7 Tips for Effectively Outsourcing Social Media
Make your outsourced team an extension of your internal team, providing a seamless brand experience for prospective patients and clients
With limited resources available within hospital marketing departments, many hospitals are looking to outsource social media management so staff can focus their time on higher-priority marketing efforts. However, social media is the ongoing face of your organization and it’s important not to dismiss it as a burden that offers no value. With the right relationship and structure, your outsourced team can be an extension of your internal team and utilize social media to leverage your other efforts and continue to grow your health system’s brand. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when outsourcing social media.
1. Explain Value.
Leadership won’t necessarily see the value in a consistent and well-maintained social media presence, so they may be hesitant to approve a budget. But there are countless reasons why your organization should provide content for and monitor social media. One argument for social media is to use it as a tool to reduce health care costs and help manage population health. Social media is a tool to deliver new health information to the public in an efficient way, which can shift public perception about health behaviors and possibly entice action to prevent or treat health issues.
Another reason to be active on social media is to build trust and loyalty with patients and potential patients. A recent FierceHealthcare survey found that 57% of consumers said a hospital’s social media connectionswould strongly affect their decision to receive treatment at that facility. The survey also found that 81% of consumers believe that if a hospital has a strong social media presence, they are likely to be more cutting-edge, creating a halo effect across clinical functions.
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In addition, if you don’t manage your social media presence, it doesn’t mean you won’t have one. Choosing not to be on social media is not an option—consumers choose that for you. People check-in, write complaints and review your health system. If you don’t manage these interactions and contribute to your presence, you are giving permission to your community to manage your brand for you.
There are many other reasons to maintain an active social media presence, but the last that I’ll mention is measurability. Even if every ‘like’ doesn’t convert to a new patient, being able to measure interactions, click-throughs and monitor comments will give your health system insights that you would not have had otherwise. Other than events and screenings, it’s hard to determine a true return on social media investment. However, being able to have a pulse on relevant topics, concerns and your brand’s trends without investing in costly primary research is a huge benefit. It does take someone willing to analyze the data, but if you do, you’ll find trends useful for marketing, operations and clinical applications.
2. Set Expectations.
Your internal team and your social media team should be clear on who is responsible for what and set deadlines for those responsibilities. Establish weekly and monthly timelines, including deadlines for when content is due to the social team and when posts are due for approval prior to posting. We’ve found that a monthly or bimonthly deadline for content to be sent to the social team and weekly deadlines for posts are effective.
3. Convey Priorities.
Especially at the beginning of a new outsourced relationship, it is vital to convey what types of content are important to your organization. Every health system is different based on branding, promotion, recruitment and relationship goals. While your social media strategy should include a variety of content, it should all be developed with your goals in mind.
4. Plan for Flexibility.
Social media is about communicating timely and relevant information, so it’s important to be flexible. And your social media team needs to be willing to be flexible as well. While posts are scheduled to ensure consistent, on-brand messaging, everyone should be open to overriding scheduled posts with new, timelier information. When developing a posting schedule, the social media team should plan ahead for upcoming events to pre-write posts for the various media channels so they can quickly add images from the event to post with little delay, if any.
5. Develop Protocols.
To truly be able to let go and allow your social team to handle social media on your behalf, they need to be empowered to resolve issues and communicate with your followers. It is important to determine up-front approved messaging for standard questions, inquiries and complaints, and your comfort level with positive public interactions to acknowledge or thank followers, for example. Some issues will need to be sent for immediate action by the hospital and that threshold needs to be determined up-front.
6. Determine Paid Media Budget.
Paid advertising is a great way to expand your organization’s reach in order to gain more interactions, followers and awareness for specific events/posts. Your social media team should be able to advise which media outlets would work best based on the target audience and specific messaging. Determine up-front how the paid media budget should be allocated by media type or if the social media team has freedom to allocate a pre-approved budget as they see fit based on that month’s messaging and events. Based on conversations about your goals and which types of posts warrant paid media, the social media team should be able to optimize the budget accordingly.
7. Provide Assets.
To make your social media presence authentic, it’s important to have images including your own staff, events and physicians—not just stock imagery. Allowing followers to see real staff, event photos, their neighbors and community will build loyalty and increase shares of your posts. Provide access to your image library and consistently add new imagery as it becomes available.
Whether you are hiring a new outsourced partner for social media or expanding the responsibilities of an existing marketing agency, communication is key for on-brand, effective social media. As with any task to be delegated, the final output will only be as good as the initial direction provided.
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