Social Media – Hold the Presses and Get a Grip

Editor’s note: This article was written by guest blogger Anthony Cirillo, FACHE, ABC, a healthcare marketing and experience management expert and expert guide in assisted living for For more information about the author, please see our About page.

Everybody is going gaga over social media and, I have to admit, I am very involved. But, as I told attendees at the Cleveland Clinic Patient Summit, using the social media in healthcare is drastically different than other industries.

First, we are marketing something that people do not want. We can’t issue a Groupon that says “Buy one nursing home day, get the second free. Act now.”

A CEO I am working with has been struggling with the whole social media thing. So I tried to really skinny it down for him. Here is my take on how healthcare should use the social media.

Facebook – most people are looking for deals, coupons, etc from services and products that they use on an ongoing basis – think restaurants, retail. So it is not a perfect fit for healthcare. However, to the extent that you can build communities of people based on their affinity – caregiver community, Alzheimer’s community, weight loss community, diabetes community – that would help. And for everyone else, it is not about what you do as an organization but about what you share that can help him or her live a healthier life.

You Tube – picking up from the last line above, people will care less about viewing a procedure or process as they will care if your activity professional produces a video on activities elders can do at home to promote quality of life. Provide information people can use. Over time they will remember who provided it and think of you when they need what you offer.

Twitter – the best use is to use one of the many Twitter tools out there and monitor mentions of your company. That is what Comcast does for their company and they identify customer service issues immediately. So using it in service recovery is becoming essential. A family caregiver leaves your facility and tweets about something that went wrong. You can deal with it immediately.

But you can also use these for breaking news that really has an impact and to create flash mobs at events or even in advocacy efforts. Take a cue from the following recent event.

A flash mob of dancers dressed as grey-haired senior citizens recently hit New York City’s Times Square to draw attention to long-term care insurance. Members danced a choreographed waltz in pairs, while a string quartet accompanied them. After the waltz, the dancers tore off their costumes and began a swing dance number. Following the dancers, an eldercare expert addressed a small crowd of spectators and spoke about the increased need for seniors to purchase long-term care insurance.

The mob was sponsored by non-profit group 3in4 Need More, which focuses on long-term care advocacy and the need for LTC insurance.

And that is how you use the social media!

Oh and to watch that video, click here.


  1. Cam Micules

    Hi MacKenzie,

    I’ve spoken about the virtues of social media to LTC-folk at a few industry events too and am finding that more and more LTC centres are starting to delve into Twitter to keep tabs on things, but very few go so far as to create a Facebook page for a number of reasons, not the least of which is finding a resource to dedicate to managing it.

    One thing I stress in my talks is the importance of STRATEGY. Social Media is a marketing function, and without a strategy with clearly defined metrics of success, it’s just something else to do.

    You bring up some good points on not using the tools to “sell” something per se, but I see the tools as a way to promote the lifestyle of an organization, for both residents and staff.

    Golden Living has a great facebook presence with lots of videos of their staff speaking very highly of the organization, and from an HR perspective, this is a huge opportunity for GL to promote a positive recruitment strategy. They also post lots of photos of facility events, also illustrating their focus on building culture and loyalty.

    I disagree with you on the opportunity posed by Groupon, though. Clearly a skilled nursing facility can’t offer a BOGO on therapy days or incontinence supplies, but why not promote a special dinner fundraising event where the proceeds go to upgrading something within the facility? New lifts, point of care kiosks, a redesign of the activities room?

    Record the event, post the results to YouTube/Vimeo and link those to your Facebook account that auto-feeds to your twitter… Groupon might not be the best tool for the job (as you would be losing the effectiveness of the fundraiser by discounting the cost of entry), but why not an email campaign to families or a foursquare promotion?

    There is a lot of room to grow in social media for Long-Term Care, and hopefully with your efforts, we will see some new trends appearing on our tweetdecks! #LTCFF

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