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Childrens Hospital of Boston: A Successful Hospital Social Media Example

Lauren Zuzelski.

Prior to working at Ignite Social Media, I worked at Brogan & Partners, an ad agency that specializes in Healthcare marketing.  One thing that I noticed while working there was how scared the majority of our clients were to become active in the world of social media.  They would say it was too risky – mainly with HIPPA rules and patient confidentiality.  This is understandable to a point, but when you consider the fact that 34% of consumers use social media to research health information and the fact that we know word of mouth is the most trusted form of marketing … it seems too risky not to be involved.

Working at Ignite Social Media now, I still keep tabs on the healthcare world.  Recently, I’ve noticed that while social media is slowly being implemented throughout the healthcare market, there are few that seem to really understand how to leverage the different social media tools to help spread the message of their brand. One area though that seems to be excelling in implementing it into their marketing mix are local children’s hospitals.  So, in hopes that other hospitals will begin to understand how they can leverage some of the tools, I have taken a deep look at a local children’s hospital that, in my opinion, is using social media well.

Children’s Hospital Boston has found a way to leverage social media – HIPPA and all.  Their website is easy to navigate and includes a “Connect with Us” tab that calls out all of the social media tactics they are leveraging, complete with an easy to find and a very straight-forward social media policy:

“We welcome and encourage open discussion on Children's Hospital Boston's social media sites - including but not limited to our blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube pages and online story-sharing forums - and look forward to any comments, stories and experiences you want to share.
That said, we do make reasonable efforts to monitor participation to ensure that you stay on topic, are courteous and avoid making offensive comments. Please remember that information posted on any of our social media platforms shouldn't be considered medical advice and shouldn't replace a consultation with a health care professional.
Please be aware that once you post something online, there's the potential for thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of people to read your words, even years from now. As a result, we suggest that you exercise caution when posting medical information on any of our social media sites and that you not disclose personal identifiable information like your location, medical record number, financial information, etc.”

Wow – smart.  Noting, they are not liable, they do not endorse the material, etc.  For anyone in the healthcare field, this is a great way to establish your policy and to get out of any legal implications.  If you want more information to better understand the rules for establishing a HIPPA-Compliant Social Media Strategy, check out the blog from Hive Strategies.  It does a great job at outlining the step-by-step process to begin.

Now, let’s get into the meat of their social platforms.

Facebook Landing Page

Instantly, I’m impressed – a hospital with over 515,000 followers.  Their landing page includes content that I really wanted to read.  But wait, they wouldn’t share the content with me until I was a fan.  It’s what we call a fan-gate and it works really well in converting users to fans.  It could possibly be one of the reasons that they have so many fans already.   I also love when brands point out the like button, not that users really need to know where it is, but it does act as a stronger call to action.  And how can you resist this cutie!?

Facebook Wall

Their wall is loaded with content with which many fans engage and has a great deal of raw wall chatter.  I can only assume that those that are fans with Children’s of Boston, probably have a personal tie, thus are very passionate about their brand.  Here’s a great sample of them leveraging their wall – posting a “photo of the week.”

You can see it got 155 comments and over 1,000 users liked the post.  This is something that giant brands aim for, but usually fall short.

Facebook Suggest to Friends Tab

Clearly, Children’s Hospital Boston understands that in order to spread the message of their brand, they need help.  So, why not come right out and ask?  Their “Suggest to Friends” tab does just that by asking fans to help them help kids.  One thing here that I would really like to see though is a reason with the call to action.  How is suggesting a page to a friend going to do that?  Perhaps they should think about some type of cause or action to tie it to.  Perhaps “help us get 10,000 new fans and we will donate 1,000 new books to the CHB library”, or something along those lines.  It’s amazing how some type of cause or reward will inspire users to spread the message – especially with a fan base that is already so large and engaged.

Twitter Page

Their Twitter page is managed well too.  The page is branded and consistent with their other outlets, it’s updated often and includes lots of news and info on what’s happening with the hospital.  They are also using this space to spread information on fundraising opportunities that are upcoming.  I do think there is some potential for growth and that Twitter would offer them a space to brand themselves as the “Children’s Expert.”  They could really leverage that and provide more in-depth information, clinical results, etc.

YouTube Page

It doesn’t seem that CHB is using their YouTube page as much as Facebook and Twitter, but they do have a good, branded presence.  Their featured video highlights a look into a family’s story and the rare disease their son has.  Content that is relevant to their audience.  I would like to see more videos like this, as we know that video content ranks high in search engines.  Since they are a research hospital, this would also be a great place to house some of that content – Dr. talks, research learning’s, etc.

Overall CHB has truly done an awesome job at incorporating social media into their marketing efforts.  It’s really hard for a hospital to understand how to start, where to start, the limitations, etc.  But CHB has done their research, set guidelines and become an active voice while really engaging their fan base.  I’m excited to watch them grow and to see where they take it next. With such a competitive market, social media opens a gate for a select few to really stand out and separate themselves and CHB has proven itself a front runner.
Have you seen any other successful hospital or healthcare social media platforms?


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Comments
  • Deb Wood

    Good article Lauren!

  • http://www.hivestrategies.com Dan Hinmon

    Great post, Lauren. Children's Hospital of Boston is definitely leading the way. You've done a really nice job of showing how their efforts are paying off. And thanks for the link to Hive Strategy's HIPAA information. It's now available as an eBook at this link: http://www.hivestrategies.com/what-we-think/.

  • http://www.hivestrategies.com Dan Hinmon

    Great post, Lauren. Children's Hospital of Boston is definitely leading the way. You've done a really nice job of showing how their efforts are paying off. And thanks for the link to Hive Strategy's HIPAA information. It's now available as an eBook at this link: http://www.hivestrategies.com/what-we-think/.

  • Nicole Bump

    Thanks for this great case study! I've also done some extensive research of Children's Hospital Boston's social media presence. While they have done very well with the things that you've highlighted, there are also some things you've missed and some things that could be improved upon.

    Firstly, Children's also has a hugely successful pediatric blog, called "Thrive". This blog is heavily integrated on the website and other social media sites, and it also promotes the brand site and other social media sites. While falling somewhat behind "Thrive", their science and innovation blog, "Vector", also does very well for a hospital blog.

    Secondly, Children's does a GREAT job with patient stories. Many of their YouTube videos, Facebook posts, blog posts, etc. utilize the real patients with emotional stories. If you do some counting, you'll notice that these stories generate some of the most engagement of all types of posts. More hospitals need to get on board with this effective strategy.

    However, Children's has MANY Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages, a good handful of which are in sore need of some maintenance. Also, several of the blogs are not updated as often and/or do not get as much engagement as a blog should. All of these outlets are still prominently displayed on the "Social Media Home" pages of the website.

    So again...while Children's has done a great job with some things, it's important to consider where they can improve so that other organizations can learn from their mistakes, as well as their strengths. For example, Children's would do well to monitor all of their pages and outlets more regularly and encourage those individuals maintaining them to do so more often. Perhaps some training or guidance is needed by page admins. If that's not possible, perhaps they should consider getting rid of pages/outlets that are not maintained.

  • Nicole Bump

    Thanks for this great case study! I've also done some extensive research of Children's Hospital Boston's social media presence. While they have done very well with the things that you've highlighted, there are also some things you've missed and some things that could be improved upon.

    Firstly, Children's also has a hugely successful pediatric blog, called "Thrive". This blog is heavily integrated on the website and other social media sites, and it also promotes the brand site and other social media sites. While falling somewhat behind "Thrive", their science and innovation blog, "Vector", also does very well for a hospital blog.

    Secondly, Children's does a GREAT job with patient stories. Many of their YouTube videos, Facebook posts, blog posts, etc. utilize the real patients with emotional stories. If you do some counting, you'll notice that these stories generate some of the most engagement of all types of posts. More hospitals need to get on board with this effective strategy.

    However, Children's has MANY Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages, a good handful of which are in sore need of some maintenance. Also, several of the blogs are not updated as often and/or do not get as much engagement as a blog should. All of these outlets are still prominently displayed on the "Social Media Home" pages of the website.

    So again...while Children's has done a great job with some things, it's important to consider where they can improve so that other organizations can learn from their mistakes, as well as their strengths. For example, Children's would do well to monitor all of their pages and outlets more regularly and encourage those individuals maintaining them to do so more often. Perhaps some training or guidance is needed by page admins. If that's not possible, perhaps they should consider getting rid of pages/outlets that are not maintained.

  • Mark Miller

    Take a look at Children's National Medical Center, whose Twitter feed (@childrenshealth) has more followers than any hospital other than the Mayo Clinic and St. Jude. (Disclaimer: I lead social media for Children's National.) -- Mark Miller

  • Mark Miller

    Take a look at Children's National Medical Center, whose Twitter feed (@childrenshealth) has more followers than any hospital other than the Mayo Clinic and St. Jude. (Disclaimer: I lead social media for Children's National.) -- Mark Miller

  • Lauren

    Nicole - Thanks for the feedback. I did see their blog as well, but wanted to really focus in on their other outlets, but do think it's good to point out. And I think CHB should take your other notes and run with them!

  • Lauren

    Mark - I will check those out. Thanks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kelvin-Chen/100002140397692 Kelvin Chen

    oh that was a great ......thank you.................http://www.green4care.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kelvin-Chen/100002140397692 Kelvin Chen

    oh that was a great ......thank you.................http://www.green4care.com

  • http://twitter.com/wendysoucie Wendy Soucie

    This is a great analysis of Children's Hospital of Boston. I would agree that healthcare organizations are either all in or all out for social media. One all in is Mayo Clinic and Lee Aase who heads up the social media effort there. I think Mayo started with content that was already out there (TV and Radio) and now with some history, they are creating more and more new content. Here in Madison WI it seems the Healthcare organizations are all out! When I ask for speakers, or if they would like to share to our local Social Media Breakfast Madison group - they cite HIPPA and run away fast. Obviously, they have not thought about strategically how social media should fit in with global, or even regional objectives.

    @Wendysoucie
    xeesm.com/wendysoucie

  • http://twitter.com/wendysoucie Wendy Soucie

    This is a great analysis of Children's Hospital of Boston. I would agree that healthcare organizations are either all in or all out for social media. One all in is Mayo Clinic and Lee Aase who heads up the social media effort there. I thinnk they started with content that was already out there and now with some history are creating more and more new content. Here in Madison WI it seems the Healthcare organizations are all out! When I ask for speakers, or if they would like to share to our local Social Media Breakfast Madison group - they cite HIPPA and run away fast.

    @Wendysoucie
    xeesm.com/wendysoucie

  • http://www.hivestrategies.com Dan Hinmon

    Great points, Nicole. I think one great lesson here is to make sure you add social media tools as you are sure you have the staff and time to maintain each one. Blogs that publish infrequently and outdated information send an uncertain signal to readers and actually discourage participation.

  • http://twitter.com/KIDDERUPDATES Jonathan Kidder

    Awesome Examples Lauren!!!!

  • http://twitter.com/KIDDERUPDATES Jonathan Kidder

    Awesome Examples Lauren!!!!

  • liztunheim

    Lauren - this is super helpful information in my search for good info on this case study.  Thanks for pulling together and sharing!

  • http://twitter.com/LizTunheim Liz Tunheim

    Lauren - this is super helpful information in my search for good info on this case study.  Thanks for pulling together and sharing!

  • Jennifer

    Hi all,
    I work for a healthcare system and have just beed given the task of developing a social media plan. Does anyone have a sample that has worked well for your organization?

  • Jennifer

    Hi all,
    I work for a healthcare system and have just beed given the task of developing a social media plan. Does anyone have a sample that has worked well for your organization?

  • http://www.adiamor.com/Affinity-Collection affinity diamonds

    You did a great job in treating my family there in Boston..thanks.

  • http://www.medicaltranscriptionjobs.org Medical Transcription Jobs

    You did a great job in treating my family there in Boston..thanks.