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Location-based social networks in the hospital

From Foursquare™ to Gowalla® to Loopt® to Facebook™ Places, location-based social networks are everywhere these days. Consumers use these services to “check-in” to a location and receive incentives either from the location-based social network itself or from the businesses they check into. The benefit to the businesses is visibility—brand names are broadcast throughout the location-based social network as well as social networks like Facebook and TwitterSM to friends and followers of each check-in.While retailers and businesses are scrambling to engage users of these services by integrating special check-in promotions in marketing campaigns and communications, other industries—like health care—are still trying to figure out just where they fit into the mix of things. The truth is health care (as you know) is no less consumer-driven than other industries, so why wait?

Opportunities abound when it comes to ways in which your health care organization can harness the power of location-based social networks today…

  • For customer relationship management
    In the consumer sector, companies like Starbucks™ and Gap(SM) are using Foursquare from everything like virtual loyalty card programs to offering discounts or other rewards for shopping. They also use Foursquare to see who’s coming to their stores and how often they’re coming—a sort of informal tool for customer research. In the health care setting, consider creating your own customer loyalty program. Offer free gifts, like logo’d tumblers or affordable tote bags for multiple user check-ins to the cafeteria, the nursery or other “happy” hospital locations.
  • Promoting wellness programs
    Create a badge (what users receive from location-based social networks when they check-in) that encourages people to check-in and leave a message like “I care for my health. I had a mammogram today!” Then, enter in to a drawing those who check-in to win an appealing prize, like a golf umbrella or fully loaded first aid kit or a gift certificate to the onsite coffee shop/cafeteria. Alternately, if your health care system offers wellness classes, like those for stroke survivors or diabetes patients, encourage participants to check-in to class to receive discounts on future services as a way to promote the class and personal health responsibility.
  • Partnering with businesses to offer incentives
    Holding a fundraiser or a blood drive? Partner with a local business, like a popular store or restaurant, to offer a store discount or a free meal to those who check-in to the fundraiser or blood drive. Spread the word of this the promotion the day of by arming volunteers with t-shirts or pins emblazoned with the check-in details.
  • Integrating with other health resources
    Consider the possibilities of linking your organization with services like Google Health, Facebook and Twitter through location-based social networks. Foursquare even has the potential to impact new services like 23andMe, a personal genomics and biotech company that claims to help people understand their genetic information. The benefit about this type of integration is that it might provide doctors with information about where they have gone and how environmental factors may impact their health.

Location-based social networks can be a great tool for health care organizations when used with a little creativity. Consider integrating this value-added benefit to your marketing mix today!

Not familiar with location-based social networks? Get all the details for getting started in our Blue Paper®!

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