100 Ways for Hospitals, Health Systems to Twitter

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media , January 7, 2009

Other ways the organization is using Twitter:

  • Internal communications. (What's on the agenda for the next faculty meeting?)
  • Links back to its other online sites (including its online newsletter, Scoop).
  • Fostering good customer relations. ("Taking time to thank our clients and all those who work with us for another great year").

ScrippsHealth in San Diego is an early adopter. They've posted more than 185 updates and have 409 people who follow their posts. After my last column on how hospitals can use Twitter for marketing, they commented that they've set up an account to syndicate out news stories and events. "It has been going well so far with lots of industry, media and community people following the account," they wrote. "The real opportunity," they added, "is the ability to speak directly to and hear directly from your consumers."

Other ways the organization is using Twitter:

  • Posting dates, times, and fees for healthcare-related classes (I could use a mindfulness-based stress reduction class).
  • Bolstering recruitment efforts (Scripps honored as top San Diego employer).

Some Twitter mistakes
A few things I've noticed since I've been poking around the site:

  • Too many organizations link repeatedly or even exclusively to their own Web sites. This comes off as very self-serving. If one of your experts in quoted in a news article, link to the news article—not your own press release about the article.
  • Too few organizations are asking open-ended questions to promote dialogue with their internal or external audiences.
  • Some organizations go overboard trying to include fun but meaningless posts along with useful, hospital-specific posts. An occasional light note—thanking everyone who's been following your Twitter account or who helped with a certain event—is fine. But don't wish everyone a cheery good morning every single morning.
  • On the other hand, some organizations aren't showing any personality at all in their posts. Robotic messages with the same kind of content (links to press releases for example) is boring and repetitive. Throw something in there every once in a while that proves your posts are written by a human being.

Keeping an eye on it all
I promised you a list 100 ways that hospitals and health systems can use Twitter, but you're going to have to do a little homework to round out what I've offered so far. Ed Bennett, director of web strategy for the University of Maryland Medical System, keeps an updated list of hospitals on Twitter—just click the "following" link to see them.

Meanwhile, Bennett has done some more work to help us find 100 ideas, with his extensive online list of hospitals that are on Twitter and Facebook. It's extensive. Start looking at what others are doing—and then figure out what works for your organization.

Gienna Shaw is an editor with HealthLeaders magazine. She can be reached at gshaw@healthleadersmedia.com.

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