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“Just go ask the social media person” is still a phrase too commonly uttered up and down the halls of health care organizations. It’s also a phrase that will hopefully soon diminish in the near future.

Three years ago, mainstream adoption of social media as a valuable PR/marketing asset caused health care organizations to recognize the need and value of hiring social strategists to figure out all this “social media stuff.” Exciting at first, the role quickly became quite challenging for strategists at larger organizations. The issue of scale remains as social media channels expand, opening doors for new integrated communications and marketing opportunities. To best understand how to tackle the challenge of scale, it is imperative that you first assess your organization’s current social status and study other organizations that have found a way to embrace social scaling.

Where Does Your Organization Stand?
In 2010, social analyst Jeremiah Owyang published a fantastic post outlining the five ways businesses organize for social integration. Though the study was intended to focus on enterprise businesses, the model is still very applicable for health care organizations.

From my experience, it appears that most hospitals in particular still maintain a very centralized model when it comes to integrating social media into their marketing efforts. Nonetheless, according to Owyang, most businesses will shift towards the Hub and Spoke model over time.

Who Is Doing It Well?
A staple in the hospital social world, Lee Aase and his team up at Mayo Clinic have been charging ahead since I first connected with him back in 2008. It’s been an impressive progression and Lee recently reported back that he envisions strong forward movement by the organization into the Dandelion model above. To put it all in perspective, Mayo has about 56,000 employees and their social content team includes about 40 people.

What Does It Take to Scale Internally on the Social Front?
Fantastic question. Yes, time, budget and resources are always core elements supporting the framework of any scaled business effort. You likely don’t have the resources or necessary need to grow a 40 person content team like Mayo; however, here are five important applicable tips as you develop your own plans for social scaling.

1. You Need Executive Buy-In
The good news? This has become slightly easier as more and more success stories and demonstration of ROI are generated by other organizations to prove that social media can in fact be tied back to measurable results. However you choose to approach, the backing support of your top executives is crucial to move forward.

2. Create a Social Media Center of Excellence
Start with a central hub – an online resource hub that employees know they can tap to ask questions, learn and ensure they are abiding by the organization’s social policy guidelines. Another solid example from Mayo. You should do it too.

3. Train, Train and Train Again
You can’t overstate the value of having a structured training program in place to initiate new employees, educate veteran employees and accelerate digital natives that surface. The worst move you can make is sending employees or doctors off on their own to engage on behalf of your organization without structured training.

4. Never Stop Listening
As social media becomes integrated into your organization’s culture, it’s important to make it as easy as possible to gather feedback via forums, discussion boards and meetings to make sure you’re meeting the needs of your organization and taking advantage of new opportunities. Whether your social strategy team is two people or twenty people, you can never have enough eyes and ears on all the happenings of your organization. The best content or storytelling nuggets often surface from the most unexpected sources.

5. Benchmark from the Beginning
As your organization scales, have a set measurement process in place so that you can easily track which activities are making an impact. Ultimately, consistent measurement will help provide the fuel necessary to convince executives why you need additional staffing and resources to support the organization’s social efforts.

Where does your organization currently sit within the social scale model above? What steps have you taken or plan to take that are effectively helping you break down siloed walls?

Image courtesy of winnifredxoxo.

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