User-Generated Content Keeps Consumers Engaged During the Pandemic

By The SHSMD Team posted 11-17-2020 05:59 PM


“Attention spans are shorter than ever,” noted Sarah Scroggins, director of social media for 28-hospital system Advocate Aurora Health. However, she and fellow marketers at Illinois- and Wisconsin-based Advocate Aurora Health have figured out how to cut through the noise and build engagement through the user-generated content (UGC) their own patients and providers create and share.

They’ve seen a 185 percent increase in social media engagement since the start of the COVID-19 health crisis. The surge is coming primarily through UGC that has seen three times more interaction than heavily produced marketing pieces created by Scroggins’ team. This content also has the advantage of following physical distancing and masking protocols at a time when many hospitals and health systems cannot use all of their existing visual media assets because they were created pre-COVID.

Being Real, Authentic and Personal

Scroggins shared the key to the engagement. “For us, it’s about being real, authentic and personal. We need to figure out a way to get people to stop on our content and potentially take action.”

The majority of user-generated posts, Scroggins said, start on Instagram, where marketers on her team can also share them to Facebook and Twitter. They target content that tells the nonprofit health system’s story, aligning with its priorities and patient care segments that represent opportunities for growth, such as the cardiovascular service line.

Vital Steps for Sharing

  • Create guidelines for each channel. For example, Advocate Aurora does not share any stock photos, graphics or images that have been filtered on Instagram.
  • Identify any risks from sharing images created by patients or providers. Ochsner established an easy online process to get and document consent from patients and families.
  • Check facts. Scroggins and her team review users’ profiles and ensure that all details of complex medical procedures are accurate. If necessary, they’ll reach out to the medical team for further clarification.
  • Review for identifying information. This includes scrutinizing the background in images to make sure there are no visible medical bracelets or other identifying information. This is especially important with babies, since wrist or foot bands are relatively big on them and harder to crop.

Finding User-Generated Content to Promote

The Advocate Aurora team has set up daily check-ins for patient and provider images that may fit the bill. They hunt for Facebook posts, comments on their own content, and hashtags. An intern typically uses a detailed document that monitors the accounts of all 28 hospitals in the system to find promising material.

Once the team has pinpointed a post that fits their strategy, they write a comment and steer the conversation into direct messages to ask for permission to share. They then transition to email to finalize the details.

Advocate Aurora shares about three to five new posts on each channel per week and uses these new images to further build out its library. “It is just an endless source of content, which is great,” Scroggins said.


Social Media Manager Caitlin Ruiz noted numerous examples of recent posts from social media users. In one instance, a patient shared a picture posing with her longtime cardiologist, whom she surprised with a new tattoo of his initials and an inspiring quote from the doctor: “You told me I could, so I did.” Another post highlighted a pediatric patient whose nurses dressed his doll in a mask and hairnet to make him feel better about wearing such garments. A third showed a patient about to enter surgery being greeted by one of Advocate Aurora’s therapy dogs in the hallway.

Seeing these stories on one’s social feed can prove powerful, Ruiz noted.

“We know that friends and family recommendations have a big impact on purchasing decisions and that’s been a theme in health care,” she said. “These endorsements on social can go a long way when you’re seeing them coming from a family member or trusted friend. And they are great opportunities for us to highlight our service lines, programs, team members and the overall patient experience.”

Adapting to COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold and patient visits slowed dramatically, Ruiz and Scroggins have pivoted to feature team members more frequently and use Instagram to emphasize that it’s safe to come back and receive care.

“Where we are today is obviously very different from where we were three months ago. So, we’re looking at our social strategy and where we need to take it post COVID-19,” Scroggins said. “But I think showing what the patient experience looks like on social, to help people visualize it and understand that it’s safe to come back for care, will be more important than ever moving forward.”

To Learn More

To learn more, you can access a recording/slides of the program, “Showcasing the Patient Experience Through Social Media Content,” from the 2020 virtual conference Advanced Social Media and Digital Marketing in Health Care. It’s available now as part of a special post-conference, on-demand offering and registration is free. The event was hosted by the Mayo Clinic and SHSMD.

You can also read more in Spectrum, SHSMD’s member-only magazine for health care strategists in the field of hospital and health system marketing, strategic planning, communications, business development, and public relations.

This blog post featured:

Sarah Scroggins
Director, Social Media
Advocate Aurora Health
Downers Grove, Illinois

Caitlin Ruiz
Manager, Social Media
Advocate Aurora Health
Downers Grove, Illinois