As healthcare or hospital marketers, we use social media in a variety of ways, such as promoting the services a hospital offers, highlighting its use of advanced technologies, supporting or praising staff, creating social engagement and touting accolades or accreditations. Social media platforms are powerful communications tools, and they have become essential elements within hospital marketing campaigns and daily operations. They provide patients and friends with real-time information and encourages two-way dialogue. Patients, friends, and the public can provide feedback or ask questions and expect to be answered in a timely manner. They can even rate their experiences using a five-star rating system offered by Yelp or Facebook. But what is the correct protocol to follow when someone takes to your social channel and sows discord or even worse – continuously complains across multiple social platforms or uses profanity?
The challenge many hospital marketers have is identifying whether this person is a “Troll” or not, and if so, what is the proper protocol to follow when you have an internet “Troll” on your hands?
According to Wikipedia – In Internet slang, a troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion, often for their own amusement.
Hospital marketers may be tempted to immediately delete a negative post or ban a user on a social channel, but this should only be done in the most extreme cases. If a user posts a comment that includes profanity or is in any way offensive, deleting the post and banning the user is warranted. Overall, the goal in handling negative posts is to remain transparent. Hospital marketers should expect the occasional disgruntled patient or visitor and allow for negative posts. It is how you handle these posts that really matters. Therefore, having a guide to deal with negativity on social media is beneficial. There are many infographics about this topic on the Internet and the ones I find useful are the ones that include an algorithm to follow – such as this “Don’t Feed The Trolls” infographic.
Here are some tips for handling negative posts on your social channels:
Let them know they have been heard. Take their story and feedback seriously and try to help the person if there was an issue with their hospital experience. More often than not, patients complain about billing or are confused with a bill they received. Assure them you are looking into their issue and that someone from patient billing can follow up and try to rectify or explain the issue. Try to be as helpful as possible and be sure to not publicly disclose any patient-related information.
If someone posts about a negative experience they had at a recent appointment, sympathize with them and assure them that this is not the norm at the hospital. Let the person know that a hospital representative will follow up with the service line to let them know about the complaint. Lastly, thank them for their feedback.
Take it offline. Once you have responded to the negative post, ask the person if they would be willing to privately message you with their phone number or email address. From this point on, do not publicly air your conversation. What matters most is that people who read the negative post will see that the hospital cares about its community of patients, followers and friends, accepts feedback, and is responsible and transparent.
Establish a network of hospital administrators you can turn to for help. Questions and complaints posted to your social channels can vary from billing questions or complaints about a negative experience to requests for information on philanthropy or volunteering opportunities. It is helpful to have a network of contacts in various departments you can reach out to for advice on handling a certain situation or looking into a specific patient visit or medical record.
Lastly, make sure to celebrate or recognize success stories! The majority of social posts are positive and many specifically praise a specific physician, nurse or administrator for a job well done. Be sure to share these stories with the person, team or department mentioned. Give them the kudos they deserve – It will surely make their day.