, is that almost all are considering only the “Mr. Hyde” Facebook fan page. They’ve experienced the sites of the helplessly-narcissistic or recklessly-eager-to-share. Call me Ms. Glass Half Full, but what about the Dr. Jekyll’s out there?

Can we dismiss out of hand the successes of Mayo Clinic or Children’s Hospital Boston in the social media sphere? What about open source Web apps like Google Person Finder , developed by thousands of volunteers in search of a way to help after Katrina and then again after the Haiti earthquake? These apps combined missing persons’ data from sites all around the Web into a single, free place for that information to be gathered and shared.

Gathered and shared – isn’t that what we’re trying to do? When we create a place where patients, families and providers, alike, come together to find information, connect with services, share experiences and offer support to one another, we also create a community that identifies with and grows more loyal to our brand.

Today’s marketers must go where their customers congregate. Avoiding social technologies because we fear what someone ‘might’ say puts us further out of touch. Any tool works best when used correctly. After all, we didn’t stop using telephones because we grew tired of kids calling the house and asking if we had Prince Edward in a can, did we?

Embrace social technologies. Develop your strategy. Put in place solid policies and take the time to educate staff and physicians on appropriate use. Your customers will thank you.

Kari Foster helps healthcare organizations and providers create and manage social media marketing activities. Follow her on Twitter @kskipperfoster.

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