How to Use Social Media for Effective Treatment Marketing

This is a guest post from David Greenspan, creative director at TM34 Marketing.

This is a guest post from David Greenspan, creative director at TM34 Marketing.

The stakes in the public relations industry are rarely life or death. Sure, it may feel that way to us sometimes. Did the influencer respond to my message? Did the journalist give me a good write-up? Did the celebrity give my brand a shout-out?

These are important questions, to be sure, but they don’t define whether someone lives or dies.

Then there’s the world addiction treatment.

At a time when headlines are routinely proclaiming how bad the heroin epidemic has gotten, treatment is desperately needed. The addiction treatment industry is estimated at $35 billion dollars.

In the universe of drug detoxes, rehabs, IOPs, halfway houses, and sober homes – PR is literally life or death. Crafting and positioning your treatment center as a beacon of compassion isn’t just a smart business move. It can help save a life.

Luckily, I cut my teeth in the treatment industry and I’m here to share my experience. Here’s how treatment centers can use social media as an invaluable PR tool:

Social media

While there are a number of ways to use social media for treatment marketing – lead generation, consumer insight, brand building, and so on – I’m going to focus on the customer service and alumni relations aspects today.

Customer service for drug rehabs is a bit different, as you can image, than customer service for a retail store or restaurant. You don’t want to make sure your customers are satisfied – you want to help them discover a new way of life.

This can take countless different forms. Some of the most successful I’ve seen, and participated in, include:

  • Communicating with family members and friends of those in treatment (while maintaining strict HIPAA compliance and respecting all state and local medical privacy laws)
  • Guiding family and friends through the treatment process while their loved one is unavailable to speak (either for clinically sanctioned reasons or otherwise)
  • Spreading positive and helpful messages to current patients, past patients, and prospective future patients
  • Creating private groups where alumni can talk, share their struggles, celebrate their triumphs, and act as a source of strength for each other during early-recovery

A communication tool

Parents are a wreck when their children are in rehab. Siblings are distraught when their brother or sister has to seek professional help for a substance use disorder. Significant others blame themselves for their loved one’s problems.

It’s important for treatment centers to have a way to communicate with the family and friends of those in their programs. Calling works, but with strict privacy laws like HIPAA in place, many rehabs are not allowed to even confirm if someone is there without a written release of information. That’s when things get complicated.

Enter Facebook and Twitter. These platforms make it easy for a family member to shoot off a quick message about their loved one.

Wondering how they’re doing? Send something through Facebook Messenger. Worried about what’s allowed in a care package? Shoot over a Twitter DM.

Not only does this keep the family informed and put their minds at ease, but it also lets treatment centers easily share helpful articles, videos, inspiring stories, or other online resources.

Now, remember those privacy laws mentioned above? It’s important to make sure all messages adhere to them. Still, it’s a lot easier to send over a list of visiting hours online than it is to duck and dodge privacy laws on the phone.

Alumni relations

Here’s where things get really interesting. Not only can drug rehabs use social media as a communication tool, but they can turn it into an invaluable alumni resource.

Things like private Facebook groups, private Instagram and Twitter profiles, Hidden Pinterest boards, and the anonymous nature of Snapchat make social media perfect for those recovering from substance use disorders.

Not only can those in early-recovery come together and share their issues honestly – but they can do so free of the fear of anyone finding out. Not to mention, this type of private communication adheres to all private medical information guidelines.

Each social network has a unique benefit for alumni relations:

  • Facebook is great for creating groups and encouraging open sharing. Think “Summer 2016 Treatment Center XYZ Graduate Group.”
  • Instagram is great for sharing inspiration images. Sometimes it only takes one word – or picture – of encouragement for someone in recovery to get another day clean and sober
  • Snapchat is great for highlighting the story of a successful graduate. Let them post exclusively to your program’s Story for one month and see the positive response
  • Twitter is great for sending out inspiration quotes
  • Pinterest is great for sharing sober fun ideas. Who knew galactic bowling was a fun alternative to drinking all weekend?

And that’s addiction treatment PR on social media in a nutshell: It’s practical, easy to implement, cost-effective, and might just save a life.

david-greenspanDavid Greenspan is the creative director at TM34 Marketing, a full service digital marketing agency. Prior to starting TM34, he worked for years in the addiction treatment industry, helping to build and grow several brands including the oldest private alcoholism treatment center in the country, Malvern Institute.