Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Muliple Social Media Pages -vs- Single Brand Presence

A colleague of mine recently returned from a Ragan social media / health care conference with a question that was asked during the session where she was on the panel.

The question: Why does your hospital develop multiple Facebook and Twitter accounts versus one single account?

There are a lot of reasons why we do it that way. I am not saying it is the right way or the wrong way, it is just what works best for us. Our way might not work for you but here is a little insight into our thinking.

I've done a bit of digging and discovered that our communications/marketing department structure internally is different from other hospitals. Communications is not especially centralized here, it happens all over the institution. Our communications office is in the building across the street from our internet content team, and you have to get on a shuttle bus to get to our marketing team. There are also people with communications, web and, marketing duties sitting in departments all over the institution. We also have over 300 web content editors for our website that sit in over 100 different departments. Needless to say, people here are used to owning their own content. Again, not saying it's right or wrong, that's just how it is.

Customizing your content for the audience is a nice thing to do. It is nice to be able to share one message with a prostate cancer survivor, and a different message with parents of a child with cancer. If we have enough content to serve an audience fully, we can customize the content to the audience. If you look around at our pages, one of our most popular Facebook pages is not about cancer treatment at all.

When we began deciding how we would do this, we realized that social media is also about individual voices we are comfortable in letting the experts handle their area of expertise. Some of our early social media strategy inspirations were in the news media. CNN, Wall Street Journal and PBS. These brands allowed you to subscribe to only the content that was of interest to you. I liked that idea.

So now our office of physician relations manages their own twitter feed. They share information, and have conversations with physicians that would not be authentic coming from me, someone in the communications office. Those conversations frankly would not happen if they were not having them. I am only one person, and I just don't have that kind of bandwidth or inside knowledge of the business they do in that area of the institution. We train them, educate them on the guidelines and we work together. The community of social media project managers here is pretty tight knit, and supportive of each other.

It's really not a very different approach to what other large hospitals do. One hospital I know of that has a large social media presence chooses to create multiple blogs, for various audiences, and keeps their social media presence simple. Currently we only have one public blog. I'm sure their approach has something to do with their culture too. Perhaps they have more staff with the ability to write and manage blog content, where we have more that dig social media, maybe they just have a different content strategy, or their communications goals are different. Who knows?

I think the decision on how to approach your social media engagement should be made based on your individual organization. It has a bit to do with how you are already working together, what your communications culture is currently comfortable with and how much / what kind of information you have to share with your audience.