Popular Platforms

Here are some descriptions of common social media platforms and how they could be used in a health care setting. Of course this is not an exhaustive list, but highlights some of the most common social media tools that would be acceptable for health care use.


Facebook is an online, two-way social communication tool that connects people with friends and organizations. People use Facebook to keep informed, share links, photos and videos and learn more about people and organizations. In the world of health care, it can be used to interact with patients, build an online community and provide a place for feedback.

Example use
Goal: We want to increase births in our maternity unit this year by 20%.
Social media channel: Facebook.

Facebook is useful for increasing patients in the maternity unit because it is a great way to start a community — something that is valuable for pregnant women and new moms. With more than 750 million active users, it is highly likely that women in your hospital’s area are already on Facebook, and in fact some research shows that a majority of women spend a lot of time online and on social media sites such as Facebook.

An easy way to connect with more moms on Facebook is to first connect with moms who are already familiar with the maternity unit at your hospital. Ask moms who are satisfied with their experience to “like” your page, and then ask them to encourage their friends to do the same. Then, once you have got their attention, you can announce tours of your facility and promote upcoming classes and support groups.

There are two types of Facebook communities you could set up — “pages” and “groups”. The chart below compares Facebook pages and groups.

Using Facebook

Unlike Twitter, Facebook is not limited to a 140-character limit; however, we do suggest that text be no more than a paragraph long. The purpose of Facebook, just like Twitter, is to make the audience aware of a subject or topic and then link or connect them to further information such as website, news story, photo, etc. We want to make it as easy as possible for staff or the public to find the information being presented to them.


Twitter is a micro-blogging, broadcasting and social utility service that allows its users to send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of no more than 140 characters. People use Twitter to share and view links, pictures, videos, opinions, news, professional information, personal status and more. Twitter is much more than status updates; it is a way to disseminate information to a large group of people you may or may not know; however, it is important to remember that it is a two-way tool and being a member of the Twitter community means engaging in conversation, not just dissemination.

Example use
Goal: To raise awareness of our St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation.
Social media channel: Twitter.

If your goal is to raise more money for your foundation, Twitter is a great tool. You can Tweet about upcoming fundraisers, the latest in research and innovations and let followers know where their money is going (without violating privacy regulations of course). Twitter can also supplement the content on a Facebook account or blog.

Using Twitter

As noted earlier, Twitter is meant to share snippets of information and conversation through a brief sentence featuring images and links. Twitter posts (or tweets) have a 140-character maximum, so this requires content to be snappy, short and sweet!

The important part of a tweet is the link or photo that you are directing people to — the place where they can find the full information or visual that you intend them to see. For example, a link to a media release, event listing, program page or a photo of a surgery in action.

Twitter automatically shortens URLs or photo links to a size that fits within the 140 character limit. If you plan to link to something or upload a photo, minus approximately 20–30 characters from the limit in order to account for these links. For example: “Look at all the videos on our YouTube channel! Lots of great vid from Dep of Medicine ‘Own Your Health’ forums!” Notice that this tweet is 112 characters in length (including spaces). This gives us room to include a link to the videos.

Another important element of a tweet is called a hashtag. This is a keyword with a # symbol attached to the front. Hashtags help ensure the tweet is seen by a large number of people interested in a particular topic. For multiple word (phrased) keywords do NOT use a space; type as one word. For example: #cardiac #residentialcare. Note that #bchc (B.C. health care) should be included wherever possible to ensure those following information on B.C. health care will see your tweet.

A few tips to ensure you fit within the character requirement include:

Abbreviations. You are welcome to use abbreviations as long as they make sense and you don’t overdue the number of abbreviations in one Tweet. For example: “Look at all the videos on our YouTube channel! Lots of great vid from Dep of Medicine ‘Own Your Health’ forums!” Notice where we have abbreviated the word video to vid and Department to Dep.

Point form. Where possible try to Tweet complete sentences, but for the sake of saving space, it is acceptable to leave out articles, conjunctions, prepositions or other small words. For example: “Providence in the Park — community event for homeless. New partnership addresses needs of vulnerable populations.” Notice where we have left out words like “a,” “the" and “this”.


YouTube is a video sharing website on which users can view, upload and share videos and comments on other’s videos. It is an educational and engagement tool reaching a worldwide audience.

Example use
Goal: We want to educate our patients about our thyroid services and fill all open appointments.
Social media channel: YouTube.

Videos are a great way to educate patients and family members. For example, you can invite specialists to discuss particular health concerns through video. Then patients can get information first-hand from the most knowledgeable physicians at your hospital. Not only does this give your patients access to accurate data, but it also gives them a chance to become familiar with their physician before they even step through the clinic door. Second, they foster understanding. Several videos from the Mayo Clinic feature testimonials of families about working with staff at the clinic. Hearing their stories firsthand brings tears to your eyes and provides an emotional experience that a written story cannot mimic.

Al Errato’s Mayo Clinic Story

Dino’s Story

Using YouTube

We are currently working on adding content to our YouTube channel. If your department or program has video profiles, tours, recorded presentations or workshops available to a public audience, let us know! Check out our YouTube channel to get a sense of the content we are looking for. We currently have videos available on SALOME, Human Resources, Maternity and the Department of Medicine. If you are interested in developing video, please take a look at our Video section.


Flickr is a photo sharing website on which users can view, upload and share photos. It is a popular place for storing photos that are linked to from blogs and other social media utilities.


A blog is an online site short for “web log” that allows an individual or group to share a running log of personal insights, writings, events, news and more. It is a communication tool, an educational tool and a place for giving feedback. Blogging is an extremely effective social media channel if you have a specific purpose in mind, such as informing your patients and the public about services you provide and telling stories of innovation, research and patient care.

Example use Goal: We want to strengthen our hospital’s image as a leader in cutting-edge technology.
Social media channel: Blog.

Whenever your hospital implements a new technology, such as an advanced mammography machine, invite a radiologist to discuss how the new machine will benefit patients and describe why it is important that a hospital keep up on new developments in technology.

Patient testimony is a great way to enhance the subject; hearing how a new technology changed a patient’s life demonstrates your commitment to quality care and patient satisfaction. But do keep in mind that in order to accomplish this goal, it is extremely important that you have a dedicated staff person who is up to the challenge of brainstorming and creating content, keeping it up-to-date on current events and who can take the time to manage and respond to comments.