Have you lost the social media turf war to your patients?

Remember as kids trying to see how many bumble bees you could catch in a jar before you panicked and they all got lose? You couldn’t get the top all the way on and all of a sudden dozens of bees exited the jar as you raced across the field of clover. That’s how patients are. You try and catch as many as you can, but once they get out it’s over. So, here we go again. Social networking. We’ll get there in a moment.

For those old enough to remember the seventies, what are you able to recall about high school? If you’re like me, much of it’s selective. The web seems to be changing some of that. Classmates.com. Facebook. Ever notice how there are no rules? Anyone can get to anyone else. Unhindered. Uninvited.

There are those who never grew up, and there are those who never grew older–there’s a difference. Sometimes it’s a good thing. Like for instance trading emails with the girl in the red velvet dress, the one with whom you first slow danced in the ninth grade.

Then there’s the other side to the social networking coin. A darker side. Unless you happened to be among the minutia of students who gambolled care freely down the crowded halls during those four years believing that the school year book should only contain your picture, graduating high school gave you your out, gave you permission to euphemistically bury the bourgeoisie who needed burying. People who, when you were eighteen wouldn’t put you out if you were on fire, the very people who probably set you ablaze, now knock digitally on your facebook door asking to befriend you. Did I miss something here? The part where my fabebook-buddy-wannabe says, “Now that we’re grownup, forget I was a jerk in high school, ignore the fact that I was dumber than a bowl of mice”—sounds like I may have missed one or two of my twelve-step meetings. Recovery is progressing well—really.

Just because a hospital is paranoid doesn’t mean their customers don’t hate them. Poltergeists. The undead. The kind of customers you’d hope you’d never hear from. And yet, those are the very ones who bother to write about their experience. They Twitter, and blog, and YouTube your organization. Don’t take my word for it.  Run a search and see what you find.  More is being said about you than you are saying about yourself.  That means you are losing the social media turf war, you don’t control the high ground or the conversation.

Patients come back and haunt deliberately. Their haunts are reflected in lower satidfaction, fewer repeat visits, and higher churn. Isn’t technology great?

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