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What makes a good healthcare community manager?

August 29, 2010

More and more healthcare organizations and companies are embracing social media tools and building online communities. Effective community management takes a collaborative team effort to develop strategy, policies, metrics and measurements. But who do you want as the forward-facing personality — the community manager (CM) — fostering, encouraging and facilitating your healthcare community?

To help me articulate the most important qualities of a good CM in health care, I teamed up with two colleagues: Christine Stewart, Community Animator at and Leah Williams, Community & Social Media Manager at Breast Cancer Care. Here’s what we came up with.

A great CM in health care should:

  • Listen actively and compassionately

While I’ve stressed the importance of listening in other posts, I want to underline that a CM must be an active listener. Members should know that you are there and that they can reach out to when necessary.

“Friendly and approachable: When people discuss personal healthcare issues, they need to know that the person managing the community will listen to them, has their interests at heart and will try to make the community a safe and supportive place.” LW

“If the community is not interested in the content you are producing as a CM, or if they are not contributing the content you expected them to, you need to thicken your skin. Put aside expectations … and be flexible. It’s about staying motivated to find what works and what will inspire the community to take shape on its own.” CS

  • Communicate effectively

When CMs join a conversation, it is imperative that they do so in a tone and literacy level suited to the community. They need to write clearly, succinctly and stay focused on the needs of the community.

“Insight and empathy: Managers of healthcare communities need to have some insight into what might be going on in people’s lives so they can respond appropriately, make sensitive moderating decisions and communicate in an appropriate tone.” LW

“Judgment, balance and a keen sense of fairness: Combined with insight and empathy, these are the bedrock of decision-making for CMs in health care. They must weigh a number of complex factors and keep in mind the bigger picture of the community whilst balancing the details of the relationships involved. They must also consider the long-term implications of their decisions. One of the key areas where these qualities are required would be knowing when and how to intervene (or participate) in a discussion.” LW

  • Make meaningful connections

A CM connects people with people and quality health information. Being able to collaborate and network beyond your community’s membership broadens the community’s knowledge and expands their access to resources.

“Outreach and knowledge brokering skills: You don’t need to be a clinician or healthcare expert… you don’t need to know everything, but you need to know who does!” CS

“Limitless source of humility and perseverance: There’s a lot of heavy lifting required to get a new community going, particularly in health care where you are faced with additional challenges regarding privacy, professional or provider boundaries, and creating a space that is safe and welcoming. When it comes to engaging health professionals and researchers, time can be a challenge too.” CS

  • Be genuine

People want the person guiding their community to understand them, recognize their needs and to engage with them honestly and free of bias. The CM has to be passionate about the community and facilitate exchanges, allowing the community to flourish.

“A CM must be caring, person-centred, trustworthy and determined. These are actually Breast Cancer Care’s corporate values, but apply particularly to the position of CM.” LW

“Put your heart into it. A good CM knows that you have to invest in getting to know your community members. It’s important to stay in touch and engage them as contributors, not just joiners. Send personal, not automated messages. Welcome each new member to the community. Recognize, and respond to, contributions. Let your own personality come through. The Care to Know Centre is founded on a collaborative approach focused on client engaged and family centered care. This begins with a collaborative approach to understanding and honouring the patient experience at all points of care.” CS

What would you add to the list?

This blog first appeared on Odom Lewis’ blog.
3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 8, 2010 4:23 am

    Just wanted to say “hi”. Colleen, great job ! Non seulement ton blog est joli et agréable à lire, mais en plus il est très pertinent – et rapproche les deux grands thèmes que je te partage : Healthcare & Community Management. The idea of explaining the different Hc tweetups is really nice.
    More congratulations : for the launch of #hcsmCA !
    Longue vie à ton blog, et à bientôt pour partager des sujets ? (Auf english, deutsch oder französisch !)


  2. September 8, 2010 8:40 am

    Bonjour Tiphaine,

    Merci pour venir voir mon blog. I appreciate your support, especially from such a stellar community manager as yourself. Ob ich auch auf deutsch schreiben wird? On verra.

    à bientôt my fellow tri-lingual show-off ;-)



  1. Community manager vs. social media manager « Colleen Young

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