As part of our ongoing series of profiling local healthcare executives and their thoughts on using social media, we recently sat down with Jan Jennings, president and CEO of American Healthcare Solutions (AHS), a health care consulting firm singularly focused on the business of hospitals and healthcare organizations.
AHS helps clients improve financial performance, enhance competitive position, and achieve the most productive organizational alignment among medical staff, management, and trustees to optimize overall performance. Social media has become an integral part of its marketing strategy over the years. In fact, Jennings has a staggering 20,000+ connections on LinkedIn, built up gradually over the past five years.
Jennings spoke with us about how social media has enhanced his business and he also offered his advice for other healthcare executives who are a little shy dipping into the social media waters.
How and when did you begin using social media? I try to be very active in social media. I’m always in the inaugural class. Whenever something new emerged, I’d be one of the first to check it out. I would describe myself as self-taught. No one ever gave me a lesson in social media. I never attended a class. I just jumped right in the middle.
Which social media channels do you primarily use? There are a few social media channels that I do not participate in because there are so many. So I mainly focus on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and blogging. In addition to these social media channels, we use email marketing to connect with our clients. We use Constant Contact for these email communications. Email is gold. When you have someone’s email address, you are walking on a cloud. Pardon the pun! But we only use email to send out our blog postings and to make occasional announcements. I write a new blog post once a month. Harvey Kart (from your publication) has been generous to me in posting my blog posts on his website and sharing it with his social media connections. Since my blog is separate from our corporate website, we also add my blog posts to our website at www.americanhs.com.
Your 20,000+ connections on LinkedIn is truly impressive. How did you build that contact list? It took time, but I just looked to connect with people with whom I wanted to do business with or whom I just wanted to connect with. I first started with my own internal email database to see who was on LinkedIn. We do business in 49 of the 50 states, so we have developed many contacts over the year. From there, it just began to grow. Once you hit so many connections on LinkedIn, you will find people will request to connect with you. But you have to be selective and you should just not connect with anyone. Typically, I connect with only those in the healthcare field. I won’t link in with someone who I don’t know anything about.
What do enjoy most about using LinkedIn? What I like best about LInkedIn is that I actually get clients. People call me. I include my cell phone number within my profile so my connections can contact me directly. We were offered several projects this way.
Can you offer some advice or tips for those healthcare executives who would like to get started in social media? I give the same advice that I was given when I was trying to figure out what kind of computer to purchase when I was in Buffalo, NY, in 1985. My chief operating officer at the time said that there is only one place to start—jump in the middle. Start with something until you have perfected it and then move on. Once you perfected Twitter, move on to Facebook. When you finish Facebook, move on to LinkedIn—not in any particular order. Social media is the future and it’s rapidly evolving. Everyone in business needs to try to keep pace.
How much time do you spend a day using social media? I try to spend half a day on social media. If I’m not on the road, and I happen to be in the office or at home, I try to spend at least four hours per day at a minimum. To not do that means you may as well kiss your business good-bye.
You mentioned earlier that in addition to using social media, you also maintain a blog. Where do you find the motivation to continue to write? I love to write. Harvey taught me how to write years ago, and I love it. To me, you’re either in the game or not in the game. I try to stay in the game because it’s very busy out there. There is tremendous competition for the microphone and you either stand out from the crowd or you don’t, and we try to stand out. If you don’t, you’re making a mistake.
Tell us about some of the most common misperceptions organizations have about social media marketing? Many people think that it’s a waste of time and as a result they will not do it. I know many CEOs of healthcare systems who wouldn’t dream of using social media and it’s something that they consider themselves above. They believe that it’s more trouble than it’s worth. But many of my clients have embraced and are using social media in a major league way.
What things should we absolutely avoid in terms of social media posts and tweets? It’s hard for me to tell someone how to run their business. Everyone is going to be different. I tend to stick to professional posts. I’m a very private person so I’m not into getting into my personal life on my social media accounts. I don’t mix business with pleasure; I consider them separate.
Any final words of advice? Ignore social media at your own expense. If you want business or you want clients, and you do not participate in LinkedIn or other social media channels, you’re really making a big mistake in my opinion.
For more information, visit www.americanhs.com.