Social Media and Healthcare
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Social Media and Healthcare
Articles and Discussions on the intersection of Social Media and Healthcare.
Relevant to Healthcare Practitioners, Pharma', Insurance, Clinicians, Labs, Health IT Vendors, Health Marketeers, Health Policy Makers, Hospital Administrators.
Curated by nrip
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Healthcare Marketing: 5 Social Media Examples

Healthcare Marketing: 5 Social Media Examples | Social Media and Healthcare |

More than ever, it’s essential for hospitals and health providers to rethink their healthcare marketing mix to include social media.

The proof is in the numbers: 34% of consumers use social media to search for health information

While it’s easy to identify demand, many healthcare marketers are not exactly sure how they might tap into the social web to reach business goals. To help understand the possible applications, consider these five examples of how the social web can work for hospitals and others in the healthcare industry:

1. Tweet Live Procedures
In the past year, social media channels have helped open up an area of healthcare previously only available to a select few: the operating room.

Last February, Henry Ford Hospital became one of the first hospitals to Tweet a live procedure from an operating room. Doctors, medical students and curious non-medical personnel followed along as surgeons tweeted short updates on the kidney surgery to remove a cancerous tumor.

This healthcare marketing tactic can effectively create excitement and raise public awareness for a healthcare organization. In the case of the Henry Ford procedure, Twitter was abuzz that February day with users both re-tweeting the messages from Henry Ford and adding their own thoughts on the event. That buzz can help healthcare organizations both attract new patients and recruit medical personnel.

2. Train Medical Personnel
Some healthcare organizations are beginning to recognize the potential impact of leveraging social media channels to complement training efforts. Mayo Clinic Social Media Manager Lee Aase, for example, incorporated social media into a recent training presentation for local chapters of the American Heart Association. During the presentation, Aase leveraged Twitter to encourage participants to contribute to the discussion using the #AHAchat hashtag.

Weaving social media into healthcare training initiatives can provide multiple benefits, including:

  • Giving trainees a forum to ask questions and quickly receive answers
  • Providing presenters with immediate feedback from trainees (i.e., if trainees have mastered a concept of if more guidance is needed)
  • Enabling organizations to complement healthcare marketing efforts by sharing slideshows, video or pictures from training sessions on social sites like YouTube or Flickr

3. Reach Mainstream Media
70% of journalists now use social networks to assist reporting, compared to 41% the year before, according to a  Middleberg Communications survey. With numbers that high, it only makes sense for healthcare marketers to leverage social media channels in order to achieve coverage by both mainstream media and industry publications.

As part of healthcare marketing efforts, organizations can use social media channels – including blogs, forums and microblogs – to share success stories from out-of-the-ordinary operations or treatments, medical research or other significant achievements. For example, when Aurora Health Care tweeted a knee operation in April, it received significant media attention, both from mainstream media and industry publications including Good Morning America, the local Milwaukee public radio network and Hospital Management Magazine.

4. Communicate in Times of Crisis 
When disaster strikes – whether it be a flood, an earthquake or a terrorist attack – hospitals and healthcare providers are at the center of it all. Healthcare providers can leverage social media networks to provide real-time updates both for those directly affected by the crisis and those watching from afar.

During the November Fort Hood shooting attack, Steven Widman of Scott & White Healthcare – one of the hospitals that treated Fort Hood victims, used Twitter to provide up-to-the-minute news. Through Twitter, Widman provided updates on emergency room access and hospital operation status, re-tweeted news from Red Cross and communicated with reporters.

Widman shared with Found In Cache Blog the results of the social media crisis communication efforts:

  • Twitter followers increased 78% in just three days
  • Scott & White Healthcare was listed on the front page of Twitter as a “trending topic”
  • The hospital’s YouTube channel was ranked the 79th most viewed non-profit channel during the entire week surrounding the crisis

5. Provide Accurate Information to Patients
73% of patients search for medical information online before or after doctors visits, according to this video from the HealthCare New Media Conference. With the magnitude of health information available on the web – both accurate and inaccurate – it’s likely that these patients can easily be misinformed.

By integrating social media into the healthcare marketing mix, organizations can share accurate, timely information regarding symptoms, diseases, medications, treatments and more. Social sites like Inspire are providing a forum for patients to share their health problems and questions about treatments with other patients, as well as qualified medical personnel. Inspire, for instance, partners with trusted health nonprofit organizations to ensure information is accurate and its community is safe.


The benefits of integrating social media into healthcare marketing efforts are priceless – from improving patient care to gaining media coverage to attracting new patients and staff. If your healthcare organization hasn’t already taken advantage of social networking channels, now is the time. If you’re having challenges getting approval, check out “Social Media in Healthcare Marketing: Making the Case“.


How else can healthcare marketers leverage social media to complement their efforts?

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7 Social Media Tools and Platforms to Watch in Healthcare Marketing

7 Social Media Tools and Platforms to Watch in Healthcare Marketing | Social Media and Healthcare |
Social media is hard to keep up with. Just look at Instagram; one minute it was a new kid on the block and next thing we knew it had more than 1 million users. So, where are you positioned on the healthcare social media spectrum? Are you even on board?

Don’t neglect the power of social media when it comes to connecting with patients and prospective clients. It’s great that your using Facebook and Twitter, and hopefully Pinterest, but make sure you’re staying on top of the social media revolution.

Need a little help getting familiar with the latest and greatest healthcare social media tools and platforms? Here are 7 you will want to keep your eye on.

For your eyes only. HootSuite is a tool that allows organizations, companies, and teams can communicate – and collaborate – in real time on the same page. No more endless email chains. Your company’s head in Seattle can work with the sales reps working in Tokyo. The idea is that social media has streamlined our personal lives, so it might as well streamline our professional lives as well.

Exclusivity at its finest. Does the Facebook network seem too big to manage? Maybe it’s time to create your exclusive Medium guest list. This social media site is invite only, and prides itself on promoting higher-quality content. What a great way for your healthcare social media presence to create a higher-caliber network of friends and followers.

Thumbs up or down? Thumb Pro for businesses is a way to get instant feedback from a diverse network of followers. You’ll benefit twice: you get immediate input on ideas, which can help you to make better decisions as you grow your business, and your clients will feel more connected and engaged in the meantime, helping to cultivate their loyalty.

Pheed. This is one of the newest social media networks out there, about to celebrate its 1st birthday in October. Pheed is predominantly used by celebrities, musicians, and people of that ilk, and users have to pay a subscription fee to access the photos, broadcasts, and postings. That begin said, getting in on the action early can help to solidify your presence. Consider the types of information your patients may be willing to pay a small fee for, and then develop creative content around that.

Show me the Chirps. Chirpify is the one-click-payment wonder, designed to work across multiple social media channels. It allows people to pay for goods and services or make donations, simply by replying with the word, “Buy.” So, launching a new line of nutritional supplements? Putting together an amazing physical therapy discount package? Use Chirpify so clients can buy it instantly; 5% of the payment goes to Chirpify, but you’ll profit from impulsive social media followers.

Automatic photo theme-ing. That’s right, we said, “theme-ing,” not streaming. With Flayvr, your photos of guest speakers, health fair events, or recent hires to your staff will be automatically organized into interactive collections. Then, a simple tap is all you need to post them to your website, social media networks, or an email.

Instant sharing with the masses. Ever wish you could send a single message to everyone in the room? Perhaps the doctor is running 10 minutes late, or you want to send a message reminding patients that co-pays are cash or credit card only. Use Chirp. Chirp emits a high-pitched sound. Then, any phones within range automatically begin downloading your message, photo, or links to your website. Pretty amazing.

Which of these healthcare social media tools do you think will be The Next Best Thing? We’d love to hear what you think.
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Social media in healthcare and why the doctorsaurs became extinct

Social media in healthcare and why the doctorsaurs became extinct | Social Media and Healthcare |

You see, it is rare that doctors air their views on social media (SM), and I have done a fair bit of that on this forum. If you sift out all my posts pertaining to healthcare and read them in sequence, you will have a pretty representative idea of how the average South African doctor feels about the changes and current status of our profession. It’s all there, every sorry complaint about an industry that in its state of disruption has little to cheer about.

These are issues about which you, the lay public, are generally unaware until things fall apart. I believe you should be, because they impact you directly every time your health takes a knock.

Little of what I say is new to my colleagues. There are many other doctors who write far more eloquently than I do about the challenges we face, and by proxy that you, the consumer, face, but they publish predominantly in medical journals or medical newspapers — media that are read by the medical community alone. The issues we fight about impact directly on our ability to offer good medical care to you. You don’t get to read about them. So you, the consumer, have little idea how much angst pervades the doctors you rely on to get you out of a bad health situation. Unless a few of us spill the beans in places like this.

So it is fitting that I bleed my heart out here, for the world of SM is where opinions are aired, challenged, established and changed. SM is a realm of revolt and upheaval, the domain of the common man, where every person has a voice.

You would think that the organisations that profess to recognise doctors’ rights and represent us would have a good grasp of this potential. I hoped that they would. My experience over the past two years suggests that this is not the case.

I have made a careful study of the impact SM will have on the practice of medicine in this country, based on the already remarkable changes that have taken place in the US and Europe. There are rules to be followed, things a doctor should or shouldn’t do, massive advantages of engaging with patients via SM, and equally big risks in doing so. It is an ethical minefield pocked with big rewards. Every point of the SM universe has advantages and pitfalls.

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How to Choose a Healthcare Marketing Partner

How to Choose a Healthcare Marketing Partner | Social Media and Healthcare |

Marketing has come a long way since the first time someone put a sign in a window or created a simple flyer.  Success with marketing is predicated on your understanding of what you are marketing, and the best target markets to receive and act upon your message. Gone are the days of simple marketing solutions.  Today, marketing is as varied as the industries it serves.  Niche marketing agencies are the norm today, offering specialized solutions for clients that require in-depth knowledge, understanding and marketing experience.

Each industry presents unique marketing challenges. For example, marketing a cell phone or tech product is very different from marketing professional services such as legal or accounting firms.

Marketing for medical professionals, healthcare organizations and even international hospitals and medical tourism organizations must be tailored specifically for their end users: patients seeking healthcare services.

When your medical facility or healthcare organization is looking for a marketing partner, it’s best to find a provider that offers expertise in your specific area. In other words, it’s important to work with an experienced specialist. It’s a bit like choosing a cardiologist over a general practitioner for a complex heart surgery. Experience matters.

What Are the Advantages of an Experienced Healthcare Marketing Partner?


Remember, the primary reason to engage a marketing partner is because you need someone who can help you effectively promote your services to the right target market at the right time.

Doctors are extremely dedicated to their work.  However, because of their specialization and intense commitment to medicine, they rarely have time to become experts in marketing. Hospital administrators are masters of complex healthcare management issues, but rarely have expertise in successful marketing.  In fact, most business professionals are specialists in their fields these days. This includes marketers.

Remember, experience in marketing healthcare services, both domestic and international healthcare marketing, is critical.  You may have a highly skilled web developer who feels they can build a website that will market your institution effectively. But the technical and design aspects of a website are only a fraction of the skills needed to build a quality patient-focused healthcare brand and to develop patient relationships built on credibility and trust.


Health care marketing partners already have contacts that will help you promote your services today. When working with proven medical marketing professionals, your organization will have a measurable advantage over your competitors.  Health industry marketing professionals are already immersed in the industry. They know the trade shows, key trade media vehicles, consumer media, email lists, public relations outlets and more.

An experienced healthcare marketer will help you better understand and appreciate your competitive advantages, helping you build a healthcare brand on what makes you different and what makes you better.  In the end, a good marketing partner will help you tap new markets and continually find improved ways of communicating with patients in innovative and meaningful ways.

An experienced healthcare marketing partner will know what channels are the best, what resources are attractive to people who are looking for health care and where potential patients go to find the information they need. They understand competitive price structures and how your services can be positioned to stand out and get noticed in a world of competitors.


Some healthcare marketing agencies have experience with hospital branding or design development.  Other agencies may have experience with website development and SEO services.  Others may be specialists in media planning and purchasing.  How you do know which healthcare marketing agency to choose?  Very few healthcare marketing agencies do it all.  Decide what’s important for your company and find a marketing partner that offers the services you need.  In today’s competitive healthcare marketplace, it’s important to understand which marketing tools will help distinguish and differentiate your facility from your competition.

We’ve created a healthcare marketing checklist for you to follow on your path to finding the right marketing agency for your organization.  The best marketing agencies will offer most if not all of the following services “in-house”.

We’ve developed the following checklist for your use. This may be a helpful tool to use when comparing agencies.

Traditional Marketing Services

 Branding: Corporate Identity: Logo/Tag Line/Branding Statements/Branding Book

 Marketing Plans: SWOT Analysis/Competitive Analysis/Market Analysis

 Media Research, Planning, Negotiation & Purchasing

 Public Relations: Print, Broadcast & Online Publicity, Article Development

 Print Material Development: Sales Literature & Brochures

 Print, Broadcast & Direct Mail Advertising

 Trade Show Marketing

Digital Marketing Services

 Intuitive & Interactive Website Design: Content Creation, Ecommerce, Microsites

 Social Media Marketing: Facebook, YouTube Twitter & More: Social Display Advertising

 Video Marketing: Corporate Videos/Testimonials/ Infomercials/Webinars

 Mobile Marketing & Websites: Smart Phone & Tablet Platform Compliance

 Content Marketing: Online Content/Articles/Blogging/Public Relations

 Targeted Digital Media Advertising: Development/Targeting/Purchasing

 Tracking & Analytics: Web Site Analytics/Online Advertising Tracking

 Digital Media / Traditional Media Integration: Print, Broadcast & Online Marketing

 Email Campaigns: Program Development & Execution, List/Database Development, Lead Generation

 SEO: Search Engine Optimization

 SEM: Search Engine Marketing (Paid Search)

 Bid Management & Optimization/Landing Page Optimization/Affiliate Marketing

johnnyjoy's comment, April 6, 2016 9:52 PM
Thanks for the information
johnnyjoy's curator insight, April 6, 2016 10:01 PM
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How social marketing works in health care

How social marketing works in health care | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social marketing applies commercial marketing strategies to promote public health. Social marketing is effective on a population level, and healthcare providers can contribute to its effectiveness.

What is social marketing?

In the preface to Marketing Social Change, Andreasen defines social marketing as “the application of proven concepts and techniques drawn from the commercial sector to promote changes in diverse socially important behaviors such as drug use, smoking, sexual behavior... This marketing approach has an immense potential to affect major social problems if we can only learn how to harness its power.”1By “proven techniques” Andreasen meant methods drawn from behavioural theory, persuasion psychology, and marketing science with regard to health behaviour, human reactions to messages and message delivery, and the “marketing mix” or “four Ps” of marketing (place, price, product, and promotion).2 These methods include using behavioural theory to influence behaviour that affects health; assessing factors that underlie the receptivity of audiences to messages, such as the credibility and likeability of the argument; and strategic marketing of messages that aim to change the behaviour of target audiences using the four Ps.3

How is social marketing applied to health?

Social marketing is widely used to influence health behaviour. Social marketers use a wide range of health communication strategies based on mass media; they also use mediated (for example, through a healthcare provider), interpersonal, and other modes of communication; and marketing methods such as message placement (for example, in clinics), promotion, dissemination, and community level outreach. Social marketing encompasses all of these strategies.

Communication channels for health information have changed greatly in recent years. One-way dissemination of information has given way to a multimodal transactional model of communication. Social marketers face challenges such as increased numbers and types of health issues competing for the public's attention; limitations on people's time; and increased numbers and types of communication channels, including the internet.4 A multimodal approach is the most effective way to reach audiences about health issues.5

Figure 1 summarises the basic elements or stages of social marketing.6 The six basic stages are: developing plans and strategies using behavioural theory; selecting communication channels and materials based on the required behavioural change and knowledge of the target audience; developing and pretesting materials, typically using qualitative methods; implementing the communication programme or “campaign”; assessing effectiveness in terms of exposure and awareness of the audience, reactions to messages, and behavioural outcomes (such as improved diet or not smoking); and refining the materials for future communications. The last stage feeds back into the first to create a continuous loop of planning, implementation, and improvement.

Social marketing wheel
Audience segmentation

One of the key decisions in social marketing that guides the planning of most health communications is whether to deliver messages to a general audience or whether to “segment” into target audiences. Audience segmentation is usually based on sociodemographic, cultural, and behavioural characteristics that may be associated with the intended behaviour change. For example, the National Cancer Institute's “five a day for better health” campaign developed specific messages aimed at Hispanic people, because national data indicate that they eat fewer fruits and vegetables and may have cultural reasons that discourage them from eating locally available produce.6

The broadest approach to audience segmentation is targeted communications, in which information about population groups is used to prepare messages that draw attention to a generic message but are targeted using a person's name (for example, marketing by mass mail). This form of segmentation is used commercially to aim products at specific customer profiles (for example, upper middle income women who have children and live in suburban areas). It has been used effectively in health promotion to develop socially desirable images and prevention messages (fig 2).

Image used in the American Legacy Foundation's Truth antismoking campaign aimed at young people

“Tailored” communications are a more specific, individualised form of segmentation. Tailoring can generate highly customised messages on a large scale. Over the past 10-15 years, tailored health communications have been used widely for public health issues. Such communications have been defined as “any combination of information and behavior change strategies intended to reach one specific person, based on characteristics that are unique to that person, related to the outcome of interest, and derived from an individual assessment.”7 Because tailored materials consider specific cognitive and behavioural patterns as well as individual demographic characteristics, they are more precise than targeted materials but are more limited in population reach and may be more expensive to develop and implement.

Media trends and adapting commercial marketing

As digital sources of health information continue to proliferate, people with low income and low education will find it more difficult to access health information. This “digital divide” affects a large proportion of people in the United States and other Western nations. Thus, creating effective health messages and rapidly identifying and adapting them to appropriate audiences (which are themselves rapidly changing) is essential to achieving the Healthy People 2010 goal of reducing health disparity within the US population.8

In response, social marketers have adapted commercial marketing for health purposes. Social marketing now uses commercial marketing techniques—such as analysing target audiences, identifying the objectives of targeted behaviour changes, tailoring messages, and adapting strategies like branding—to promote the adoption and maintenance of health behaviours. Key trends include the recognition that messages on health behaviour vary along a continuum from prevention to promotion and maintenance, as reflected by theories such as the “transtheoretical model”9; the need for unified message strategies and methods of measuring reactions and outcomes10; and competition between health messages and messages that promote unhealthy behaviour from product marketers and others.11

Prevention versus promotion

Social marketing messages can aim to prevent risky health behaviour through education or the promotion of behavioural alternatives. Early anti-drug messages in the US sought to prevent, whereas the antismoking campaigns of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Legacy Foundation offered socially desirable lifestyle alternatives (be “cool” by not smoking).12,13 The challenge for social marketing is how best to compete against product advertisers with bigger budgets and more ways to reach consumers.

Competing for attention

Social marketing aimed at changing health behaviour encounters external and internal competition. Digital communications proffer countless unhealthy eating messages along with seductive lifestyle images associated with cigarette brands. Cable television, the web, and video games offer endless opportunities for comorbid behaviour. At the same time, product marketers add to the confusion by marketing “reduced risk” cigarettes or obscure benefits of foods (such as low salt content in foods high in saturated fat).

How is social marketing used to change health behaviour?

Social marketing uses behavioural, persuasion, and exposure theories to target changes in health risk behaviour. Social cognitive theory based on response consequences (of individual behaviour), observational learning, and behavioural modelling is widely used.14 Persuasion theory indicates that people must engage in message “elaboration” (developing favourable thoughts about a message's arguments) for long term persuasion to occur.3 Exposure theorists study how the intensity of and length of exposure to a message affects behaviour.10

Social marketers use theory to identify behavioural determinants that can be modified. For example, social marketing aimed at obesity might use behavioural theory to identify connections between behavioural determinants of poor nutrition, such as eating habits within the family, availability of food with high calorie and low nutrient density (junk food) in the community, and the glamorisation of fast food in advertising. Social marketers use such factors to construct conceptual frameworks that model complex pathways from messages to changes in behaviour (fig 3).

Example of social marketing conceptual framework

In applying theory based conceptual models, social marketers again use commercial marketing strategies based on the marketing mix.2 For example, they develop brands on the basis of health behaviour and lifestyles, as commercial marketers would with products. Targeted and tailored message strategies have been used in antismoking campaigns to build “brand equity”—a set of attributes that a consumer has for a product, service, or (in the case health campaigns) set of behaviours.13 Brands underlying the VERB campaign (which encourages young people to be physically active) and Truth campaigns were based on alternative healthy behaviours, marketed using socially appealing images that portrayed healthy lifestyles as preferable to junk food or fast food and cigarettes.14,15

Can social marketing change health behaviour?

The best evidence that social marketing is effective comes from studies of mass communication campaigns. The lessons learned from these campaigns can be applied to other modes of communication, such as communication mediated by healthcare providers and interpersonal communication (for example, mass nutrition messages can be used in interactions between doctors and patients).

Social marketing campaigns can change health behaviour and behavioural mediators, but the effects are often small.5 For example, antismoking campaigns, such as the American Legacy Foundation's Truth campaign, can reduce the number of people who start smoking and progress to established smoking.16 From 1999 to 2002, the prevalence of smoking in young people in the US decreased from 25.3% to 18%, and the Truth campaign was responsible for about 22% of that decrease.16

Summary points

Social marketing uses commercial marketing strategies such as audience segmentation and branding to change health behaviour

Social marketing is an effective way to change health behaviour in many areas of health risk

Doctors can reinforce these messages during their direct and indirect contact with patients

This is a small effect by clinical standards, but it shows that social marketing can have a big impact at the population level. For example, if the number of young people in the US was 40 million, 10.1 million would have smoked in 1999, and this would be reduced to 7.2 million by 2002. In this example, the Truth campaign would be responsible for nearly 640 000 young people not starting to smoke; this would result in millions of added life years and reductions in healthcare costs and other social costs.

In a study of 48 social marketing campaigns in the US based on the mass media, the average campaign accounted for about 9% of the favourable changes in health risk behaviour, but the results were variable.17 “Non-coercive” campaigns (those that simply delivered health information) accounted for about 5% of the observed variation.17

A study of 17 recent European health campaigns on a range of topics including promotion of testing for HIV, admissions for myocardial infarction, immunisations, and cancer screening also found small but positive effects.18 This study showed that behaviours that need to be changed once or only a few times are easier to promote than those that must be repeated and maintained over time.19 Some examples (such as breast feeding, taking vitamin A supplements, and switching to skimmed milk) have shown greater effect sizes, and they seem to have higher rates of success.19,20

Implications for healthcare practitioners

This brief overview indicates that social marketing practices can be useful in healthcare practice. Firstly, during social marketing campaigns, such as antismoking campaigns, practitioners should reinforce media messages through brief counselling. Secondly, practitioners can make a valuable contribution by providing another communication channel to reach the target audience. Finally, because practitioners are a trusted source of health information, their reinforcement of social marketing messages adds value beyond the effects of mass communication.


Contributors and sources: WDE's research focuses on behaviour change and public education intervention programmes designed to communicate science based information. He has published extensively on the influence of the media on health behaviour, including the effects of social marketing on changes in behaviour. This article arose from his presentation at and discussions after a recent conference on diet and communication.

Competing interests: None declared.

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6 Creative Ways to Use Twitter Vine for Healthcare Marketing

6 Creative Ways to Use Twitter Vine for Healthcare Marketing | Social Media and Healthcare |

Video can make a major impact and leave a lasting impression. When that power is paired with the strength of social media, the results can be truly remarkable. Now, that mighty marketing combination is available via Vine, the mobile app from Twitter that can be used to record and share brief videos.

Despite its six-second limit, content creators are already getting creative and producing video snippets that inspire, promote, educate, and entertain. In fact, their brief length makes people more likely to watch them since they know they’ll be short and sweet. To help healthcare marketers create the most compelling and beneficial videos, offered the following savvy suggestions.

1. Spotlight Your Supporters – Satisfied patients and passionate employees can be a powerful form of advertising, so let these advocates sing the praises of your brand on video. Help each of them create a personal video and attach it to the brand’s #hashtag for the world to see and share.

2. Exhibit New Technology – Give the facility a competitive advantage by highlighting new medical equipment via video. Show how the facility prides itself on having the latest advances in treatment and testing, and then briefly show how it works—and works wonders.

3. Celebrate Special Occasions – There are an abundance of special days, weeks, and months devoted to different health issues and Vine is a great way to show the organization’s support for these occasions. Healthcare videos can feature inspiring messages to encourage support, personal stories of hope and survival, and interesting facts that grab attention.

4. Hype Up the Hospital – If the organization is about to unveil a new building or a renovated area, create a teaser video as a way to promote the debut and spark buzz about the event.

5. Offer a Virtual Tour – Introduce potential patients to your facility by offering a virtual video tour. Show off the high-tech features and beautiful surroundings, as well as the friendly faces that staff the facility to leave a likeable and lasting impression.

6. Promote Upcoming Events – Spread the word about fundraising, health classes, blood drives, and other events by creating brief teaser videos. Make the videos upbeat and promote the benefits of the event to encourage attendance.

Vine is an outstanding way to leverage video and social media all at once. It offers enormous potential to healthcare marketers as they strive to connect with consumers in the most convenient and contemporary ways.

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Medical Marketing on Pinterest: The Safest Place to Start Health Care Social Media

Medical Marketing on Pinterest: The Safest Place to Start Health Care Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |


Health care companies are not getting involved in Social Media because they’re scared. If you look at the hoops medical marketing directors have to jump through with their legal department, and then combine that with the pressures all marketers face, such as justifying marketing spend, it’s no wonder health care companies have chosen to stay on the sidelines.


Many businesses are finding that it’s possible to engage with patients, customers, and other stakeholders without running into legal problems. If you’re still feeling hesitant, that’s okay. Take one step at a time. Not ready for all of the conversational aspects of Facebook? Try a less conversational network. Here’s where Pinterest comes in.


According to Simply Measured, 69 of the world’s top 100 brands are on Pinterest. Pinterest is driving more traffic to websites and blogs than Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, or YouTube.


You can also gain positive brand exposure when people see pins about your company, the people who work there, and the products and services that are changing lives.

You can teach patients about a new product you are launching so they understand how it works and how it benefits them.

Give patients a look inside your company and what makes your organization great. This is an opportunity for you to humanize your company. After all, your team probably got involved in health care because at least some part of you wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.

Now is your chance to show consumers the side of your company that feels their emotions, shares their desire to find the cure, wants to effectively treat a medical condition, dreams of ending suffering, and will do whatever it takes to save lives.

Driving referral traffic to a website from Pinterest is incredibly valuable for medical marketing. Why? This is a golden opportunity for health care marketers to ride the social wave without getting tangled in the legal complication. You get the benefits of social media: brand exposure and awareness, positive corporate PR, patient education, exposure for new product launches, and referral traffic to your health care website without the risks that are inherent in the more conversational social networks.


Pinterest is primarily a visual network. People look at images, share images, pin images, like images, and on occasion, maybe comment on an image. But Pinterest is no Facebook. Facebook is the water cooler where people really start talking about things. When people start talking, legal and regulatory departments get nervous. Breathe a sigh of relief. People don’t usually get too involved in conversations on Pinterest. Many people have probably never commented on a pin in their whole Pinterest history.


If you’re worried about people talking, start on Pinterest. It’s not a huge drain on resources because it doesn’t require you to monitor and respond to conversations all day. While I would recommend always having a plan in place before starting any social media campaign, I don’t think a detailed response matrix for responding to various situations is necessary like it is on Facebook.

Posting pictures of patient education materials and other images you already have visible to the public in your existing marketing mediums isn’t likely to elicit lots of comments. This means you aren’t likely to deal with complaints, negative reviews, potential adverse event reports, or off-label discussions. People just don’t use Pinterest in that way.


It doesn’t require as many resources for content creation. You don’t need to post 3-5 carefully crafted messages a day and then be ready to respond to them. As the Marketing Communications Manager, you don’t have to worry about a flood of content you have to oversee for legal risks. Pinterest doesn’t move as fast as the other social networks. You don’t necessarily have to post every day. The work flow is manageable.


You just have to provide your agency with the visual materials you already have and they organize and repurpose the imagery for Pinterest. It’s that easy.

Yes, you, Director of Marketing for a healthcare company. I know you already have Pinterest content, even if you don’t think you do. Chances are, you already have images on your website that can be pinned. I would go as far as to venture that if you really surveyed existing marketing material, you would find a lot of images that can be repurposed for Pinterest. Did you know that you can pin video, too? Pinterest is a great way to get more exposure for your medical marketing videos, which can be a great way to showcase your technology and help customers to understand the benefits of your product in an easy-to-understand format.

Still need some Pinspiration? Here’s a list of 40 ideas for Pinterest that can help you get started.


I know this is a lot to process, but if you think about it, this is an exciting, low-risk way to enter social media. With the help of an agency, all you have to do is provide some of your existing visual material, and they will do the rest. You don’t have to go through pages and pages of written material with the legal team. You just need a willingness to be open-minded about social media. Once you decide your ready, trust your agency as the social media experts and your legal department as the legal experts. If everybody does their job, you’ll be just fine.

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Characteristics of a Healthcare Marketing Team in 2013

Characteristics of a Healthcare Marketing Team in 2013 | Social Media and Healthcare |

According to a Gartner study on digital marketing, many industries are increasing their marketing budgets this year. However, some industries – Healthcare included – are continuing to dump significantly higher funds into traditional marketing methods, which can’t be measured as effectively as digital efforts. In a world where consumers are increasingly transitioning their news and research mediums from television and radio to online sources, a lack of digital marketing is a gross misstep by any industry – especially healthcare.

Along with adhering to the growing trend of researching healthcare information online, the benefit of digital marketing is the ability to track potential and current patients’ behavior and conversions, illuminating which format and tone of messaging is effective.


Three-quarters of U.S. citizens prefer researching topics regarding their personal health before seeking professional, in-person medical advice. In order to capture the attention of this burgeoning self-searching consumer, it is vital for pharmaceutical and healthcare providers to invest not simply in digital marketing, but also in a great digital marketing team.

Effective healthcare marketing teams will develop and implement a plan that educates and engages current or potential patients in a cost-effective, measurable way. To build a great digital marketing team for your healthcare brand, focus on developing the following characteristics:

1. Able to plan in months – not just years

A hospital’s digital marketing team needs to begin with a solid plan that addresses short and long-term goals. Because data is available to us online instantly, there is no reason to not generate monthly or quarterly plans in lieu of locked-in, stagnant annual plans. This opportunity for frequent measuring and flexibility is vital to capitalize on new opportunities and react to market performance changes. If a paid search campaign isn’t delivering leads, there is no need to wait several months to make adjustments – that’s the beauty of search. And that’s just one way healthcare brands can ensure their budgeting dollars are being spent wisely.

2.  Cognizent of multiple marketing channels

A sufficient digital team features members who have experience marketing through multiple channels, such as email marketing, paid advertising, mobile apps, and local search. Often this means using a CRM (customer relationship management) tool. In healthcare, a CRM tool allows hospitals to comply with critical healthcare reform demands, such as sending appointment follow-ups and delivering literature for procedure preparation or recovery.

3. Proficient in social media

Healthcare marketing teams need to have a thorough understanding of how to use social media for the overall brand development. Along with allowing brands to reach new patients, social channels provide a way to signal to Google that a brand is relevant and committed to its audience. We especially want to emphasize the importance of using Google+ as a hub for sharing news, engaging in conversation, and encouraging online reviews.

4. Willing to rely on analytical thinking

From email marketing to website behavior, every aspect of an online business can be tracked. Team members who understand the digital trends and can draw insights from analytics will be able to communicate what impacts sales and why a web page sees an increase (or lack thereof) in traffic. Effective digital healthcare marketers will then be able to incorporate the data into creating even more successful marketing strategies – starting with sharing digital wins across all service lines. This application takes practice – and in many instances, training from outside resources – but the investment will change the way your organization measures success.

5. Eager to invest in content creation

Digital marketing hinges on website content – but this doesn’t just refer to an influx of words on new pages. Rather, this strategy refers to the creation of engaging, educational content that transforms the visitor into a patient and inspires him or her to share content across social networks, further expanding the potential audience. By referring to keyword research as an indication of what questions your organization can answer for patients, as well as what topics have significant search volume and opportunity for patient acquisition, a content strategy will enhance the quality of your hospital’s website while simultaneously catering to potential patients.


Times have changed for the healthcare industry. Now it is the patient who is in charge. This awareness should fuel all marketing efforts, especially inbound. It is critical to realize that a website without sufficient content will struggle to retain – much less convert – traffic coming in from paid ads, organic search rankings, or social media avenues. A digital marketing team must not only understand the evolving online marketplace, but also be able to educate, engage, and empower the audience with quality content and task-oriented websites.

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Making a Powerful Hospital Video for improved Social Presence

Making a Powerful Hospital Video for improved Social Presence | Social Media and Healthcare |

The internet has transformed healthcare into a consumer-driven market, with patients becoming active decision-makers in choosing hospitals. 

1. Create Health Information Videos, Not Commercials

Many hospitals create videos promoting their physicians and facilities, post them on YouTube, and are surprised to see that few people watch them. Why doesn’t this tactic work?

A study of over 600 hospital YouTube channels published in a 2013 edition of the "Journal of Communication in Healthcare" reveals health information videos are by far more popular than promotional videos. The author, Dr. Edgar Huang of Indiana University, states: “to attract traffic, hospitals should shift their foci to better serving their users by altruistically providing more videos that pertain to users’ interests” which includes, primarily, videos on patient education, surgical procedures, and public announcements.

Bottom line: You will reach more patients if you give them the information they’re searching for.

2. Include Animations in Your Videos

What works for Hollywood can work for hospitals. Look at some hospital YouTube channels and view the videos based on popularity. What you should notice are the videos with 3D animations rise to the top of the list.

Regardless of the reasons--whether it’s the simplified information, the high production values, the lack of “gore,” or just the cool factor--patients enjoy watching 3D medical animations far more than live videos depicting the same subjects.

This type of content is not as expensive as it was 5 years ago, and you can licensee stock medical animations for a relatively low annual fee from companies like Nucleus Medical Media.

3. Sync Your Efforts: Broadcast & Cross-Promote

It’s important to make certain that your content is at the top of the health information searches for patients in your area.

The easiest way to improve search engine results is to coordinate digital marketing among various social media sites. Post a video on your hospital YouTube channel. Link to it on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Write a press release about your hospital’s latest educational video, including a link. Embed the video into your website and blog posts. You’ll get the best response in the first week, but patients can refer back to your video any time they have questions about a condition or procedure.

4. Optimize, Evaluate, & Adjust

To attract patients in your area using YouTube, include keywords in your videos’ title, description, and tags related to location, medical specialty, disease state, tests, treatments, etc. Use terms a patient would search for rather than technical terms, like "flu” not “influenza."

Never assume you can just “set is and forget it” when it comes to online video. Initial views will rise and then taper off. Afterward, use analytics to evaluate what helped your video perform well so you can replicate it in future campaigns. YouTube Analytics lets you track incoming traffic sources, demographic data, and geographic locations down to the city level. With this information, you can make intelligent choices about how to promote your videos.

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Rules of Engagement: 7 Tips for Successful Pharma Content Marketing

Rules of Engagement: 7 Tips for Successful Pharma Content Marketing | Social Media and Healthcare |

With the phenomenal rise of content marketing as a tool for generating inbound leads, content marketing is now the phrase on everyone’s lips, but the successful execution of a content marketing strategy often eludes companies.

The essence of good content marketing is that it offers something the viewer wants, such as information or entertainment. Content marketing can take a lot of different forms, including YouTube videos, blog posts and articles. It shouldn’t really seem like marketing — in some cases, in fact, it should only be identifiable as marketing because the advertiser is identified as the content provider.”

#1 Put Your Customers First

Obsessive self-orientation is a big mistake companies make with their marketing communications. Refocus your attitude with the customer as core, what problem have they that you could help solve. “Don’t be egotistical. Nobody cares about your products and services (except you). What people care about are themselves and solving their problems”. David Meerman Scott, author of “The New Rules of Marketing and PR”.

#2 Planning

Before you begin working on a specific piece of content, it is important to define and communicate your goals. This is particularly important if you need to justify your budget investment to your company’s executives, as it will help you quantify your results later on. You can also build your content strategy with specific goals in mind — for example, increasing your number of Facebook “likes” or growing your database of email addresses. By setting your goals right from the start, you can then focus on building your content in a way that will increase the chances of meeting those benchmarks.

#3 Help, Don’t Sell

Content marketing requires a shift in your thinking, from “all about us” to “all about the reader.” Being a successful publisher – and now, content marketer — means delivering content that genuinely serves your readers’ needs, not your brand’s. In return, you gain their trust and their attention. That’s a great deal. The purpose of your marketing is to build relationships – to get people to know like and trust you and consider you when it comes to making a purchasing decision.

#4 Slow Burn

Don’t expect results after one or two months. Businesses often give up just as they’re starting to gain influence with their audience. Content marketing is a long-term investment. There are no quick wins.

#5 It’s Not All about SEO

Making content discoverable to Google is often as important as the substance of the content itself – whether it’s a piece of service journalism, a data-driven infographic, or something else. Content producers need to incorporate basic SEO 101 into their daily routines.  At the same time, getting too religious about the latest page-rank formulas and other requirements can work against the most powerful variables of quality content – narrative, voice, credibility, trust, humor – and turn a creative process robotic.

#6 Commit to Quality

It’s not enough to publish a well-written article; it has to be valuable, useful, fulfilling a need. Make it fascinating, says Brian Clark of Copyblogger, “entertaining beautiful, fun.” It needs to be styled to attract and retain the focus of the reader. Use good quality photos and illustrations, clear text styling and design elements that compliment the look and feel of your website.

#7 Continuous Effort

The key to good content marketing is understanding that it is a continuous effort to come up with new, engaging content targeted to your audience, and requires research, thought, and a long-term plan to all be documented in an editorial calendar.

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How Technology is Driving Communication in Pharma

How Technology is Driving Communication in Pharma | Social Media and Healthcare |

This just in: another example of a Pharma company trying to use social media in a responsible way and being undermined by shifting technology – meta tags where you don’t expect them. You can read about it here.

We are learning, we are evolving, and we are trying to stay a step ahead of technology that is changing at a pace few can keep up with – especially if it is not the focus of your job, like many Pharma marketers. Layer in the promotional review process, designed to protect our companies from exposure to regulatory and legal liability – a process that even when streamlined moves at a snail’s pace compared to communications. Many of the social platforms update their backend design and functionality with very little fanfare or notice to the business community. By the time a company launches a new program the platforms/technology have changed and they are left with all sorts of unanticipated issues.

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5 Rules To Guide Your Approach to Learning in Social Media for your Practice

5 Rules To Guide Your Approach to Learning in Social Media for your Practice | Social Media and Healthcare |

Blogs, podcasts, and other social media platforms in medical education, known collectively as Free Open Access Meducation (FOAM), are becoming increasingly popular and integrated into daily learning habits. Through various push technologies, these resources come to you in the form of RSS feeds, podcast tools, and other apps. Do you have a mental checklist to help you determine whether the content is trustworthy and accurate? How do you process the information from FOAM sites? 

Here are 5 rules that we at ALiEM follow as lifelong learners ourselves when learning from other FOAM sites:


Read more about the topic using several references, such as journal articles, textbooks, and other social media sources. ‘Triangulate’ your information using multiple references. Be suspicious if the resource has no references.


Check with your colleagues in the department or on Twitter. Ask clarification questions on the blog or podcast site. Does this fit into your practice given the available resources that you have? Is this in your scope of practice? Is this appropriate for your level of training? What are the risks to your patient and you?


For not-yet-mainstream practices, such as rapid-rule out troponins for AMI, hands-on defibrillation, or PESI scoring for outpatient management of pulmonary embolism, if you are in doubt, don’t incorporate it into your practice until there’s more literature out there. The same is true for non-traditional procedural techniques. It is great to know about what innovations are on the knowledge horizon, but being the first to implement it isn’t wise.


Many N=1 innovations are worthwhile to know about. Many have a high reward and low risk profile, such as using parts of your hand as a makeshift ruler to guestimate wound lengths. Others are the opposite with low reward and high risk profiles. The key is differentiating between the two. Use common sense. Refer to #3.


As with all patient-care activities, you should be involving your patient in the discussion around your treatment.  If you are trying something ‘new’ or ‘innovative’, admit to your patient that the solution to their problem is not well studied… and therefore you can journey with them towards trialing a new method. Document your shared decisions this way.  Make it a truthful, informed (or ‘as-informed-as-possible’) discussion.

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4 Essential Steps to Healthcare Social Media Marketing Success

4 Essential Steps to Healthcare Social Media Marketing Success | Social Media and Healthcare |

As the Internet increasingly becomes the medium of choice for researching health information, social media has become an important channel for healthcare marketing.  In today’s social media-connected, content marketing rich environment, healthcare marketeers who are not using social media as part of their strategy are missing out.  In today’s post,  I will outline the four essential steps required for successful healthcare  social media marketing.

The first step is to gain a clearer image of who your audience is and what they are saying about you. Only then will you be able to create compelling, relevant and valuable content to fuel the social media engine.

(1) Identify and segment your online audience

Your healthcare marketing efforts will be much stronger if you can identify your target market and segment it so that you can tailor your content more specifically for them. Unless you take this first step, your social media marketing activities will remain unfocused. If you can clearly identify your target market, then you can plan the best combination of email marketing, social networking strategies, SEO, Pay Per Click, Banner ads, etc. You are looking to drill down deeper to discover their geographic location, their gender, level of education, family status, which social media sites they use, what conversations they are having online, how they are engaging with you, your competition and your online partners.

(2) Plan your social and digital media channels

Armed with this information you will now be able to plan which social media channels are most suited to your target market and direct your efforts accordingly. For example, if you identify that your audience is predominately female, you might direct some of your healthcare marketing efforts to Pinterest, a site whose rapid growth and success has been driven by women.

(3) Join in the online conversation

There is a support and community group for just about any medical condition or interest online.  To further expand their reach and focus on patient care, these groups need the input of qualified healthcare practitioners to help validate the information discussed on their sites and to ensure balanced views that are in the best interest of patients. Participating in these communities by providing advice, educational podcasts, guest contributions to widely read blogs and websites can help you broadcast your brand and build your reputation, while providing valuable support to the group.

(4) Monitor your online reputation

Consistency, credibility and connection are the cornerstones of maintaining your healthcare brand’s integrity.  It is important to listen to what is being said about your brand, not just to know what is going on and whether you are receiving any negative publicity or comments that need to be addressed, but also to know what you are doing right, so that you can do more of it. At a minimum keep an eye on tweets, comments and messages on your Twitter, blog and Facebook accounts. You should also set up Google Alerts for your brand and industry.

There’s no question that social media is growing in importance in the healthcare field and it is no longer an optional marketing strategy.  The conversation is happening online with or without you, so for the sake of your healthcare brand, join it!

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Social media best practices for hospitals

Social media best practices for hospitals | Social Media and Healthcare |
Here are 5 excellent suggestions offered by Marianne Aiello in an article for HealthcareLeaders Media. It’s republished in its entirety.

In 2013 the new millennium officially became a teenager. And like all teenagers, it is seriously addicted to social media. Really, mom and dad should consider limiting its data plan.

Hospitals, however, are still playing catch up in the social media space. There are plenty of excuses, from staffing problems to technical ditziness. But none is acceptable anymore. MySpace, the granddaddy of social media, was created ten years ago. It’s time the healthcare industry got with it.

 An infographic by Demi & Cooper Advertising and DC Interactive Group highlights just where hospitals stand in the social space. Only 26% use social media. No, that is not a typo—just one-quarter of hospitals in the US use any type of social media. Of those,

84% are on Facebook64% are on Twitter46% are on YouTube12% blog

So that’s where we stand. Now let’s look at healthcare consumers.

About one-third of consumers use social sites for health-related matters. And these patients are sharing their experiences, with 44% of respondents saying they were likely or very likely to share a positive experience they had with a hospital.

More notably, 40% said they were likely or very likely to share a negative experience they had with a hospital.

So like it or not, patients are talking about your organization on social media sites. It’s a hospital marketer’s duty to be there to listen, share successes, and respond to complaints. Let’s take a tip from the newly pimple-faced millennium and get social.

Here are five resolutions all hospital marketers should make for the coming year.

1. Tell powerful patient stories.

Perhaps the greatest value of social media is the ability to quickly and easily connect with patients. From there, it’s up to the marketer to make this connection meaningful.

Often, the best way to accomplish this is by telling meaningful, powerful patient stories. Luckily for us, these stories already exist out there. We just have to find them. 

To do this, track any keyword or hashtag that relates to your organization. A third party platform such as HootSuite can facilitate this. If you don’t find much, start soliciting patient stories.

From there, you can share them on Facebook, re-tweet them on Twitter, or write up a blog post, which you can then link to on Facebook and Twitter. In some cases, YouTube may be the best storytelling medium. 

There are countless ways to share positive patient experiences through social media. And the more often you do it, the easier the process will become.

2. Do something innovative.

Another benefit of social media campaigns versus traditional marketing campaigns is that you can afford to take more risks. 

If a marketing campaign bombs, you’ve wasted money on print materials and advertising space. But, in most cases, if a social media campaign misses the mark you’re only real cost is the time it took to execute it. 

Besides, in social media taking a risk can pay off big.

Here are some ideas to get your gears turning:

Live-tweet a surgery to highlight a service lineExperiment with fundraising through FacebookSet up a weekly doc Q&A time on TwitterUse social media to attract new physicians and staffAsk a patient to live-tweet a “day in the life” at your organizationGet creative and see what sticks. As a bonus, local press love to cover innovative hospital social marketing efforts.

3. Take a hard look at risk management.

Of course, using social media to promote your organization has its risks. As much as people enjoy sharing positive feedback online, they seem to enjoy sharing negative feedback even more. It’s the nature of the beast. But this is absolutely not a reason to avoid social media altogether.

Like I said before, social media is about 10 years old. Most people using social media aren’t new. Therefore, most people using social media know that the anonymity users have on some sites turn people into hate-filled harping conspiracy theorists. 

You can just tell when a commenter has taken a couple crazy pills. Most internet users put everything they read online through a filter and, for marketers, this acts as a barrier of sorts. 

That said, there are some steps you should take to mitigate your social media risk. Make sure that you have a comprehensive social media policy for employees and that the policy is up to date. 

Employees should sign a document stating that they understand they are not to post any patient information or any negative comments about the organization. 

I’m amazed at how often I see a high school classmate post on Facebook about how much they hate their nursing job and mentioning the hospital by name. 

It’s also important to make sure all providers understand where the boundary lies when communicating with patients on social media. While you’re at it, ask physicians if they have a public Twitter account or blog where they postulate about anything healthcare related. 

Doctors represent your organization, so it’s critical to know what they’re putting out there. Social media savvy docs can also be great allies when formulating a new campaign

4. Keep an eye on your peers.

The healthcare industry as a whole is behind the curve, but many hospitals are true social media standouts. Keep an eye on these organizations to see how they launch campaigns, respond to criticism, and deal with employees. 

The Mayo Clinic tops the list of social media trailblazers and provides helpful information to other organizations through its Center for Social Media.

 UPMC is also a top organization to go to for social media tips, especially it’s well maintained Facebook page.

And if you’re looking for Twitter inspiration, check out Brigham and Women’s account. They tweet a variety of posts on anything from health topics to hospital rankings to volunteer opportunities.

5. Track everything.

None of this counts if you can’t view the statistics that tell you which efforts are working, which fell flat, which are tapering off, and which have found a second life. Keep count of your followers and likes, of how many people clicked your links, of how long visitors stayed on that blog post. 

This information will help you better tailor future social campaigns and give you solid numbers to report to your superiors.

With these five resolutions, hospital marketers should be able to commit to having a strong presence in the social media world now and for years to come—or at least until the millennium gets its braces off.
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The 7 Social Media Need-to Knows for Healthcare Marketers

The 7 Social Media Need-to Knows for Healthcare Marketers | Social Media and Healthcare |

Whether you already have an effort underway, or are contemplating dipping your toe into the social media pond, here are Manifeste Medical’s 7 “Need to Knows” for this dynamic and growing channel.

It matters who’s posting

Doctors, nurses and hospitals are respected most for being impartial and only sharing information for the sake of benefiting patients. if your medical personnel are too busy to post (not unusual), work with content providers or your agency to develop themes to help them get started, or even finished written posts for them to approve.

Start with Facebook

Your patients are on Facebook. It’s where they talk about their health issues and reach out to others with their thoughts and concerns. The infographic below shows that 84% of hospitals with a social media presence use Facebook.

Get the word out for a cause

People love spreading the word on a good cause using social media. If you’re spearheading fund raising activity or your institution is supporting a local or national cause, social media is a great way to spread the word. We’ve gotten some great viral action offering $1 for each new Like for a good cause.

Make a plan

“Let’s do a Facebook page” is not a plan. Pick your platforms, define who will run your effort, establish a content schedule, map out approval processes and posting permissions, and decide who will monitor and respond to comments. Social media is, well, social! It’s an ongoing conversation with your patients. Plan it as as an ongoing project. No, not even a project. Rather, a process.

Think patient utility

Simply put, provide your followers with information they find useful. You gain valuable traction by sponsoring varied and appropriate messaging, not by talking about yourself. Think about it this way, you are competing for attention not just within your category, but against every other post on your patient’s Facebook page.

Think visual

Photos, infographics, charts and now video. We are a visual information society so include visuals in your posts. Pinterest continues to grow fast and it is only visual.

Here comes video

Healthcare is stories. Healthcare is emotional. Video does both of these better than any other form of communications. Post videos and you will see immediate increases in engagement times on your site, your blog and any social media platform. Facebook now lets you post videos quickly to your pages so what are you waiting for?

Getting started

Social media can sound intimidating to the uninitiated, so it makes sense to engage an expert if you don’t have in-house resources. Once your plan is set you’ll find it’s like any other business process; ongoing and easily managed. Who’s doing it well? The Mayo Clinic has a phenomenal effort worth emulating. Keep in mind their program has been years in the making. Check out healthcare institutions in your area and see what they’re doing to get some ideas.

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If Some of the Largest Hospitals in the U.S. are Using Social Media, Why Aren't You?

If Some of the Largest Hospitals in the U.S. are Using Social Media, Why Aren't You? | Social Media and Healthcare |

How important is social media to healthcare marketing? Ask the professionals at the University of Michigan Health System, or the Nemours/Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, or the Cleveland Clinic, or a host of other large medical organizations and they’ll tell you that social media is at the root of their patient outreach. Learning from these remarkable organizations and understanding their social media methods can help you to grow your own physician social media outreach.

According to the Wall Street Journal…


The efforts are part of a larger movement to engage patients and families in care and enhance the hospital experience. The federal Medicare program is basing some hospital payments on patient satisfaction surveys, including questions about how responsive a hospital is to concerns. Similar surveys are being developed for pediatric hospitals.


With social media, a hospital can cast a wider net for more feedback than it can expect from a traditional patient and family council composed of a small group of appointees who meet once a month or so.


Patient Satisfaction with Social Media Outreach

Social media outreach has broken down barriers, so that parents who want to get involved or patients who want to stay connected but have limited time or abilities, can still connect, become educated, stay involved and assist in making hospital procedure better through social media.


There have been amazing benefits to both patients and hospitals through these social outreach programs, including an improved checklist of ways to console families at the C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital, appointment reminders via text message at Nemours Children’s Hospital, and complex scheduling.


With social media outreach to patients, parents and families, the possibilities for improved care and enhanced hospital procedures is limitless. These strategies can easily be transformed and integrated into your own small practice social media outreach.


Local Physician Social Media Outreach

Just as these large medical organizations utilize social media to better the patient experience, so to can your practice, no matter what the size.


1. Break Down Barriers – One of the greatest benefits of social media patient outreach is the ability to break down all barriers. Your patients have access to your staff, or your social media agency, at all times for questions and concerns. Give them the resources to ask the questions they need, whether that’s an open-platform Facebook Wall, an app, or direct messaging. Make it easy for your patients to voice their concerns, or praise, when they need to.


2. Questionnaires and Surveys – You probably notice that after an online purchase, no matter what the e-commerce company, you receive a questionnaire asking how the process went and if you were satisfied. Your medical practice should instill the same type of process not only to determine if the patient was satisfied, but to gain some insight into how that patient was treated, and what suggestions that patient has for future success. And, most importantly, use that information to make your practice a better place – improve patient satisfaction!


3. Be Proactive – Engaging with patients on social media is one thing, but actually putting their suggestions and advice into action is a totally different story. As the remarkable teams at C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Nemours Children’s Hospital have done, take what your patients are telling you and find a way to improve the patient experience based on what they’re saying.


Social media has opened the doors for so many possibilities!

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How to Influence and Persuade Patients with Social Proof

How to Influence and Persuade Patients with Social Proof | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social proof is a principle of influence and persuasion that can be highly effective in healthcare marketing. People want validation that they are making the right choice or proper decision and the actions of others like themselves is compelling guidance. Here’s how it works and ways to use it.

There was an interesting item about the compelling power of social proof in FastCompany recently, written by an Australian bloke, Ruslan Kogan.[The Secret Power Behind Why We Pick Crowded Restaurants Over Empty Ones]

Part of his post is a story about selling remote-control helicopters in a busy shopping center during the run-up to Christmas. With only 30 days to sell literally a ton of these amazing toys, his initial efforts were a bust:

“Even though I had an awesome product that would make a perfect Christmas gift for a crazy price, there was close to no interest in it. I sold two or three helicopters a day for the first few days. I was screwed. I had about 10,000 of them to sell.”

His turnaround occurred almost by accident when a teenage cousin and friends started playing with the helicopters at his shopping center stall. (Kids and toys…what a combination.)

“All of a sudden, there was a stampede of people around my stall. I was making sales left, right, and center. When my cousin and his mates went back to school, the crowd of people disappeared. I called my cousin that evening and offered him $50 a day to come down with his mates and play with the helicopters. My cousin and his mates came every lunchtime and spent their entire weekends at the stall. I ended up selling all the helicopters by December 10.”

It was the power of social proof—people learning from others is a form of collective validation.  People will do those things they see others like themselves doing because it’s an implied testimonial.

In healthcare, prospective patients and caregivers are guided by knowing what others have decided or are doing when faced with questions or uncertainty. Patient referrals and word-of-mouth are often delivered one-to-one or in-person. But the greater power is online. The popularity of various social media platforms, such as Facebook, is due in part to social proof.

Over 70 percent of Internet users say they looked online for health information within the past year, with the most commonly researched topics being specific diseases or conditions; treatments or procedures; and doctors or other health professionals. About 26 percent of Internet users have read or watched someone else’s experience about health or medical issues in the last 12 months.

Healthcare marketing and social proof…

Among the many ways to harness social proof online is first to be mindful of the technique. On one hand, it’s easily overlooked. But it’s also fairly easy to apply the validation of others to your Internet presence. Here are several idea starters. Your situation may require adaptation, and some ideas can be applied to your website, blog, social pages or used in conjunction with related colleagues or organizations. Be flexible and demonstrate social proof using:

  • Testimonials and endorsements: Mindful, of course, of professional restrictions and confidentiality issues, the positive comments of satisfied customers can be collected and circulated in many ways. In addition to posting on your website, blog and Facebook page, video comments can be used in the office, at community events and via newsletters.
  • Active social media engagement: Experienced communicators understand that the value of social media tools is in its ability to provide a voice of the customer and to engage the audience in a multi-faceted conversation. In short, social media is highway, but in order to travel, you need the fuel of fans, followers, Likes, visitor comments, recommendations, sharing, forwarding, re-tweets, etc. And the greater the positive activity, the greater the social proof.
  • Display the score with social media counters: Website pages, individual blog posts and other public-facing pages can display activity counters. In addition to the marketing data reports, these counters provide evidence to the visitor that others have been to the same page. It’s also a reminder to share or comment.
  • Present photographic evidence: Employ pictures of real people and activities that are involved with or using your products/services. These can range form informal or candid “snapshots” (with permission of course), to documented case studies and presentations. SlideShare and Pinterest are two visually-driven platforms.
  • Take pride in your history: Explain your background, business past and community roots as an indication of your strength and stability. Perhaps include number of people served, products sold, or family generations participating.
  • Refer to awards, recognitions and leadership: With an appropriate dash of modesty, inform the universe of professional recognitions, community and civic awards or leadership activities, as well as media quotes or spotlights.

These are only a few of the many ways that social proof can be applied effectively. Although it’s around us constantly—we are all influenced by it daily—its place and useful power in healthcare marketing is often neglected.

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Driving Engagement through Social Media for Healthcare Providers

Driving Engagement through Social Media for Healthcare Providers | Social Media and Healthcare |

Historically, the healthcare industry has been slow to adopt digital marketing practices. However, social media provides a great way for healthcare companies to engage their audience with interesting and meaningful content.  And more and more healthcare marketers are getting up to speed.


Platforms like Facebook and Twitter let patients have conversations with real doctors and healthcare workers, and the ability to share such conversations help spark interest and get more people involved.  People love to share their opinions and win competitions, and healthcare companies can take advantage of this by creating surveys and contests to be deployed through social media.

In fact, many healthcare companies are starting to become more involved in social media. 

But which healthcare providers are taking advantage of social media? Check out some innovative examples of healthcare institutions that are really engaging through social media. 

Lexington Medical Center

The Lexington Medical Center made great use of the 2012 Pink Glove Dance, a video competition where the prizes are awarded as donations to breast cancer charities, to attract attention to itself, engaging practically the entire state of South Carolina. They used social media, content marketing, and YouTube to ramp up their efforts and get the community involved–and all for a good cause. This is also a great example of a healthcare facility going outside of the box and having some fun with their marketing.

Henry Ford Hospital

Social networks give businesses a place to be innovative.  Take, for example, the fascinating idea of using Twitter to share live broadcasts of surgical procedures.  The first was a tumor removal operation that took place in 2009 at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, and many have followed.  These live broadcasts fascinate audiences and can showcase the facilities and level of care given by a healthcare facility. They also show transparency and create trust with patients.

Seattle Children’s Hospital

Seattle Children’s Hospital is also quite active on social channels. They have 71,794 likes on Facebook and their posts all average about 1,000 likes, which is great engagement. Seattle Children’s hospital excels on Facebook through their highly visual cover image and posts. They also encourage active blogging and have 4 separate blogs that appeal to different audiences including a blog for autism, teens, and medical reports.

Johns Hopkins Hospital

Social Media Today recently posted an article applauding the social media efforts of Johns Hopkins.  One of the campaigns that the social media manager Stacy Poliseo talked about in the article was one they did for Sheikh Zayed Tower and The Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children’s Center. The buildings were under construction and the social media team created an interactive Facebook tab to learn about the buildings, take a video tour, and even take a quiz about the building’s construction. According to Stacy, “that page drove over 20% of new Facebook likes”, which is a great metric.

Even though many healthcare institutions are slow to adopt digital marketing, clearly there are some stand-outs who have truly embraced social media and engagement. 

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Research finds health care content marketing lags two years behind

Research finds health care content marketing lags two years behind | Social Media and Healthcare |

This is nothing against our wonderful marketers in the health care space, but just take a look at our content marketing research from two years ago. What you’ll notice is that the health care content marketing findings from this year look a lot like the overall findings from two years ago. And this makes sense – health care is a highly-regulated industry, and fear is rampant. But it also means there are significant opportunities for growth in this space.

In particular, some major findings include:

  • Forty-three percent of health care marketers plan to increase their content marketing spend over the next 12 months, compared to 54 percent for all industries.
  • On average, health care marketers spend 23 percent of their total marketing budget on content marketing activities, compared to 31 percent for all marketers.
  • Brand awareness is the most popular content marketing objective (81 percent).
  • The biggest content marketing challenge isproducing enough content.


Here are a few additional highlights of how this highly-regulated vertical is using content marketing:

Health care marketers use print more often

For the most part, health care marketers have similar rates of adoption for most tactics, but there are some notable differences:

Health care marketers tend to use print at higher rates than their peers:

  • Print magazines:47 percent of health care marketers use them, versus 35 percent of all marketers.
  • Print newsletters:43 percent of health care marketers use them, versus 28 percent of all marketers.
  • Annual reports:36 percent of health care marketers use them, versus 26 percent of all marketers.

There are also tactics health care marketers use less often than their peers:

  • Blogs:58 percent of health care marketers use blogs, versus 74 percent of all marketers.
  • Case studies:53 percent of health care marketers use case studies, versus 63 percent of all marketers. (This makes sense… just think of the challenges in the Pharma industry.)

Health care marketers use social media less often

Below you will see the average rates for using social media for content distribution. With the exception of YouTube, health care marketers use all social media channels less often than their peers in other industries do. Yet, it’s interesting to note that health care marketers use video (75 percent) slightly more often than their peers (71 percent).

Health care marketers outsource more content than their peers

Compared to their peers, health care marketers outsource content far more often: 63 percent versus 45 percent of marketers overall. Printed content marketing vehicles have been a mainstay in the industry for a long time, often outsourced to content agencies. In addition, adding outside consult is always helpful, as fear of HIPAA violations is always a concern for marketers.

A brief look at the health care demographic

While it is noteworthy to understand how marketers in the health care industry are using content marketing, it’s important to understand how other demographics may play a role in these research findings. Here are a few notes about the demographics of this research:

  • Out of 2,404 total respondents, 118 respondents identified themselves as working in the health care industry.
  • About half of the respondents work for companies with 1,000 or more employees, and 23 percent of total respondents work for companies with more than 10,000 employees.

Do you work in health care? Are these trends consistent with what you are seeing?

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How to get doctors involved in social media for hospitals

Dr. Russell Faust shares tips for getting doctors involved in producing content for hospital marketing and social media.
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Healthcare Marketing: Social Streams Must Serve a Purpose

Healthcare Marketing: Social Streams Must Serve a Purpose | Social Media and Healthcare |

f you build it, they will come.

If that’s the crux your social marketing strategy, I’ve got some bad news for you: no, they probably won’t.

A lot of healthcare marketing managers think that just by setting up Facebook pages and establishing Twitter accounts they’re good to go. That by “having a presence” on LinkedIn and Google+ they can check the box next to “social media” on their to-do lists and move on. Oh, if it were only that easy!

The most important thing to consider before embarking on a social effort – or to reconsider if you’ve already started and can’t seem to figure out why it’s not working – is whether or not any given platform or stream is actually going to serve a purpose for your hospital, provider or insurance company. That is to say, social media channels should only exist for your organization if they fulfill a specific need.

Purposeful streams include those that provide unique and quality content, build community and engagement, and can be fostered and supported on an ongoing and regular basis. If your streams can manage to do all those things, they will build awareness, a positive image for your healthcare organization, and – hopefully – a larger fan base.


Here are a few things to think about as you build (or rebuild) your social marketing strategy.


Too many streams, not enough differentiating content
There’s nothing worse than checking out an organization’s Twitter stream and seeing that each tweet is really a cut-off Facebook post. Seriously: why bother? If you can’t come up with platform-appropriate content, you’re really not serving any purpose or filling any need. Remember: what’s good for Facebook may not be good for Twitter, may not be good for LinkedIn, may not be good for Pinterest, etc. Not every platform is equal and each social network has a different potential that can be maximized in different ways for healthcare. Your fans and followers know this and expect you to know it, too.


Be where your audience is
Fundamentally, just because a social platform exists doesn’t mean that your organization should join it. A good question to ask yourself when finding your social space is, “Where is my audience?” Who are you trying to reach? If you’re looking to build a robust and engaged community among an audience of consumers, maybe Facebook is a better option than, say, LinkedIn – which might be a better option for you if you’re trying to build influence or thought leadership within an audience primarily made up of businesses and business-minded folks. Likewise, if your organization and audience have a fun side, perhaps a little Pinterest personality is in order.

Fresh content and timely engagement are key
If you’re on Twitter, you have to be on Twitter. Meaning: one or two tweets a week is not going to cut it. You have to keep your content coming – or else no one’s going to take your effort seriously. Different platforms have different standards for what is considered a “good amount” of updates; learn those standards and stick to them. And, of course, updates are only half of it: the other half is the conversation you’re having with your audience. This requires an active presence so you can respond in a timely manner. Even if you’re not using your stream as a “customer service” medium, you’re still going to be answering questions and providing assistance – it’s just the nature of social. Make sure you have the tools and people in place so you’re able to support it.

Remember: a social stream with the right content, engagement and support can tap into the energy of your audience and create enthusiasm and advocacy among its members.

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10 Reasons Your mHealth Brand Needs Social Media Marketing

10 Reasons Your mHealth Brand Needs Social Media Marketing | Social Media and Healthcare |

If your mHealth brand isn't actively involved in social media marketing, you could be missing out on more sales, more awareness, more visibility

Healthy Social Media Marketing for mHealth Brands

1. Social media is where your customers are
Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and mobile apps and games have all become favorite pastimes across the world. Interacting in that environment puts your brand and product messages in a position to be shared and commented which leads to awareness, interest and sales.

2. Social media levels the playing field
The advantage is still with larger, more established brands, simply because they started with existing fan bases and may have larger budgets for media spends. That just means you may have to be more creative and work harder to reach the same audiences.

3. Social media is already helping your competition
Your archrivals already jumped into social media and are way ahead. You’ll need to get with the program and escalate quickly before it’s too late.

4. Social media is searchable
Consumers are looking for your products and services. Social media can affect organic Google search results as well as be an entry point to your website, microsite or promo page.

5. Social media content is shareable
A vital part of social media is creating and sharing content like videos, articles, photos, graphics and social media updates.

6. Social media allows for real-time feedback and interaction
Through the process of creating content, sharing and interacting, you’ll learn what’s important to your consumers. This builds brand and product loyalty as you discuss new ways of doing things better and measure response along the way.

7. Social media is measurable
Since the real bottom line is always going to be sales, social media measurement can help your boss and partners determine which actions and reactions are leading to increased sales.

8. Social media lives forever and is more cost effective
Videos, photos, LinkedIn updates, tweets, etc. stay online and in Google results for a very long time. But unlike print ads that are thrown away, social media content stays online, working for you and reducing the overall per-unit spend over time.

9. Social media is one click away from the buy button
Properly set up and executed, consumers should never be more than one click away from the opportunity to buy – or at least learn more about – the product or service you are selling.

10. Social media marketing involves selling, not just playing around
Social media initiatives and daily interaction should revolve around clear objectives and calls to action to create an environment in which consumers can easily purchase.

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Doctors Use Social Media For Continuous Medical Education

Doctors Use Social Media For Continuous Medical Education | Social Media and Healthcare |

By rebranding what they do on blogs and Twitter, advocates of Free Open Access Medical Education, or #FOAMed, seek to accelerate medical knowledge sharing.

here are serious medical conversations going on every day on Twitter, squeezed in between the celebrity news and the millions posting what they had for lunch. To find them, just search for #FOAMed.

The hashtag refers to the concept of Free Open Access Meducation (medical education), or FOAM, first promoted at the 2012 International Conference on Emergency Medicine in a lecture by Mike Cadogan, an emergency medicine physician, educator and digital media enthusiast from Australia. Frustrated by the resistance of many physicians and medical educators to the serious potential of social media, he decided to rebrand what he and others were doing online as a form of continuing education.

"I'd always seen blogging and podcasting as an amazing medium to use for medical education," Cadogan said in a Skype interview. He saw the rebranding as a way to "get people on board with something they felt was very beneath them."

The past year has seen proliferating use of the hashtag and specialty-specific variants on it (such as #FOAMcc for critical care doctors). While the Twitter feed itself, with its 140-character limit, doesn't lend itself to in deep exploration, it's acting as a carrier wave for broader conversations a click away in blogs, podcasts, videos and video chats. While this information has not gone through the same peer review filters as an article in a medical journal, enthusiasts say it is often more current and useful -- not necessarily for major research findings but as a way to share practical tips on techniques for the everyday practice of medicine.

"We've actively managed to engage a large group of researchers and significant academics who are moving away from writing textbooks and journal articles to doing more in the online arena," Cadogan said. "That's lending a sense of credence to what we're doing."

"The journals are still an essential part of the culture we work in," he allowed, but medical education is starting to be influenced by the open source and open content trends on the Internet, where "you take all the simple stuff, all the basic knowledge, and make it free." As an author of medical textbooks himself, Cadogan has decided it is more productive for him to spend his time blogging than to produce a new edition of one of those books.

Textbooks tend to be "outdated and expensive," whereas information gleaned from blogs and wikis can be better for fostering a "lifelong learning habit," said Michelle Lin, an associate professor of clinical emergency medicine at the University of California San Francisco and a contributor to the Academic Life in Emergency Medicine blog. Many FOAM enthusiasts will start a blog and use links posted to Twitter as "a means of directing people to their grander thoughts." Because of the growing number of clinical experts participating on Twitter, it can also be a powerful research tool, she said.

FOAM is distinct from the uses of social media for marketing or patient communication. Instead, the focus is on peer-to-peer networking of doctors.

Considered as education, FOAM mirrors what has been going on in other sectors of higher education with open educational resources (OERs) such as free digital textbooks and massive open online courses (MOOCs). At the undergraduate level, OER textbooks and other course materials are often promoted as a tool for lowering the cost of education, but also as a way of keeping instructional videos up to date by making them modular and digital. Although healthcare has some open textbook type projects of its own -- such as WikEM for emergency medicine -- most of the open education momentum is taking place outside of medical school.

While medical blogging and online activity is not new, it has a new focus.

"Really in the last year, it has just sort of exploded," said Haney Mallemat, an assistant professor and member of the department of emergency medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. While medical blogging is not new, the hashtag is useful because doctors use it exclusively for subjects related to medical education, as "a sacred temple" where personal tweets or even discussions of healthcare politics should not intrude, he said. Longer term, he sees potential for the conversation to migrate to Google+, which supports longer posts and other useful features like video Hangouts.

Many of the participating doctors have taken to posting a daily "pearl" (as in, pearl of wisdom), a practice Mallemat has adopted. "Often I'll send out a picture of an X-ray and all I'll say is 'What is the diagnosis?' and later answer with bullet points. In that sense, it is pure education." Social networking among physicians is also an extension of what they do at conferences, where the focus is on "going beyond the textbook" to interacting directly with experts -- but now they can do it all year long, any hour of the day. In yet other cases, Mallemat may encounter a clinical problem he doesn't know how to solve, share it with his network (without patient identifiers), and "instantaneously get responses from around the globe."

"Is that classical medical education? Maybe not, but it's a new way of learning," Mallemat said.

"It's education in the broadest possible sense -- idea dissemination and discussion," said Ryan Patrick Radecki, an assistant professor at the University of Texas Medical School, whose specialties include emergency medicine and informatics. As an educational resource, FOAM materials may be particularly useful to physicians around the world whose hospitals may not have the budget to subscribe to all the relevant journals, he said.

Partly because it was first promoted at an emergency medical conference by an emergency medical physician, FOAM's center of gravity is very much in emergency medicine, although Cadogan said he also sees it taking off among general practitioners, pediatricians and others. Urology and cancer physicians are also starting to pay attention. One reason emergency physicians have a strong interest might have to do with their "short attention span and need to have answers quickly, with a large number of topics covered." An emergency room doctor needs to understand a little of all specialties, never knowing who might come in the door, he said. "They're also willing to discuss things far more openly and far more open to being wrong" and accepting new evidence that there is a better way to do something, he said.

FOAM has just advanced to the point where practitioners are starting to ask more serious questions, such as who is to blame for medical errors inspired by unreliable information from an online source, Cadogan said. Yet information in professional journals can be just as unreliable, or even fraudulent, he said, and doctors need to hone their critical thinking skills for all the information they consume.


As a polymath who writes software code in addition to practicing medicine and teaching, Cadogan is working on a new website that would correlate the best medical information available in social media. His first cut at that problem was the Global Medical Education Project (GMEP) website. He is particularly interested in organizing medical images that can be used for teaching purposes. Medical privacy rules have complicated the process of obtaining images to write about, and procedures for obtaining proper consent from patients are just now being solidified, he said. A library of images obtained in keeping with the rules and available under Creative Commons licensing would help solve that problem, he said.


Meanwhile, he sees FOAM as an "initial foray into collaborative education." Some of the trends sweeping through the rest of higher education are starting to make their way into medical school, such as the concept of a "flipped classroom" where students view video lectures and do most of their studying online, shifting the emphasis in classroom time from lecturing to discussing the material. Even though this approach is not officially sanctioned by the medical schools where he teaches, probably 90 out of 100 students in the lecture hall will have studied in advance.


"Now it's not two minutes of question time at the end of the lecture -- they want 20 minutes lecture time -- and that change has become wildly apparent over last 12-18 months," Cadogan said. "If you're sitting in a lecture hall to learn, you're not doing it right anymore."

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