Are Healthcare Marketers Destroying Twitter?

I love what I can do with Twitter. If you Google “Twitter and Healthcare”, you’ll see a post of mine from a few years back, somewhere in the top 5 results, that listed how Twitter could be used in Healthcare – if that doesn’t prove how crazy I was then about Twitter, I don’t know what does.

I’ve always felt Twitter would have made a wonderful medium for Healthcare – even though I also knew that Healthcare professionals would be late to the party.

So now, pretty much everybody’s on Twitter. Yes, there are many physicians and nurses who have shied away from social media, but that’ll change.

But Twitter’s got a funky cardiac rhythm going on. The Fale Whale was a fun kind of asystole. But we always shocked it back to life. But what’s happening now – I don’t know exactly. V-fib? Artifact?


Here’s the problem: Twitter, at its core, is a mutli-faceted prism of paradoxes. The harder you try to market a message via Twitter the less effective your voice. The more seriously you take this skittery little bird, the bigger the laughing stock you look like to others. Meanwhile, the funnier, crazier, wilder, bolder you are, the more affection you’ll receive. Curiously, however, that affection isn’t much of a marketing asset.

(Oh, so you were told to be “social”, “engaging”? No kidding – so now what? Congratulations: You have all these people in your house party and all of you are looking at each other thinking “What am I doing here?” Don’t fall off the horse of common sense: you might get dragged through heaps of muddy nonsense.)

In the last few months I have seen a whole lot of Healthcare activity on Twitter and much of it is turning Twitter into a slimy stream of tarted-up “social” spam, or overusing hashtags and, in the process, ruining some of the best Twitter chats in Twitter’s history.

Because hashtags are important, packing tweets with them defeats their purpose. It muddies communication – of all people, Comms peeps should know the vitality of clarity, and the cost of clutter and noise. Why so many Healthcare pros don’t understand such a simple concept is beyond me, but I digress.

I’ve thought to myself: you know, Twitter once had so much promise, and now it’s becoming all serious business and so-called marketing. What a shame. We’ll all lose in the end.

I hope I’m wrong. But I fear that the promise of social media – more democracy, more chance for the little gals’ and guys’ voices to be heard, a chance to build a truer world – may be breaking. Now businesses are told to “engage” on Twitter and Facebook, etc. How far will this infiltration go?

The more this goes on, the harder and more furiously those of you who are in healthcare marketing continue to slam Twitter, the less valuable the service will become over time – in short time.


Slow down. Don’t take it so seriously. Don’t believe all these idiots who tell you that Social Media can generate returns of 100%, 500% or 1,000%.

If you believe these idiots, then either you’re an idiot yourself or corrupt – or both. I have a right to declare this with passion because I think people involved in Healthcare – even marketers – need to be critical thinkers.

Nobody really reads your tweets, or mine. The people who matter most do – and those relationships are honed elsewhere.

“Twitter in Healthcare” does *not* mean who the “influencers” are in healthcare Twitter chats. I’ve been called one myself, and it means nothing – in fact, it’s kind of insulting quite frankly. Why? Because it cheapens the original intent, which is to bring intelligence and democracy to this medium, not ego-feasting.

“Twitter in Healthcare” means that we are taking the premise of Twitter and using it as metaphorical inspiration for improving clinical collaboration, dissemination of reliable information and managing crises better than ever before.

I’ve no beef with marketers – I’m one myself, just unconventional and non-traditional. Maybe that’s what works: breaking the rules, doing my own thing, knowing that the Web is a glittery trip of unmanageable lunacy and being able to strategize real-time and turn like a panther in the jungle. I dunno.

I do have a beef, however, with inanity, spam and feigned sociality. It’s cheap and dopey. I don’t want dopes in any part of my health care. Nor should you.


Social media ‘marketing’ is such a delicate matter – it’s almost an oxymoron. There’s very little wiggle room for long-term success: it’s very easy to do the wrong thing and lose attention quickly.

Smart marketers don’t look at social media and try to figure out “social media marketing”. Instead they simply realize these media are part of our daily lives, keep up their web literacy and just get to work. No conferences needed. No long-winded diatribes on return on investment by people who couldn’t even generate a simple P&L.

These social networks weren’t built with marketing in mind. They weren’t built with health care in mind either. They were started by coders who only thought of their code and their idea of friendship. Don’t forget that.

One last point on this matter of social media and marketing: ethics. For instance, I rarely see any discussion on the ethics of a healthcare organization following someone on Foursquare. Is there no thought here? Same with Twitter – its geolocation feature will eventually become more prominent as part of its service. There are ethical considerations which seem to have been left out of discussions.

When you “friend” me, what’s your intention? No, not that intention. The true one. What data will you collect from me? Will you tell me? Or are you just going to use software to collate my social media profiles – comments, tweets and all – just because you can and without my permission because it’s public?

All those social media gurus and blogs you follow were almost entirely wrong. But their ideas (“Retweet others”, “It’s about the Conversation”, etc.) have over-infiltrated the minds of many late adopters; consequently, some have lost sight of the places where the hard work wins the day and changes people’s lives for the better.

Twitter still can be a wonderful way for us to spark these kinds of questions and topics.

Don’t destroy Twitter. Its’ in your own interest.


Here are a few Healthcare marketers who I think are good models:

  • Daphne Swanncutt – @DaphneLeigh (Disclosure: Daphne’s a good friend. I like good friends.)
  • Melissa Speir – @mspeir (Disclosure: She’s elegant. I like elegance.)

I know I’m missing a bunch – and no dudes on the list. Oh well, imagine that. If you want me to add you to the list and prove you’re useful to the Twitter community, I’ll be happy to add you. (Only like 20 people regularly read this blog, so don’t lose it – but those 20 are power-brokers, and many aren’t even on Twitter 😉

You want Twitter advice? You want a Twitter how-to? Here it is, in two words: have fun.


@PhilBaumann – @HealthIsSocial – Newsletter


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