I had the fortunate opportunity to attend TAHSN Education Day 2013 with my day job team a few weeks ago. The annual conference is a collaboration among communications departments of teaching hospitals (which is what the TAHSN refers to: Toronto Academic Health Science Network).

Held at Sunnybrook Hospital, this year’s theme was social media and the day was filled topics from brand storytelling to crisis management and learning from failure. We’ve heard from fellow TASHN hospital communicators and social media experts, Mark Farmer of York University, Boyd Neil from H+K Strategies, and Leslie Church of Google Canada.

Some of my take aways:

1. Multi-channel roll out is a big job

I can attest to this from rolling out messages of my various projects. Every social channel comes with its own set of rules and needs for maintenance and tender loving care. And you should also be mindful of SEO ensuring each channel doesn’t duplicate copy which deters Google.

Remember, every social channel has its own distinct type of audience. What may work for YouTube may not for Vine. What may work for Twitter may not for a Facebook or Google+ page. This is also a reason why true social engagement is not a part time job.

2. Appeal to the heart when telling stories

Powerful stories appeal to the heart and rational mind. Well crafted stories trigger action. This is why fundraisers typically feature a person’s story about their challenge(s). Tugging at our hearts, we will feel empowered to help that person through our call to action.

3. Tap into the pulse of conversations instead of trying to start a conversation

Social engagement is all about chatting with a community of enthusiasts instead of chatting to. Remember, your posts aren’t accepted if they are just commercials.

4. Brand from the inside first, then outside

That is, teach your employees about your organization’s brand first. After all, they are your number one brand ambassadors. Once they fully understand the organization’s brand and mission, the enthusiastic ones can be tapped in on social networks.

5. Think of and plan for worst case scenarios

Failure is indeed beneficial. Without it, we will never learn from our audience. Without failure, toddlers would never learn how to walk. Don’t be afraid of something terrible going wrong on social networks. Just be prepared. Are you a victim? Was it accidental? Was it preventable? Own the situation and provide context to your audience. Apologize if it’s your fault. Your organization will be seen as a leader and fixer instead of defensive or weak by, say, being attempting to remove problem postings.

Then assess what went wrong and add the improvements to your policy and procedures. That’s another benefit from this form of failure.