As I have documented in some recent posts, the issue for a hospital is not whether to adopt/implement these tools as much as it is who is going to become the "social media" champion within their organization.
Ok - so your CEO just came into your weekly administrative meeting and proclaimed that your hospital is going to become the next "social media superstar" within thirty days. What do you do? Do you take on the steep learning curve and spend the next 2-3 weeks learning how facebook, twitter, blogs, and Youtube work? Do you contact your marketing company to see if they know how do social media? Do you do a Google search for "outsource social media" companies?
According to a July 7, 2009 article by Lydia Dishman - http://www.entrepreneur.com/ebusiness/expandingyouronlinepresence/article202500.html - she states that "as the number of platforms grows, so does the time it takes to feed and groom each account. Not to mention the front-end investment of setting everything up". She also poses the question "for those caught up in a social media blitz - and those contemplating taking the plunge - why not consider outsourcing"?
If you are considering outsourcing your social media and are looking for an "expert" - I would recommend that you script your interview questions using Ian Lurie's "10 Questions to Evaluate a Social Media Expert" - http://www.conversationmarketing.com/2009/07/10-questions-for-social-media-experts.htm - this is a very good place to start - as well as give you a basic idea of what to look for. The upside to outsourcing is that (in theory) you will be engaging a social media expert (no learning curve), quick implementation, cheaper than hiring a dedicated employee or a portion of an FTE, and they will be up to date with social media tool trends. The downside is that there is a lot of pressure to select the right firm out of many that claim they are "experts", lack of control, and the typical outsource management issues (i.e. performance, responsiveness..etc).
From the D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself) side of the ball - you can hire a person or people to take on your social media program - the advantages of this is that you will maintain direct control over the messages, your branding, and promotions. The downside is that you will have to deal with typical employee relations issues (i.e. sick/vacation time), cross training, steep learning curve, and large time commitment.
You can certainly make a very compelling case for either DIY or outsourcing your social media strategy. As with any strategic decision, make sure you do your homework before you choose your path.
Good luck with your selection! I look forward to seeing and reporting on your future successes!!