Administer the Proper Dose of Social to Your Brand: Insights from Houston Methodist Hospital

Measurement is essential to the healthcare industry. Dosages, vitals, progress - it all needs to be precisely measured in order to best serve patients. Why should social be any different? Today’s digital conversations are being informed by detailed measurement capabilities, and Houston Methodist, one of America’s best hospitals (U.S. News and World Report) is leading the charge.

We spoke with Jason Lauritzen, Houston Methodist’s Social Media Specialist, to hear his take on their new approach to social marketing and its already apparent effect on the organization’s relationship with the community. From measurable results, to increased efficiency, Lauritzen shared the benefits of having a quick and regulated social media program to communicate with employees and customers.   

A Framework Built to Last

How have you developed your approach to social? Where did you start? What were the challenges?

The approach came from that fact that social media is a department like any other and it consumes resources. Therefore, it must be able to report on business results in two ways: one is quantitative in a hard dollar sense. This means ROI/contribution margin delivered to Houston Methodist. The other is more qualitative. While social media KPIs are numbers, we consider them “soft” numbers as they require a lot of context.

Our main challenge was getting Google Analytics goals/conversions to work properly with forms on our website due to our old CMS. Also, since hardly any digital funnels had been set up, I had to work with the contact center on making sure they were tracking social media referrals in a consistent, measurable way.

What type of framework do you rely on?

For ROI, we rely on developing digital and traditional funnels we can measure. We then use standard formulas such as net dollar (gain from investment minus cost of investment) and ROI as percent (gain from investment minus cost investment, dividing that number by the cost of investment). We don’t use pseudo-snake-oil-types of social media formulas that pretend to tie things such as Facebook Likes or Retweets on Twitter to dollar values. Engagement and reach/impressions are considered media metrics and are reported as such.

How does measurement inform your strategy?

Measurement informs the most important aspect of any business: allocation of resources. By looking at the actual ROI, we can confidently forecast how many employees we need, software budgets and help our marketers reallocate resources. For example, it’s pretty common for social media to outperform radio, TV and billboard ads; by reporting this, our marketers can plan their budget better for their campaigns.

We also look at customer lifetime value (LTV). It can help us estimate social media cost savings achieved by retaining a customer via a social media customer service win, as well as inform our digital marketing team if they’re spending too much to acquire a customer. For example, if the LTV for a customer is $20,000 and the average customer lifecycle is 20 years, that means the maximum ad spend to acquire a new customer over a 20-year period is $20,000 or $1,000 a year.

What are you measuring?

We’re measuring lots of categories but some “hard” measurements we have are: leads (conversions) generated, ROI per quarter, and cost per conversion. For social media KPIs, we tend to look at engagement and reach as lump-sum metrics, in order to help our executives see the business contribution vs. focusing on Likes or Favorites. By looking at aggregates, they get a quick picture of whether we’re doing well, worse or the same. Spredfast’s outbound labels help us drill down into those areas (engagement and reach) to see which content performs the best.

What else are you measuring?

Customer service. Positive and negative feedback is labeled in Spredfast using inbound labels and forwarded to directors of service quality. That way they’re aware of employee and patient issues and we can run a report whenever we want on overall, real sentiment—not some guestimate.

We have a dedicated inbound label for customer service wins or saves, so we can report on social media cost savings, as we know it costs six-to-seven times more to acquire new customers than retain existing ones.


What is your process & frequency?

Most general KPIs are looked at on monthly basis. Quarterly reports are being developed that will include cost savings from social media customer service. ROI is reported on a quarterly basis and leads/conversions are reported per marketing campaign. There are also YTD reports for the same areas.

How are you packaging up your data and telling your story?

We use Spredfast’s analytics functions to tell stories per their appropriate context. If we’re looking at audience size, we’ll showcase all our channels in a month-to-month graph, with color labels to show which channels are our heavyweights. If we’re doing ROI, we might make a chart via Excel to compare social versus other marketing tactics for quarterly contribution margin.

Our philosophy on engagement: “Every interaction—good, bad or neutral—is an opportunity.” We respond to everything in the social space, as there’s also the potential to uncover a brand advocate, generate a lead, nurture our community or gather some social intelligence that we can report to management.

Regarding insights from ROI reporting, we consistently find social media (usually Facebook ads) to have the lowest cost per conversion of any digital initiative. They generate more leads and more revenue than traditional methods (TV, billboard, etc.). For most campaigns, the only thing that outperforms social advertising is a doctor referral or direct mail. This is usually because direct mail audiences are more targeted and the amount invested is significantly more than social—it isn’t uncommon for a social media ad budget to be $500 or less per campaign.

Social is continually getting more targeted. We are using custom audiences on platforms like Facebook to target email addresses tied to social media accounts for people that are in our opt-in database as customers and leads. Moving forward we will be utilizing social media remarketing options for people that have visited particular sections of our website.

We benchmark how social performs versus other methods—whether they be print (magazine and newspaper ads), radio, TV or billboards. Marketing does mix modeling for things like brand preference.

Healthy Social

Attention to detail is crucial in the  healthcare industry and Houston Methodist’s social operations are no exception.  By implementing a program where they could create their own guidelines, the hospital has been able to test, change, respond, and observe the tremendous business value of social in a condensed, user-friendly environment. When armed with measurement tools, brands can quickly discover the right social treatment for customer engagement. In Houston Methodist’s case, the right social prescription is translating to excellent patient and employee communication at all touchpoints.  


Samantha Subar's picture

Samantha Subar

Samantha is a PR Manager at Spredfast where she showcases the customers and thought leaders behind the world's best social software platform. Texas born and raised, Samantha is also a Longhorn lover, wilderness explorer, and cupcake connoisseur. Follow her for the latest on Spredfast and, of course, food.