January 16, 2017

How to Overcome the Social Media ”Scarries”

“Worst experience ever. Just waited almost two hours to be seen by a doctor—WITH an appointment and the staff acted like they couldn’t care less! Next time, I’ll just drive the extra 20 minutes to XX Health System.”Every hospital has experienced a review like this. And while some receive feedback more often than others, it’s important to empower your team to manage your health system’s online reputation.

At Franklin Street, we call this the “social media scarries.” You know how important social media is for communicating your health system’s brand, but you also know that means opening up to criticism—and at times, that can seem overwhelming to manage. Below are a few tips to help your internal team not only embrace community feedback, but use it to strengthen your health system and most importantly—your future patient experiences.


The double-edged sword of social media is that while you want people to engage, you can’t predict or control how they’re going to. And while no one expects you to be perfect—they do expect you to be accountable when a negative experience occurs. When I’ve had to wait significantly longer than expected or I’ve felt too rushed during an appointment I’d worked hard to schedule, sometimes just the acknowledgement by hospital staff or my doctor is what I need to turn that corner from frustration to empathy.

The same applies to social media.

And the ultimate form of transparency is sincerity. Let people have a voice and feel like they’ve been heard. If we feel like a health system’s motivations are sincere, it immediately creates like and trust—even if we’ve had a less than perfect experience.


Make it easier on your team by developing a process for responding to online engagement with your health system:

  • Assign a designated point-person, team or external partner to track and respond to comments and feedback. This will ensure someone from your team is always accountable and your online reputation is constantly being managed.
  • Monitor your health system’s mentions using Google Alerts, Mention or ViralHeat. Google Alerts is not only free, but it is the most powerful tool you can use to scan mentions of your health system across all forms of media. Mention and ViralHeatare subscription-based platforms that offer more robust reporting analytics and can identify influencers within your audiences. At Franklin Street, we use a similar custom dashboard to keep our collective house in order, as well.
  • Respond—but remember to tread lightly. If someone is complaining specifically about a staff member, specific service or wait times, it might be best to respond, but then move the conversation offline to nurture the issue.


Wait times, hold times, over-whelmed by cost, feeling invisible and unheard—many people feel frustrated and lost within the health care system. This means social media engagement is especially time-sensitive. But social media can also be your opportunity to solve these impressions about your health system. If someone took time out of their day to bring forward an opportunity for your organization to improve, you owe it to them to respond. By hiding or ignoring their honest feedback, you will only escalate the issue and create distrust for your organization.


Negative feedback will happen and when it does, it will be on display for everyone to see. While some negative feedback may be someone just venting, for others, it’s a cry for help. They don’t want to drive further to receive care. They want to be treated at your hospital. But they want you to deliver the care to them that you’ve promised to. So rather than an “I’m sorry you had to wait three hours to be seen at our hospital,” assure them that they’ve been heard and that they’re feedback is a priority. When you really engage and listen, you’ll convert one negative experience into a brand advocate for life. And the next time they share feedback about your health system online, you can bet it will be positive.