Monday, December 20, 2010

Using Twitter for Healthcare Marketing

Should you use Twitter to promote your healthcare business? If so, how do you do it? These are common questions we hear all the time, so we'll try to answer them here.

1. Should you use Twitter to promote your healthcare business?

This depends on a few things. Namely, are you willing to use Twitter as a way to engage in a two-way dialogue with people? You must be willing to engage with people, be transparent, possibly address criticisms openly and honestly. Twitter is not a place to just spout out self-promotional information. You must spend some time listening and responding to other people. And yes, as a healthcare provider, there is a good chance that not all of those people will be happy with you. That is something you must take into account and prepare for before you send your first tweet.

It also depends on whether you are willing to commit time and effort. You must participate regularly and not just haphazardly. Even then, you will not see results right away so you must be patient.

And finally, you must have something interesting to say. Your press releases are NOT interesting.

2. How do you use Twitter to promote your healthcare organization?

This question is a little misleading. Because the right way to use Twitter is to NOT promote your healthcare organization. And in doing so, you actually DO promote it. Let me explain....

Use Twitter to connect with people, listen in on conversations and chime in to engage people. Give helpful information, answer questions, ask questions, re-tweet (RT) other people's tweets...all of this is not "promotional," but it does give you visibility and introduces you to people who may not have otherwise known about you. It also builds great relationships with people, whether they previously knew you or not.

The best way to turn people off on Twitter is to keep tweeting press releases or other self-promotional materials.

The best way to get and keep followers is to talk to them and ask them questions. Engage in conversations with individuals and in hashtag chats (some good industry ones are #hcsm and #hcmktg). You can even start your own chats about topics that are meaningful to your prospective patients (like "ask a doctor" or "cancer chat").

Finally, as mentioned earlier, use Twitter regularly. Devote time to it and have a plan. Be responsive and timely when people @mention you or ask questions.

This is just a beginners-level look at how to best use Twitter to promote your healthcare organization. If you have any questions or would like to share your tips, please do so in the comments. Or follow me @bjoconnell and ask questions there. We want to hear from you!

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