This is the first in a series of posts on the use of social media, particularly Facebook, by hospitals and healthcare institutions. We’ll start out by looking at the current condition of Facebook use. In subsequent posts we’ll delve into content, costconnections and engagement and, finally, how all of these things impact the bottom line. [To download the expanded white paper on this topic, click here.]


Capturing Facebook’s Pulse

Facebook—the community and our use of it—is growing and evolving at light speed. It shows no sign of slowing, therefore any assessments must be tempered by a recognition that trends and status of usage are always on the verge of changing. This environment offers unparalleled opportunities, but also the hazards of “flying blind.” For now, the best investment is in participation and learning as this communication channel grows. One of the few constants is the need to participate.


Evolving Adoption

Social media use is now ubiquitous. According to Facebook:

  • It has more than 600 million active users.
  • Half of those users log on to Facebook each day.
  • The average user has 130 friends.
  • Facebook users spend over 700 billion minutes/month on Facebook!

Business has adopted Facebook and Twitter rapidly, with the fastest-growing entrepreneurial US companies the most aggressive adopters of social media, according to Inc. magazine’s annual survey of the 500 fastest-growing companies.[i] Furthermore, that usage increased from 77% in 2008 to 91% in 2009.

In healthcare, Ed Bennett has been tracking hospitals’ use of social media for the past few years on his oft-referenced Found in Cache blog. As of January 2011, according to Bennett’s Hospital Social Network List, of the 5,000+ hospitals in the U.S.:

906 hospitals have …

  • 719 Facebook pages
  • 674 Twitter accounts
  • 448 YouTube channels
  • 439 LinkedIn accounts
  • 106 blogs

… for a total of 2,386 hospital-initiated social networking sites.[ii]

We take Found in Cache as the best estimate of usage. It confirms that the two of the top three social media channels within healthcare are Facebook and Twitter. However, the early adopters and those with the largest fan bases on Facebook are primarily children’s or specialty hospitals. In fact, all but three of the top 10 hospitals on Facebook are children’s hospitals, specialty hospitals, or both!

To get a pulse on social media adoption by other hospitals, consider the 170 small, community and large, academic/university hospitals that we polled—all users of TPR Media’s e-mail service. In March 2010, 55% of these hospitals had Facebook pages; by December, 76% had launched pages, and that number continues to grow.

Changing Social Media Users

On the user side, the fastest-growing segment of Facebook users is women between the ages of 45 and 65.[iii] With women being the primary purchasers of healthcare, this is good news for healthcare providers. Baby boomers and seniors are coming on in huge numbers as well.[iv] This data should bury any lingering myths that social media doesn’t apply to your customers and, therefore, to your business or institution. The details, from Pew Research Center:

  • From April 2009 to May 2010, social networking use among Internet users ages 50-64 grew from 25% to 47%, nearly doubling.
  • Use among those ages 65+ doubled—from 13% to 26%.
  • Social networking use among users ages 18-29 grew by only 13%—from 76% to 86%.[v]

Despite this compelling evidence, a president/COO of a $500 million company recently stated, “I’m not really into Facebook. I don’t use it, but we have it, of course.” Given that Facebook eclipsed Google in 2010 as the most visited website by Americans, garnering over 8% of all website visits in the US,[vi] we all need to actively “get with the program” and make sure we know how it applies to our institution.

Getting on Board

The first corporate use of Facebook was to build brand recognition and customer loyalty. Businesses now also use Facebook as a way to monitor what others are saying about them. In addition, they use it as a means of connecting with their vendors and suppliers, as well as customers.

In healthcare, most are focusing at this early stage of adoption on the business of posting content, figuring out how to attract fans and likes, and doing the counts on post, fans, likes, shares, and comments. For many in healthcare, the thought process regarding this adoption has been:

  • I’m on Facebook.
  • I have plenty to tell visitors/fans about us and what’s new that they might want to know. So I’m posting content frequently and tracking comments, likes, and fans.
  • I need a plan to build my fan base and get folks to interact with us.
  • My content has to work. I have to monitor it regularly and learn from my monitoring and measuring what it’s telling me to adjust in order to refine my posts to optimize my success.
  • Optimizing my success means I need to measure results and how they are impacting my business goals.

While this approach was logical given the circumstance, the focus now must be on a deeper understanding of content, cost, and connections. The rush to participate was the first phase and is well underway. The next phase is to move on to connecting the dots between getting there and being able to see, and document, a return on investment (ROI). Based on this early usage, we can begin to analyze the first glimpse of Facebook’s impact on healthcare organizations. As we move forward, use and impact, as well as our need to assess and document each, will come into clearer focus. These will be key business questions of 2011.

Check back soon as we explore how not all content is created equal and how to make your content work for you.

[i] Study: Inc. 500 CEOs Aggressively Use Social Media for Business, Inc. (2009). Accessed at

[ii] Found In Cache (2010). Accessed at

[iii] Fastest Growing Demographic on Facebook: Women Over 55, Inside Facebook (2009). Accessed at

[iv] Boomers and Social Media, eMarketer (2010). Accessed at

[v] Older Adults and Social Media, Pew Internet (2010). Accessed at /

[vi] Facebook Exceeds Google Monthly Visitors! Oaggle (2010). Accessed at

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

© 2011 TPR Media LLC Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha