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While hospitals continue integrating social media into their overall marketing efforts, current data shows that far fewer hospitals maintain active blogs relative to other social channels.

A quick hop over to @EdBennett‘s excellent hospital social media resource site reveals the following:

Hospital Social Network List

U.S. Hospitals that use Social Networking tools – updated on October 9, 2011

1,229 Hospitals total

  • 575 YouTube Channels
  • 1068 Facebook pages
  • 814 Twitter Accounts
  • 566 LinkedIn Accounts
  • 946 Foursquare
  • 149 Blogs

4,118 Hospital Social Networking Sites

Why the limited number of hospital blogs?

Simply put, well run blogs require time, resources and consistent posting. It can be a great deal of work to maintain and manage a good blog – an issue when staffing resources are already tight. There is the actual design and development of the blog, managing an editorial calendar, listening to broader topical social conversation, researching and sourcing in post content, writing posts or producing videos, promoting posts, managing and responding to comments, engaging with other bloggers, tracking and analyzing metrics, etc. A lift indeed.

In many cases, managing a Twitter profile or Facebook page is a much easier task for a communications staff to integrate into their existing marketing mix.

Why should hospitals consider integrating a blog into their communications arsenal?

1. Blogs Are Thriving
Brian Solis recently published a post around the State of the Blogosphere 2011 based on an annual study that Technorati has put together since 2004. One interesting aspect of Solis’ post is his insight around the impact and overall influence of blogs. The blogosphere is a critical space where people actively engage brands…

“Technorati found that between 40-50% of all bloggers, whether personal or professional blog about brands. The advantage of blogs for brands comes down to resonance. Blogs will live longer than Tweets or any status update for that matter.”

The statistics speak for themselves as online search trends will only continue to increase and serve as first stop for personal health research. When you take into consideration the nature of Twitter’s real-time stream and Facebook brand exposure constraints based on its Edgerank formula, you begin to see the importance of having longer form, “stickier” blog content that matches to your target audience’s search inquiries.

2. Blogs Serve as a Focused Content Hubs
Facebook and Twitter are excellent destinations for content syndication that will ultimately help you engage larger communities. But, the core value add for patients and media begins with having focused hubs to house tailored content and provide context to support your larger messaging framework. For example, Mayo Clinic focuses their Sharing Mayo Clinic blog solely around patient testimonials, Rush University Medical Center has a specific news blog and Seattle Children’s Hospital has a construction blog dedicated to updates around their expansion.

Depending on hospital size and resources available, it certainly may make sense to house all blog content under one blog, but larger organizations may yield higher engagement by developing blogs based on focused messaging and specific target audiences.

3. Blogs Open Doors for Broader Engagement
Particularly when it comes to media relations, blogs serve as a proactive channel to keep subscribed reporters tuned in with your hospital’s latest happenings. Furthermore, when it comes time to pitch a reporter, linking back to a post or series of posts can help to paint a broader picture and also quickly offer up various media assets (photos, video, infographics, presentations, etc.). Even better if the posts have comments and social shares attached to demonstrate existing interest around the topic.

Last, well written blogs help establish credibility. In turn, if your blog team actively responds to comments and proactively comments on other relevant blogs, engagement will naturally increase. In the end, it will be far easier to source in guest posts and deepen your level of engagement with your online community.

Is your hospital currently running a blog? Why have you found it to be an effective marketing channel?

Photo courtesy of Liam Dunn.

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