Considering an official VUMC account

What to know before asking to start a new VUMC social media account

Social media platforms are typically free to set up and easy to use. That often gives a false impression of the "cost" associated with this work.

Many factors affect your success in using them to meet business goals. The bar for success as part of large organization/brand is high. Success depends on strategic goals but may require not only an investment of time but also an investment of dollars for paid advertising and outreach.

It is not "build it, they will come."

A successful social media strategy always requires resources -- research, clearly outlined goals and objectives, smart tactics and dedicated effort.

Often, the most effective social media strategy will be to take advantage of existing channels and conversations rather than trying to create a new one. VUMC's social media team, based in Marketing and Engagement, has built a robust program and following that reaches more than half million people every day. Sharing your content through these established accounts is likely your best first step.

But if you have goals that can't be addressed in this way, we can consider a new social media account for your department, division or other VUMC component. 

Any use of social media on behalf of VUMC departments needs to be clearly resourced as a dedicated part of someone's job, with the direct manager's and department leaders' support. Starting small, assessing, adjusting and only then expanding is most often the best approach.

What would you like to accomplish?

Your strategy should always start with the why: Why do you want to engage social media users? Even more important, why would they want to engage with you?

Any activity in social media on behalf of VUMC should directly and measurably align with VUMCs strategic mission and priorities. You must have clearly defined business objectives to get approval for an account. 

Here are few use cases that we've seen over the past decade of our social media program:

  • If you are a physician/faculty member and your goal is being a thought leader or raising visibility and developing reputation among peers, referring providers and potential trainees, Twitter is probably your best bet. Participation in #medtwitter can be an effective strategy to meet these goals. Consider also that people follow people; you may be able do more as an individual (or collection of individual faculty members) than you could as a faceless department account. You do not need marketing approval to start an individual Twitter account, but you should be familiar with VUMC's social media policy.)
  • If you want to promote an event or share one-time news from your department, submitting content for VUMC's existing social media sites is probably a better choice for you. Social media channels require daily work to grow and cultivate an audience. They are not useful for one-time events and are not a short-term approach -- at least not without a budget to purchase advertising on the channels.
  • If you're an academic department wanting to connect with and entice prospective trainees to explore your residency and fellowship programs, consider an Instagram and/or Twitter account managed by residents/fellows that showcases what it's like to be in the program: curriculum, experience, social/cultural considerations, living in Nashville.
  • If you wish to market clinical services to patients, we'll connect you to the marketing representative who works with your area. Social media is most effective for marketing if it is a component of a well-designed and integrated marketing plan.
  • If you want to recruit participants for a clinical study, we can provide recommendations, including paid Facebook advertising. Learn more here. If you're buying social media advertising for a VUMC account, please work through the social media team; we can advise and also make sure that VUMC isn't competing with itself in competitive-bid advertising in search and social media.

    Setting up an account specific to an individual study is unlikely to be effective without budget to support advertising from that account. If you plan to use social media in your recruitment, that needs to be part of the recruitment plan approved by the IRB. Any content used in social media posts -- whether from VUMC or individual investigator accounts -- must be IRB approved; if that content is to be posted on already established accounts (approved VUMC accounts, partner accounts or your own), marketing's social media team doesn't need to review the content.

What is your message?

This is a trick question. Social media is all about connecting, not pushing a message. To be a good participant, you must first be a good listener. The online community will tell you what they want to hear from you. Your content should be relevant, meaningful and interesting to from your audience's perspective.

Social media is not a place simply to talk or brag about yourself (Vanderbilt). If your goal is only to "get out the word about us," social media is not the right venue.

Who will manage and moderate the account?

Success at social media takes several things.

First and foremost, you (and your supervisor/department chair) must understand that using social media takes time to be successful. We currently require 3 posts per week for Twitter and 1 post per week for other platforms in order to meet minimal compliance under the social media policy. However, that is below the threshold to be truly successful in most cases.

Although everyone's "mileage may vary," here are some benchmarks to consider:

  • Twitter: Several times a day (original tweets and retweets).
  • Instagram: Daily, across multiple features including grid posts, "stories," "reels," and IGTV.
  • Facebook: At least 3-5 times per week. (Note that because it is virtually impossible in 2022 to grow an audience for a Facebook page without a dedicated budget for paid media, it is rare that we approve new Facebook "brand" pages.)
  • LinkedIn and YouTube: We currently do not approve individual accounts on LinkedIn. We're happy to talk with you about your interests and needs for these channels.

You also should consider time to check in on accounts daily to moderate any incoming comments and messages, and manage the potential PR risk created by the account.

  • For most accounts, this will not take much time but you should plan to check at least once every 24 hours. Everyone's effort varies, but you should count on at least 2-4 hours per week to properly manage an account.
  • Remember that a back-up moderator should be checking your account when you are on PTO.
  • Could you do less? Maybe. But if you don't invest enough time to be successful, the time you do spend is wasted.
  • An account carrying the name of VUMC presents a PR risk that the moderator must take seriously. In the rare instance that your account were attacked in some way (PR attack, cyber attack or other), the VUMC social team would do everything it could to support you, but the account moderators would need to be actively engaged in any mitigation. 

Bottomline: managing an account can't be "other duties as assigned." If you can't commit a dedicated portion of your time every week, a new account is not recommended. If you're successful, the resource demands to manage the account will only grow. It is important to understand that your supervisor/department are making a long-term commitment by moving forward with an account.

What makes a good social media manager?

Successful social media managers:

  • Tend to have an outgoing personality. Social media is conversational. You should enjoy talking to others, helping solve problems and patiently listen.
  • Have sound judgment. VUMC accounts represent the medical center in a public way. You need to be able to address issues in public in a way that is diplomatic, kind, patient and doesn't violate any policies, laws or regulations. Equally important, you need to know when you're out of your depth and ask for help.
  • Should be excited about this part of your job, no matter how small it might be. Your enthusiasm -- or lack of it -- will show.
  • Should be a learner by nature. Social media platforms are constantly changing and evolving. if you take on management of a social media account on behalf of a VUMC department, unit or component, you're also taking on an obligation to stay up to date on social media trends, at least for the platform(s) your account uses. The VUMC social media team helps with resources as they can, but this self learning is on your own.

How do I get started?

According to the social media policy, any social media accounts representing Vanderbilt University Medical Center or any of its components must be developed in consultation with and reviewed and approved by the VUMC Strategic Marketing Department.

Important note: Use of the Vanderbilt name and its variations and marks is subject to trademark rules so no account should be created using Vanderbilt, VU, VUMC, variations of those or the "oak-leaf V" graphic mark without prior approval.

You may begin the process by requesting a consultation.

The social media team will contact you to review your application, ask you more about your business objectives, measurable goals and monitoring plan. The application is then reviewed by the social media governance committee and may be approved, approved with changes or declined with other recommendations. This approval is pending review and approval by the VU trademarks office.

What's next?

Approved VUMC social media accounts require two designated moderators, who sign a moderator agreement that specifies terms and conditions for posting content and moderating comments. Sign on information must be shared with the social media team in the Marketing and Engagement Department. This is to assure access in emergencies or if a moderator leaves the employ of VUMC without transition.

Once we have VU Trademarks approval and the signed moderator agreement on file, you are ready to start posting.

Moderator agreements are renewed annually, and accounts are reviewed to assure that they are successfully meeting objectives and have not grown stagnant. We reserve the right to delete accounts deemed to be inactive or not meeting the policy or goals established for the account.