02 December 2010

Should Children's Hospitals Compete in Social Media?

There's been a minor stir recently in NACHRI's world about this eponymous blog post, written by Dr. Bryan Vartabedian.  It's short post, so go read it...

The key question he addresses is: "Do children's hospitals compete in social space?"

His answer is that they shouldn't.

His argument is that children's hospitals are inherently regional, so what would they be competing for anyway, and that the hospitals should work together.

I'm not so sure I agree on the first point - there are plenty of children's hospitals with known specialties that draw patients from around the country and the world - but even if we accept that children's hospitals are inherently regional, I think this reflects a narrow view of how social media can be used.

Association professionals have "community" and "engagement" drummed into us to the point that it almost becomes part of our DNA. So when our organizations move into social space, it tends to be pretty natural for us to think about our use of social media in those terms.

Corporations have a harder time with this, of course. They don't have built-in communities who want to engage with them and each other, so it can be hard for them to "get" that social spaces aren't primarily about marketing. Some do get it, and do social media well, and others...well, we can all point to lots of campaigns that flopped because of the wrong tone or focus.

So where do children's hospitals fall on this continuum?

I would argue that they're inherently more on the community side, for a number of reasons including the fact that kids treated at children's hospitals are often dealing with chronic - or at least complex and long-term - conditions and the fact that many children's hospitals are tax-exempt and that status depends in part on their community outreach efforts.

Sure, sometimes social outlets are used for marketing type purposes (although I do wonder if a patient sharing her compelling story really constitutes hard-sell marketing), but I would contend that the true purpose and benefit of children's hospitals engaging in social space is to form deeper and more meaningful ties with patients, their families, and the surrounding community.

2 comments:

Deirdre Reid said...

I've noticed when talking to people who are just getting into social media or thinking about it that they think of it as only another marketing channel. I imagine children's hospitals using social media to educate parents, support patients and share community and resources with prospective, current and former patients and their patients. Isn't the Mayo Clinic (a good model) doing all this? What a missed opportunity if they don't try.

Elizabeth Weaver Engel, CAE said...

@Deirdre - and that's my take on how children's hospitals ARE using soc med. I don't see them using it as just another marketing outlet, although it seems that Dr. Vartabedian does.