Adam Gaub is the lead editor for SmartBrief for Health Care Marketers.

Most industry experts agree that the health care industry — and hospitals in particular — has been behind the s-curve when it comes to engaging in social media. According to Betsy Weaver, CEO of social media consulting firm UbiCare, now that the industry knows the value, health care professionals are rushing to catch up.

Weaver said one of the big keys to making success in the social media realm stick in an industry where there aren’t necessarily products to sell, is having engaging content that people can apply to their lives.

“If it’s not valuable to the person stopping by, they’re not going to stop by again,” Weaver said.

Weaver’s company puts together peer-reviewed data on a variety of topics — from cardiology to pre-natal care to general wellness — that give the hospitals a comfort-level in knowing the quality of information will be good, while attracting members of the general public by having engaging content they can learn from.

“You want connections that matter,” she said. “Whenever a chronic or emergency issue comes up, they can use you as a resource.”

The Facebook-based marketing strategy has information that is relevant to many segments of the population but is keyed with women in mind; the fastest-growing user segment of the social media site is women 45 and older, and women are the dominant gender when it comes to making health care decisions for the family, Weaver said.

UbiCare has monitored the number of hospitals in the U.S. using Facebook and has seen a rapid increase over the past 12 months, though Weaver said many are only just “beginning to dabble” with the concept, relying on static tactics of issuing press relations and staying inside the safety net of strictly promotional materials. UbiCare tracks the results of their so-called content modules, using them to develop more and better content pieces for a variety of specialties as the company seeks to expand.

Weaver said social media can be a hospital’s “engagement business card,” placing the onus on them to win the patients over with openness of knowledge that is treasured in today’s information age.

“It’s like the Wild West,” Weaver said. “I don’t think health care had any idea how much of their mindshare they’d be spending on social media even six months ago. And then even eight months from now, I don’t think we’ll recognize” how far it’s come.

Image credit: Andreyuu, via iStockphoto

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