SIIM: Time to hop on the social media train

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ORLANDO, Fla.—The social media train has left the station, according to Safwan S. Halabi, MD, of Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. Practices need to get onboard, he said. Otherwise, physicians and medical practices will be defined, perhaps negatively, by outsiders. During a June 7 session at the annual meeting of the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM), Halabi urged attendees to understand and control social media.

Social media represents a virtual gathering point for patients, yet launching a social media strategy is not for the faint-hearted or inexperienced. “It takes a savvy media marketing team,” said Halabi.

The social media brain trust of the Henry Ford Health System nabbed national attention and a spot on Good Morning America after tweeting and broadcasting live YouTube videos during a brain surgery.

Most organizations should start smaller and simpler. “Determine your goals and objectives, and who you want to engage,” said Halabi. Social media can be used to reach physicians, patients or employees, but each audience requires a unique strategy. For example, boosting mammography screening among underserved women requires a different strategy than reaching out to referring physicians to tout a new 3T MRI.

Each audience can be served by multiple platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Similarly, each platform can host multiple channels and messages targeted to various audiences. A YouTube channel, for example, might host commercials, executive interviews and patient success stories.

The strategy should focus on enhancing existing brand recognition to increase the hospital’s exposure. However, it does not need to occur in a vacuum. Smart marketers monitor the competition to understand how they use social media. If a campaign is appealing or successful, it may make sense to mimic it.

Despite the potential of social media, Halabi cautioned that there are pitfalls. Without strategic management; the hospital might lose control of its message.

“Use a support site or dashboard to monitor traffic,” said Halabi. Other keys to management success include implementing a daily plan to ensure consistency and creating a form of measurement.