Social Media at Sarasota Memorial Health Care System
Shawn Halls tweets for Sarasota Memorial Health Care System (SMH). He has been Market Research Manager at SMH for 12 years. Through him I met his manager, Peter Taylor, the Director of Marketing (pictured to the left). Peter essentially runs an internal ad agency for SMH responsible for both internal and external communication. I interviewed them on February 18, 2010 about SMH’s Web strategy and their use of social media.
Lisa: Start by describing SMH’s Web presence.
Peter: Early on we identified that a digital customer engagement platform was fundamental to the future success of all forms of marketing and communications at SMH. The components of this are our website, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Delicious, YouTube, Flickr, an external blog focused on a new bed tower construction project, and an internal blog/vlog written by our CEO.
Lisa: Why did you decide to use multiple social media technologies?
Peter: We decided to cast a wide net to increase the likelihood of reaching all of our target audience. There are clear demographic differences; for example, MySpace turned out to be a great place to reach young mothers. Also, we use them differently; Twitter by definition requires quick, concise, newsworthy messaging whereas Facebook is more leisurely and facilitates more of an intimate relationship.
Lisa: What did you see as your opportunity when you introduced social media?
Peter: We wanted to focus on preventative healthcare and saw an opportunity to engage with our audience of patients and get involved in their daily lives in environments where they feel more comfortable (i.e., without being invasive). The advantage to patients beyond education was that if they need to use our services (hospital or outpatient), everything is more familiar and less alienating. They aren’t meeting us for the first time while in a gown being stuck with needles.
Lisa: How do you know what’s effective?
Peter: We use qualitative and quantitative plus anecdotal metrics. We use Google analytics, not just to see how many visitors we have to our website, but to see where they come from and how they navigate through our site. Our website gets 80,000 visits a month (excluding internal traffic), most of whom find it through our url or a search engine. More and more are coming directly from our social media sites. For example we get almost 5,000 visits a month from our Facebook page. We use focus groups on and offline to track our presence and improve our content, navigation, etc. We also continually elicit feedback from our social media sites which has been invaluable.
Lisa: Who actually manages and uses social media for SMH?
Peter: Each person in our marketing department is the CEO of one social media site. This way they each develop an expertise and can dedicate the time needed to stay active.
Lisa: Can you give me any time estimates?
Peter: Shawn, for instance, uses twitter. Probably on average 30 – 45 minutes a day but it varies.
Shawn: I registered @smhcs in November of 2008 but didn’t start actively tweeting until March 2009. My vision was to try out social media. In keeping with our goal of connecting to and engaging with our community before they need us, social media is ideal. I love Twitter because it allows us to respond to customer service issues in near real-time. Since I am the only person currently tweeting at SMH, the policies that guide my tweets are mostly between my ears. We are in the process of opening Twitter up to the rest of the Sarasota Memorial staff, though, so we’re working on a more formal approach that will be shared in the coming weeks. Right now I don’t have a separate Twitter account for just personal use. I don’t use our Twitter account to just promote our hospital, certainly I do that too, but I’ve tried to interject professional and personal tweets in the Sarasota Memorial account to add a little personality to it. Therefore, I’ve never really felt a need to have a separate Shawn Halls account. What you see in @smhcs…is Shawn Halls.
Lisa: Do you also use social media internally?
Peter: Internally there is limited access to social media right now. We are taking baby steps. As Shawn said, we just granted internal access to Twitter 60 days ago. We recently developed social media guidelines for our 4,000 employees which are still in the process of being implemented.
Lisa: What are the internal concerns?
Peter: HIPAA violations, privacy, and somebody posting/saying something stupid they would regret later.
Lisa: Are there any concerns about disgruntled employees or whistleblowers?
Peter: Yes, these are valid concerns but we would treat them like any other situation where this may arise, independent of technology.
Lisa: What about externally – have there been any concerns raised?
Peter: Nothing yet but we will continue to monitor it very closely.
Lisa: What is your biggest success to date?
Peter: Traditionally marketing has been a top-down exercise but that is reversed in social media. As a result our biggest success has been the way we have reconfigured our entire marketing activity to start with the consumer and not the product. This consumer-centric philosophy has improved our overall marketing and communications. We truly now have an consumer engagement platform.
Lisa: What has been your most serious problem?
Peter: Getting employees on board when they can’t access all social media sites from work at this point. We are very fortunate to have a visionary CEO who has embraced our digital strategy and let us “get our hands dirty” before we had all the answers and who has given us permission to fail if necessary.