Cleveland Clinic has about two million followers on Facebook and 900,000 on Twitter, and is also active on Pinterest and Instagram.

At many hospitals patient engagement—a popular industry term for how providers and patients can work together to improve an individual’s health—means using social media to promote the facility’s physicians, areas of specialization and what’s new at the hospital, says Cleveland Clinic director Amanda Todorovich.

But at the Cleveland Clinic, one of the most active users of social media among healthcare providers, patient engagement means using blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other channels to provide content that matters in a patient’s daily life, Todorovich says.

The Cleveland Clinic is a multispecialty academic hospital located in Cleveland, Ohio, that is owned and operated by the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, an Ohio nonprofit corporation established in 1921. In addition to the flagship hospital in Cleveland, Cleveland Clinic also operates affiliated facilities in Florida, Nevada, Canada and the United Arab Emirates.

The Cleveland Clinic also has a substantial base on social media. The health system has been on Facebook and Twitter since 2008 and now has about two million followers on Facebook and 900,000 on Twitter. Cleveland Clinic also publishes Health Essentials, one of the most widely read hospital blogs online. In just three years the number of consumers and patients that have signed up for Health Essentials has gone from just a handful to more than five million readers, Todorovich says.

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Cleveland Clinic updates the blog up to nine times daily on a range of topics including brain and spine health, cancer care, cold and flu, digestive, health ear, nose and throat, family medicine, heart and vascular health, lung health, pregnancy and childbirth, sports and overall fitness and wellness.

Cleveland Clinic, which has expanded the number of marketing department writers, editors and developers from three dedicated employees to 25 in three years, also sends out up to 18 daily tweets on a wide variety of topics such as “does your cut need a stitch” and “picking the best and worst sweeteners.”

By making social media a cornerstone of its digital, mobile and patient engagement strategy, Cleveland Clinic is out to show patients—and the broader healthcare industry—that Facebook, Twitter and other channels are more than just tools for achieving such basic marketing goal as building brand awareness, Todorovich says.

“What many hospitals do today with social media is to turn their Facebook page into a scrapbook that’s all about their doctors, what they treat or what’s new around the hospital,” she says. “That approach just tells consumers they are sick, and patients don’t like being told on social media they are sick.”

Consumers may use social networks such as Facebook and Twitter multiple times daily, and for some consumers Facebook is their primary way to stay connected to family and friends, Todorovich says. But most consumers don’t go to a hospital or health system’s Facebook page daily.

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“They go there (a hospital Facebook page) when they have a need, and even when they do they don’t want to be reminded they are sick,” she says. “A hospital Facebook page that just serves up passive or ‘here’s all about us’ content can actually be a big turnoff to followers”

Cleveland Clinic takes what Todorovich calls a “pretty aggressive” approach to all forms of social media. For example on its Facebook page, the Cleveland Clinic now does one to two interactive chats each week with a Cleveland Clinic doctor or specialist on a chosen topic, allowing its Facebook followers to ask questions and receive a answer. Some chats attract as many as 3,000 participants.

The Cleveland Clinic also has been active on Pinterest and Instagram since 2014. Over time Cleveland Clinic has created more than 150 infographics on various topics ranging from “the color of pee” and “13 curious questions about your bones” to “how to break your sugar addiction” and “the power of fish in your diet.”

The infographics are an engaging way to present health and wellness content to the clinic’s 13,400 Pinterest followers, Todorovich says.

On Instagram, Cleveland has posted nearly 700 pieces of content for its more than 19,000 followers on various health and wellness topics. “It’s a good social media channel to tell a story,” she says.

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The clinic’s marketing and social media staff take a measured approach to putting up social media content, to ensure it resonates with patients and consumers, Todorovich says. For example about 40 physicians write an article for the Health Essentials blog each month, but each topic is screened by Cleveland Clinic’s social media editors for its appeal and relevance before the doctor writes a blog post, Todor0vich says

The social media department also tests content prior to going live on Facebook or another channel by using a predictive analytics program from Atomic Reach to give each piece of a content a score on relevancy to a particular audience.

“We are big on numbers and analysis,” she says.

Most pieces of content also are updated and reedited for various social media outlets so the clinic can get the widest exposure possible. Going forward Cleveland also is opening up ways to make money with its content, she says. The Cleveland Clinic is working with Dotdash—the former About.com that consists of a network of content websites that publish articles and videos about various subjects—to develop policies and programs to help monetize some social media content.

Cleveland Clinic won’t say how much it spends on its various forms of social media content. And revenue from any sponsored or content associated with an advertising program is still minimal, the clinic says. But adding a revenue-generating strategy to its ongoing social media program is one way “we keep pushing farther out,” Todorovich says.

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