Author: Stacey Homan
I have a friend who received a kidney transplant a few months ago. His kidney was donated from another mutual friend; needless to say there were many, many people who wanted frequent updates on how the surgery was going for both individuals. In the past, whenever there had been a surgery, birth or medical issue between my friends, we have been able to keep up with phone calls, e-mails, and texts. But this surgery was different. A Facebook page was created for the kidney, and updates were posted from the kidney’s point of view. It was the first (and only) time I was thrilled to see, “I’m making urine!” as a status update.
Facebook is changing the way we communicate with each other as well as the way brands are able to communicate with customers. Every day I watch my friends ‘like’ certain brands, TV shows/movies, athletes and sports teams. These pages allow the brand to interact with customers on a daily basis, increasing loyalty and exposure. With a new way for our industry to interact with (potential) patients, brand managers must begin to explore the different opportunities Facebook offers to build a community with your patients.
For example, check out a few of the brands you and your friends have ‘liked’ in the past. For me, one of my favorite brands on facebook is REI. For those who don’t know, REI is trying to sell hiking clothes, kayaking equipment, and camping items to me. I belong to their e-mail list as well which sends me the basic e-mails you would expect from a consumer product company: 40% off pants; clearance on summer clothing. But REI’s Facebook page is different. They actively engage their fans with contests and other information, e.g. submit your summer travel pictures wearing brand X’s shoes to win a gift card and tips on recycling. It’s not the actual products they are (overtly) pushing; rather, it’s the experiences you have while wearing/using their goods.
There are examples of this in the healthcare community as well. Patients have started to create pages describing their own surgeries and how their lives have improved as a result. For example, a patient started Bariatric Buddies to describe and gain support for her life after weight loss surgery. Although a relatively small group, a community has been built, and patients are posting to the wall asking and answering questions, telling their stories as well as giving and receiving support.
Think about building a page about all the things patients can do once the knee is replaced or the recovery/physical therapy process–not about your brand of knee replacement. If you have an elective procedure, build your page around the decision-making process. As in the page above, it’s not the Lap-Band that is the main draw, rather the patient’s recovery process which drew so much attention from other patients.
Facebook is becoming the place where your patients are going to look for information and support. Your patients, customers and employees are already on Facebook…when and how will you join them?
Look for an upcoming checklist on how to start a fan page on Facebook in our highly regulated environment!