I’m sure most of you have heard of Twitter, the microblogging social media service that allows users to send and view up to 140 characters. Unless a “tweet” is protected (whereas only registered users of a certain group can see the information), “tweets” are otherwise public and available real-time to anyone. Once you sign up for a Twitter account, you can “follow” people, organizations, government offices, and even the White House. Some of you might have heard of Twitter being used by celebrities to put forth information about their “excursions” . . . while others might have heard how effective of a tool it was during several recent Mid East revolutions (in Egypt and Tunisia, for example). Suffice it to say, Twitter also actually has several implications in healthcare. In fact, as a free platform that is easily accessible and managed in desktop and mobile environments, Twitter has several diverse applications within an organization.
As a healthcare marketer, I’ve found Twitter to be very useful in a variety of capacities. As a service recovery tool, we find it important to “listen” to our audience, and in the event a patient or family member has a complaint or acknowledgement of our organization on Twitter, we will respond (either directly or through the Twitter interface) as appropriate. Airlines have teams of people deployed just to listen and respond to complaints, questions, etc. on Twitter. Delta has a dedicated Twitter account (@DeltaAssist) where customers can: answer questions about Delta policy and procedures, assist with lost baggage, rebook a canceled flight, and help customers affected by general service failures. From a press management standpoint, Twitter is also a widely used tool to disseminate information directly to members of the media. At Atlanta Medical Center, we have had a tremendous amount of success pitching positive stories via Twitter. Most media organizations have Twitter accounts (as does the site of this blog, the AJC) and use these them to publish, and gather, information. Twitter is also a great way to converse with community members and key stakeholders. At a press event we held earlier this week, someone from the Mayor’s office let me know that she heard about our event through Twitter, which prompted her attendance.
Twitter’s reach extends far beyond hospital walls, however. The CDC uses Twitter as part of its Environmental Public Health Tracking Network to provide data to its query and mapping system about changes and trends in health conditions across the country, all the way down to the county level. Twitter is also a powerful resource that emergency personnel can use during a weather catastrophe or emergency response situation. Kevin Pho, MD, a highly regarding expert on social media in healthcare, describes a scenario where real-time tweets in a potential mass casualty situation provided “much more accurate up-to-the-second information on what was going on through the many eyes of the Twitter users, than what was received from official paramedic and police channels.”
The reach of Twitter, because of its brevity and ease of use, is profound. A great resource for starters can be found via this link to Mashable, a well-respected online social media guide and news source. There are several subject matter experts across many disciplines of healthcare that use Twitter to share information. HealthFlock blogger Bart Foster, CEO of SoloHealth, uses Twitter not only to gather information for his business, but as a resource to help drive value as part of a digital media strategy.
I encourage readers of this blog to use Twitter – even as a resource for your particular trade. Follow the HealthFlock blog via Twitter. Twitter is not just another social media flavor of the month, and if used and deployed properly, it can be a great organizational asset.
You can follow us on Twitter @AtlMedCtr.