Australia’s first live facebook chat hosted by a hospital

#hcsmanz is pleased to introduce a series of guest blog posts this year. The first is by Claire Hewitt (@ClaireyHewitt on Twitter), the Social Media Manager for St Vincents Private Hospital in Melbourne. — Ed

Live breastfeeding chat on Facebook 
By Claire Hewitt
Social Media Manager, St Vincents Private Hospital, Melbourne

On December 14 2011, St Vincents Private Hospital Melbourne hosted a live chat on facebook about breastfeeding.

St Vincents Private Hospital decided to commence using social media when research confirmed their hunch that the current and potential clients for the maternity section of the hospital were high users of both the internet and social media and that these sources were where this audience often went to either find or to confirm information.

As the Social Media Manager for St Vincents Private Hospital, my goal is to assist the maternity section of the hospital to speak directly to the current and potential users of maternity and early parenting services.

As a hospital, St Vincents Private, is able to provide and share a great deal of knowledge and information. With doctors, nurses and allied health professionals all involved with the social media strategy the hospital can begin to share health information with our audience and build brand awareness of what is offered in the maternity unit of the hospital.

As the maternity nursing team discussed how they could promote a new breastfeeding booklet to patients I suggested a live facebook chat about breastfeeding, where we could share the link to the booklet in the lead up to the discussion, during the chat and afterwards.

The purpose of the chat was firstly to remind the audience of the breastfeeding booklet, which was available to download free from our website and that St Vincents Private Hospital has excellent lactation consultants that can assist Mums with their breastfeeding issues.

With a small following so far in social media and no additional marketing budget to work with, plus only one week to get organised we were unsure how quickly we could share the message about the live facebook chat, or of the levels of interest from our followers in such a discussion.

It was also vital that we had computers that had the speed to keep up if the chat got going and we needed to refresh the screen often to get those messages.

The hospital does not usually provide specific personalised health information via social media, usually referring people to seek advice from their doctor. The benefit of the live chat allows the hospital to organise a medical practitioner qualified in a specific topic and answer questions on that topic only.

The Day:
We set up an office with a computer that was fast enough to cope with the chat plus an additional laptop and iPad to ensure we would be covered if technology issues did occur and to allow extra nurses to follow and assist with the chat.

After building relationships with other suppliers and services we had the benefit of having our messages retweeted and shared on facebook by organisations that have many more followers than us. A premium nappy bag supplier also agreed to provide a prize during the chat, which was shared again with their followers.

The Chat:
We commenced by introducing the chat and welcoming questions. We also had a few questions ready to get the conversation going.

The lactation consultant and I sat together so that I could navigate the facebook page and physically type in the answers for her, an additional midwife kept an eye on all other comments that were coming in and assisted with where we needed to go back and answer questions.

Over the hour there were an additional 47 interactions on the facebook page (not including those by St Vincents Private) with additional follow up emails received from each of the people involved.

The feedback was all positive and we have had requests to run additional facebook chats in the future so we will be adding the live chats to the social media strategy for 2012, possibly looking to do similar on twitter if the followers indicate interest.

A special thank you to Lactation Consultant Liz Kismanis and Nurse Unit Manager Judelle McFarland for providing the advice and information for what we believe to be Australia’s first live facebook chat hosted by a hospital.

St Vincents Private Hosptial run:
• A facebook page:
• Twitter account: @StVincentsPriv
• And blog at:

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