Guest Post: Reasons Why Some Health Orgs Should Not Use Social Media

This is the second in a series of regular guest posts from the fabulous members of the #hcsm community. Interested in writing a post for #hcsm? Email me. This week, Julian Bond revisits a recent #hcsm topic: why some organizations in health care should not use social media.


A few weeks ago, an interesting question was asked during a #hcsm chat: Who should NOT use social media in health? (i.e. how health care organizations/individuals should  know when the use of social media is good strategy vs. not using it at all). The conversation amongst the group was a very interesting one with this topic and had me thinking about my own personal thoughts on reasons why a group/individual should not put their resources into using the mediums within social media.

Essentially, you should not use social media in health care if…

1)     You plan on using social media just for marketing and nothing else

As with non-health care related companies as well, one shouldn’t look at social media as just another marketing vehicle to promote their product(s) or services. While it is definitely a helpful marketing tool if used correctly, social media can also backfire because of regular viewers easily noticing pages that solely do marketing-related posts from a mile away and as a result will not fully support if they see no other unique content in the form of conversations and thoughts.

2)     You don’t have time to commit to regular use of social media

The biggest “social media sin” that I’ve often seen with organizations and their social media presence is with one creating a Facebook/Twitter page only to NEVER regularly update it with posts. In general, it takes one not even 5-10 minutes to quickly create a page for their organization. But yet many make the mistake in not realizing that it then takes a good amount of time every single week to continuously maintain and update the same page for its viewers. In short…no new content…no new viewers. There’s nothing more displeasing than visiting an organization’s Twitter site to see that their last post was on “October 1…2009”!

3)     You aren’t willing to hold regular conversations with online community

As silly as this may sound (and I’ve learned this lesson myself a good long while ago), often people/organiztions with social media sites forget to put the “social” in their social media reach. This meaning that if you’re using one of many forms of social media including blogs, Twitter, and Facebook, and you’re not actually having regular one-on-one conversations with the people you are aiming your content towards, then you are missing the entire point of social media in the first place. Sure some major organizations could think that they could get away with just blasting out information that their consumers “need and want”, but in the end if they aren’t being “social” then they’re missing out on a huge portion of those who don’t just want info but also actually want to be “social” with them.


Julian Bond is Social Media/Marketing Manager for the Detroit Medical Center, where he helps lead social media efforts and outreach in Metro Detroit, Michigan. These efforts include helping develop the DMC Blog, DMC Social Media home site, and maintaining the individual Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr sites for the Detroit Medical Center.

Note: the views and opinions expressed in this post are Julian’s alone and do not represent official opinions of DMC.

  1. Very interesting post, especially the third point. It’s been my experience that healthcare companies are hesitant to engage in social media due to the fear of privacy and that once the channel is opened, some patients will use it to send PHI or ask questions that can’t be immediately answered. So I have worked with companies that have refused to start discussions and participate in conversation with followers. As a result, the following of their accounts have grown very slowly. It just reiterates that they either need to bend a little, or abort the involvement in social media entirely.

  2. Great post Julian! I particularly love your first point – You plan on using social media just for marketing and nothing else. We see so much of that and none of it adds to our deeper connection to health and wellness resources.

    Thanks for sharing your great thoughts!

  3. Love the post! As a public health grad student, with a focus in health communications and a particular interest in new/social media, the information here and the questions raised in the first post of this series are things I’ve been giving a lot of thought.

    Related to the idea of using social media for more than just marketing (and a question that could be added to the list presented in the first post of this series), I’d ask – how can public health agencies (and governments) use social media to *empower* those they are trying to help?

    One example I heard about recently in the field of urban planning – the mayor’s office of new urban mechanics here in Boston, whose projects include “Participatory Chinatown”, a 3D video game that involves the community in the urban planning/development of the community they live in.

    Public health agencies need to stop treating social media as a one way marketing tool and start this kind of innovative thinking that will empower people and improve the health of communities.

  1. September 22nd, 2010

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