With a Twitter handle, two Facebook sites and a channel on YouTube, Caron Treatment Centers has jumped with both feet into the often turbulent waters of social media. The manager of media relations for the eastern Pennsylvania-based treatment organization is quick to point out that the motivation for Caron’s involvement goes well beyond establishing a cyber-soapbox.
“This is just as much an opportunity to listen to what other people have to say as it is for you to say something,” says Karen Pasternack. She adds, “There’s something so exciting about connecting with people in real time.”
And for a business that’s about treating addictions, real-time communication makes logical sense.
“This is a real-time disease,” says Pasternack, who is in charge of all of Caron’s social media efforts. “People will need help at 3 in the morning. This is not a 9-to-5 disease.”
Caron launched its Twitter presence (@CaronTreatment) in the spring of 2009; it now has nearly 1,500 followers. Pasternack says she uses Twitter and other social media tools to tell her organization’s story but also to stimulate dialogue on issues that matter to people in the community. She emphasizes having a consistent presence.
“You can’t think of it in terms of, ‘I did my Tweet, so that’s it for the month,’” Pasternack says.
Caron also manages two Facebook sites, one for its alumni and friends and the other called “Healthy Connections” for its five-and-a-half day sister program that emphasizes personal growth and includes clients without an addiction diagnosis.
Blogging also has become a significant component of Caron’s activity. Caron experts are featured on the Psychology Today and Dr. Oz sites, for example. Pasternack emphasizes that the success of social media ventures transcends a simple analysis of the number of visitors to Caron’s own sites.
“On Twitter we look at our followers, but we also want to see how many of our Tweets are re-Tweeted by others,” she says.
Other treatment organizations also have made significant inroads into social media. Phoenix House has four separate Twitter handles, covering client and alumni issues; inspirational messages for individuals in recovery; reports on trends from Phoenix House’s CEO; and regional issues affecting the area surrounding the organization’s Orange County, Calif., operation.
Pasternack says it’s important for treatment organizations entering the world of social media to institute policies regarding proper uses. She says Caron’s policies reflect its overall approaches to privacy and related issues. As a result, it does not share in social media outlets any information about personal experiences without the individual’s permission.
“We’re an industry that is already set up to think about boundaries,” Pasternack says. “This is about applying the same procedure to social media.”