Friday, September 25, 2009

Health System Uses Social Media to Recruit Physicians

Source: Health Leaders Media

Written by Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, September 23, 2009

When Geisinger Health System in Danville, PA, was having trouble recruiting gastroenterologists earlier this year, Cathy Connolley knew it was time for an innovative strategy.

"When recruiting gastroenterologists we traditionally would do print ads in different medical journals and direct mail," says Connolley, Geisinger's associate vice president of marketing. "But this time, we weren't getting the types of responses that we were looking for."

So the Geisinger marketing team worked with Zero-In Recruitment Marketing, a Bloomsburg, PA, firm, to create a social media physician recruitment campaign.

Zero-In began integrating social media into many of their clients' recruitment efforts because it realized that the majority of physicians use the Internet to conduct their job search. According to a 2008 New England Journal of Medicines study, 71% of respondents said they hunted for jobs online. And the popularity of Sermo, a social networking site just for physicians, gives marketers some insight into how doctors spend their time online.

Geisinger wanted to develop a convenient, cost-effective way to communicate with physicians, Connolley says. "So we sat down with Zero-In and they walked us through what it would take to put a Facebook page up and direct gastroenterologists who met the criteria we were looking for to our page—and that tactic outpaced our direct mail approach and our email blasts."

Geisinger and Zero-In launched a Facebook page in January, which includes photos, recruitment event information, and links to the health system's site.

Attracting followers on Twitter
Seaboard Health Care Search, a physician recruitment firm based in Nashville, also worked with Zero-In to promote their brand via social media. But Seaboard focused their efforts on a different channel: Twitter.

"We're in a marketplace that is now shifting to people who are very young," says CEO William Herrington. "I'm always looking at how to position my organization to take advantage and get to physicians-in-training earlier."

Herrington's experience with physicians taught him that they have very little time to keep on top of medical news and other hot topics, so Twitter was the best medium for Seaboard to disseminate that information to busy physicians while building its brand.

The key to building a successful Twitter campaign is to provide people with useful information and not only promote your business, says Todd Cole, recruitment marketing specialist at Zero-In.

"You run a big risk of alienating your population by using social media as sales tools," he says. "We've been using Twitter to share information that's valuable to physicians and physician organizations and making Seaboard's name synonymous with those."

Seaboard's Twitter account posts links to articles that physicians may find interesting from a variety of sources.

"We're trying to develop an educational aspect to let physicians know what's going on," Herrington says. "We want to get to the point where they don't have to use us and we can still educate them and they will have a positive viewpoint on Seaboard healthcare because we're actually giving them something."

Turning fans and followers into employees
In addition to promoting positive brand awareness, social media sites are effective marketing tools because there are many ways to track their results. Though Geisinger and Seaboard's campaigns are in the early stages, both organizations have already seen an impact on their recruitment efforts.

Geisinger, for example, sent out a direct mail piece to a list of gastroenterologists with a link to a job listing page. Just four people who received the mailing visited to the Web page. When Geisinger posted the same job-page link on their Facebook page, 17 people clicked on it.

The health system has since hired three gastroenterologists, one of which can be directly attributed to the success of the Facebook page.

Seaboard has heard a lot of positive feedback from physicians and clients about their Twitter account, Herrington says.

"People are actually clicking on the information we're putting out and sharing it with the people who follow them," Cole says. "We can track the trend and the effectiveness of what we're putting up and the traffic that we're getting through URL-shorteners. We're sprinkling the business information in right now, and eventually we can make it a 60/40 split [between news and recruitment information]."

Before embarking on a social media recruitment campaign, healthcare organizations must commit resources to update the sites at least daily and decide how to bring useful information to their target audience, Cole says.

"The first thing people need to realize is it's not meant to be a job board," he says. "If you're going to take it on by yourself, you have to make sure you have someone who's going to dedicate time to it daily. You have to make sure your light is always on so people know to stop by."

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