Measuring Social Media Success in Healthcare

26May10

As a member of the social media team for a large health care network, one member of our group asked the poignant question about how to measure success in social media. Measuring social media ROI in an intensely regulated industry that is designed to keep data locked away is not simple task. First and foremost, in healthcare it is a difficult thing to measure a direct conversion from your online initiative to patient status. And in a not-for-profit environment the goals of health care aren’t directly tied to profit margins at all. Yet, we’ve all heard the phrase “without a margin there is no mission.” There are many areas of healthcare that can contribute to a margin, some of which include direct patient treatment, clinical trials, referrals, home healthcare, etc.

Early in our social media discussions on a conference call regarding the development of social media guidelines, a small workgroup on the issue came to the conclusion that measuring ROI really depends on your goal, and in turn what a response looks like from your target audience.  Knowing those two critical pieces of information will play a key role in helping you define your success.

Measuring direct ROI is a little tougher than in other sales-related endeavors in other industries because the source of the sale may be the Twitter follower’s physician referral of which you may never be aware. So try to measure your ROI by working from your facility’s strategic objectives down to the tactical measures you employ to get there, and this is where you determine your audience as well. Then at regular intervals look holistically at your progress using measurable data points.

If indeed a goal is to increase margins in some way, then you have to define what a conversion looks like for that target audience for that goal. If it’s physicians referring patients, maybe you measure ROI on how many physicians follow your Twitter posts. If you’re trying to stand out in your market with a new leading edge medical device, such as a Cyber Knife, maybe the measure of success is how many members of the community respond to a Facebook event that showcases the device at an open house. Maybe you measure ROI more indirectly by measuring how many “conversations” are taking place on your social media sites. Essentially though, to coin a worn out phrase from LA Fitness, “what gets measured gets improved.” So whatever your goal is, you need real data to be able to measure your return on investment.

My final point is that social media alone is not Nirvana. You must combine this medium with traditional efforts you do at your facilities all the time. Find a creative way to marry social media with important initiatives like community education, patient satisfaction, physician recruitment and any other activity that does not violate patient privacy to further your goals.

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