Social Media Marketing Sarasota Memorial Healthier
Podcast Interview with Peter Taylor
Director of Marketing, Sarasota Memorial Health Care System
Sarasota Memorial is a health care system (hospital) located in Sarasota, FL. I saw Peter Taylor give a presentation at a recent AMA event in Tampa. I remember that Peter pointed out that their name sounds like a funeral home. He said they are a brand people prefer not to use. Most people don’t even want to talk about health care. But, Sarasota Memorial is recognized as one of the best hospitals in Florida. So, how does a marketer get people to engage with a brand they don’t want to engage with?
Peter and the rest of the management team decided they needed to give the community a reason to like them. So, about 18 months ago they embarked on a new social media strategy. They set out to attract people to their brand before the need for health care arises. After all, a medical visit to a hospital is usually not a pleasant experience. You’re usually surrounded by strange people, intimidating technology and you’re forced to dress in a gown that only covers about half your body. Social media presents the opportunity to connect with people in a pleasant, friendly setting. The consumer is in control of the situation and in a much better mood to have a conversation with Sarasota Memorial Hospital (SMH).
Strategic Objective – The Antithesis of a Medical Visit
The strategic objective set was to create a consumer engagement platform. The hospital does an excellent job of taking care of sick people. It’s recognized as one of America’s Best Hospitals by U.S. News & World. They set out to transfer that persona to outside of the care environment. They realized that traditional media campaigns were not within budget reach. Social media allowed SMH to have conversations with people outside the hospital as well as on the inside. The idea is to connect with people before they need health care from SMH. Their social media strategy is designed to be the complete opposite of a hospital visit. Rather than connecting with people when they are in a state of duress, their social media strategy engages people in their own comfortable setting.
The Social Media Strategy Launch Plan
As a public community hospital with very limited budget SMH was not in a position to hire a social media agency to help them. But, SMH was not willing to ignore social media. So they decided to figure it out on their own. A team of 8 committed individuals aligned along their interests with social media. For example, Shawn Halls was well aligned with Twitter due to his communication style. All the social media sites were synchronized with people’s interest. Each became the “CEO ” of each social media platform at SMH.
Opening the Conversations with Twitter
Twitter was turned on first at SMH. They focused on the Sarasota Community. From the beginning, SMH always engaged with people in the community through Twitter. They quickly realized that social media is a 24/7 communication channel. That was an adjustment for the team. Twitter became a good way to get the word out on activities and events. It was eye opening for them to see people responding on Twitter. They quickly had to figure out how to respond to people’s Tweets. They were amazed when some patients even started Tweeting from their hospital beds. That proved to management that social media is a real communication channel. The first evidence of ROI was in “service recovery.” When patients complained about their food (imagine patients complaining about hospital food – gasp!) they reacted quickly to address patient’s complaints heard on Twitter. This level of “customer service” really made a good impression.
SMH found Facebook to be more conversational and visual than Twitter. The SMH business page took some time to get published due to health care privacy compliance requirements. The Facebook page is mostly comprised of the public engaging with SMH. Recently, it became available internally for hospital staff to engage. They needed to establish credibility with their CEO to open it up to staff.
Rather than have people sending out a bunch of emails with links to articles and social media connections, SMH set up a Delicious account and used it as a place to bookmark stories online. It has grown into a repository of content for media and for physicians, as well as the public to get relevant content. No email sends are necessary.
SMH uses Flickr to store photos of the facility and special events. No patient photos! They focus mostly on showing off 13 outpatient centers and special events shared with the public. One side benefit has been a reduction in media calls by 20% simply by hosting photos on Flickr.
Originally, they started out trying to create Hollywood style production videos. But, they took too long to produce and were too costly. They decided to scale it down and now SMH is shooting all video on a Flip camera. They realized that consumers just want authentic conversation.
SMH has an internal blog written by the CEO. Each blog post gets over 2000 visitor sessions with many comments. The Campus Improvement blog is public and gets updated daily with photos and video keeping track of the progress on a new construction project. It’s read well both internally and externally.
Peter’s Advice to Marketing Managers
Peter quickly points out when I asked him his advice to marketers that the most fundamental aspect of a social media strategy is to position your brand in the most authentic way possible. Forget the sizzle. Be real. People want something they can believe in. No hype. It’s that simple. In other words (my words) “humanize your brand.”
I thank Peter Taylor for sharing the SMH story. It’s inspiring to me to witness a health care provider start from scratch in social media and experiment. Their progress in a short amount of time is impressive. I hope you’ll listen to the entire podcast interview with Peter. Just click the play button above.