I’ve been thinking a lot about the “Generating Capital on Social Media” article, specifically the section about the “listening and branding” tactic and even more specifically in the context of responding to users who engage with a company on social media.
The article reads “An enterprise can position itself anywhere along an information continuum ranging from secretive to transparent. This positioning will have an impact on its symbolic and social capital-creation opportunities…The primary strategy is to build a community, but forming and sustaining a community is a difficult task.”
You got that right!
In my job on the marketing team at a cancer hospital, we’ve recently been much more active in responding to our patients and families on our social media channels, with a focus on responding to Facebook reviews and to private messages on our Facebook inbox.
Deciding as a team when and how to respond to patients or families has been a big challenge. In our initial discussions, we had to boil it all the way down to us talking about and questioning what kind of company we are and want to be.
Our culture as a cancer hospital is one thing that sets us apart from our competitors. We’re known for providing top notch cancer care, yes, but we’re more known for delivering that care with compassion. Every employee at the hospital, no matter their role, strives to create a family feel to put our patients at ease in what’s often the most stressful experience in their lives.
But, because we’re in a health care setting, it is, of course, much more to it.
In order to educate ourselves about how HIPAA applies to interactions online, we reached out to our legal department, our health compliance officers, our patient experience team, and clinicians to form a clear idea of what to write, and what NOT to write.
Turns out: opinions differed because this space is still so new.
Leadership at our parent company wanted us to be extremely conservative, i.e. not responding to any reviews or posts that mention any part of a patient’s name or any identifying information. We felt that taking an “ignoring” approach didn’t fit with our online voice and policy.
Instead, we decided to adopt a process in which we respond to every compliment, complaint, review, and visitor post, in some way. And we’d had a number of incredible success stories. For example, a patient complained on one of our social media channels that their room was too hot. We were able to contact the maintenance department and nursing to have an employee go speak to this patient directly and try to bring down the temperature.
That example, coupled with higher stakes situations, such as mix-ups in transferring patients into our hospital, or care questions, reminds me every day why this transparent, one-on-one interaction with patients on social is so important.
Listening and responding to users on social media in the right way has the potential to make our patients feel more comfortable, and potentially even save lives.