We often hear from our healthcare clients "We have to have a blog." or "We have to be on Facebook." "Can you go ahead and setup that up us?" The answer is always "Yes, but why?" At this point, I usually receive a blank stare or long pause. The reason for my question is not to play mental judo with my colleagues. Rather, it starts an essential dialogue about how to effectively implement social media within a healthcare organization, whether it is a medical association, not-for-profit, or university.
I recently presented at the Alliance for Continuing Medical Education on the results of a brief social media survey that Alicia Sutton and I conducted with members of the Alliance's "Medical Education and Communications Companies Alliance" section (full results will be released in the near future). I was struck by our finding that of the 51% of respondents who use social media for CME, 71% said they used Twitter. So I asked the audience if anyone could share an example of how they were successfully using Twitter in their organization. To my surprise, not one person raised their hand.
Social media tools, such as Facebook, blogging, Twitter, and LinkedIn, can be effective in achieving a variety of goals. However, if you cannot easily answer the question as to"Why?" your organization needs or are using these tools, than you probably are not thinking strategically about social media. Selecting a technology without understanding your target audiences social demographics and defining measurable objectives and strategies is putting the proverbial "cart before the horse" and decreases the likelihood that your social media efforts will be successful. You see, just having a Twitter or a blog account does not usually equate to social media success. You must think strategically about social media and have it become part of your organizational DNA.
I use a hybrid of the POST Methodology developed by Josh Bernoff of and Charlene Li when working with organizations. The POST Method stands for "People, Objectives, Strategy, and Technology" and forces people to think systematically and critically about what is the most appropriate strategy for their particular organizational goals and objectives. While it is a simple acronym, I do find resistance to adopting a step wise approach especially among C-level people who just want to get going. To address this, I expand the discussion to look the importance of resource allocation to support the initiative, examine current bottlenecks in existing Web initiatives, and pain points within the organization. I find that this hybrid approach helps to illuminate some potential barriers and the commitment required to implementing a successful social media strategy. As a consequence, people seem more willing to engage in the process because, in the end, no one wants to fail.
Below is an excellent presentation created by the Altimeter Group. It is part of a three-part Webinar series on developing social media strategies. You can learn more about the series at Web-Strategist.com