VNA Loves its Fans and its Followers

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By Kristy Wright

In late 2009 the VNA proposed the launch of a brand new website found at www.vna.com. We wanted to incorporate a new look and feel for the brand but also what was top of mind was finding new ways where we, as a home healthcare and hospice agency, could directly communicate with our patients, their families and caregivers, and also with new patients and families.

Social media was especially hot at the time. Facebook, Twitter, blogging, YouTube and the like were in full swing and many of us who worked at the VNA already had personal accounts with one or a few of these new outlets. But as a business, the VNA did not use any of these avenues to talk directly to the community. That didn’t mean we weren’t curious about them. We had many discussions about how the VNA could use social media. We loved the idea that social media created an entirely new outlet for us to have a 2-way dialog with our customers and prospective customers.

So in 2010 the new website efforts got underway. It was important to us to build the framework of the site entirely around a new social media platform that seemed like a great fit for us.  We wanted our visitors to quickly be able to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, read my new blog Wright@Home and watch our YouTube videos.  We also wanted to take the opportunity to roll out new features for our customers like “Ask VNA” – a direct question and answer component on the site, and create new ways to quickly sign up for information or to request a free VNA consultation.

I began authoring the “Wright@Home” blog at the launch of the new site and it has been a wonderful way for me to chat directly with my followers about all sorts of healthcare topics, those that affect me personally as a caregiver for my mom, and those that I see on a daily basis by running a home health care and hospice agency.  I see both the business and caring sides of our agency, therefore having a blog is a wonderful new outlet for me to quickly jot down some weekly thoughts about topics I think will be helpful and informative to my readers.  More than a year later and I still love blogging weekly!

So far all of our efforts are really gaining traction. Our Facebook and Twitter fans and followers have been increasing daily. And our site and social media efforts have already drawn national attention. Beyond being excited about having all of these new ways to talk to our customers, we are also being recognized for all of our hard work. Brian Geyser, Chief Social Media Strategies for CareNetworks.com discovered our website shortly after it launched and was really impressed. He and I happen to both be speaking at an upcoming national healthcare conference, so when he asked if I could say a few words during his presentation called: “Social Media Best Practices for Senior Living,” I jumped at the opportunity.  The word is spreading about the VNA and we couldn’t be happier!

Some may ask, why Facebook? Why Twitter? Are these really the right ways to talk to VNA customers?  Here’s how we look at it. We’ve been operating in western Pennsylvania for decades. But even with our deep history and community awareness, it’s important to us to always be transparent and approachable. We believe these channels have and will continue to allow us to engage with our target audience, give them a place to stay up-to-date on healthcare and VNA news, and a place for all of us to collaborate and share information. These channels also allow us to freely communicate about any and all healthcare questions and concerns they may have.  We have a great rapport with our patients and their families, but of course there are others we may not be reaching.  Social media seemed like a natural fit for us at the time, and now we know the effort we spent incorporating it into our outreach strategy has been well worth it.

Lastly, it’s important to note that aging Baby Boomers, along with older and, of course, younger generations are all using social media outlets to talk to one another and to talk directly to businesses.  The number of users with Facebook and Twitter alone is staggering and those who would benefit from home care and hospice are a part of that growing group. We believe that if our customers and potential customers are enjoying Facebook, Twitter and the like, it seems like a no-brainer that the VNA join the ranks.

Kristy Wright is President and CEO, VNA, Western Pennsylvania. For more information, visit www.vna.com or follow them on Twitter (twitter.com/VNAofWesternPA) or find them on Facebook..