The #MCSMN Story (6): Social Media Residency and Bringing the Social Media Revolution to Health Care

From 2012 to 2014, Mayo Clinic’s social media program through the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media (#MCCSM) and the Social Media Health Network (SMHN) continued to grow significantly both in the number of people involved and in concrete accomplishments.

Two of the major developments in this period included Social Media Residency and our book, Bringing the Social Media Revolution to Health Care. After I describe those, I’ll finish with a few other highlights.

We held our first Social Media Residency in conjunction with the #MayoRagan conference in 2012. This was a chance for both our Mayo Clinic staff as well as those coming to the conference from around the U.S. (and increasingly from distant lands) to have an intense, hands-on experience in using social media and discussing health care applications.

We called it “Residency” both because people were “in residence” at Mayo Clinic for this experience, and as an analogy to medical residency as the way medical school graduates get their advanced training. We extended this metaphor throughout the program, as for example we had Facebook, Twitter and video “rotations” and members of my team and External Advisory Board members were “chief residents.”

That first time we carried it a little too far, however. Medical Residency is grueling, so we (or rather I) thought we should do the same with Social Media Residency. We made it a two-day program crammed into a day and a half. How?

We went from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. the first day.

And then we gave the Residents an assignment to draft a social media strategic plan overnight, to present the next morning.

This was after most had already participated in the #MayoRagan conference, which was two full days (plus optional pre-conference workshops.)

We had open rebellion in the ranks.

We learned from our (my) mistake, however, and dialed it back to a single day and with a more normal 8-5 schedule. For the next couple of years held Social Media Residency twice per year on each Mayo Clinic campus (Rochester, Minn., Jacksonville, Fla. and Phoenix/Scottsdale, Ariz.) One was in conjunction with #MayoRagan, while the others were standalone. We maintained a ratio of one Chief Resident per eight Residents, and at the end of the program presented certificates to the strains of Pomp and Circumstance.

In addition to other resources and handouts in their official binder, Residents also received a copy of our book, Bringing the Social Media Revolution to Health Care, as their textbook. We published this just in time for #MayoRagan 2012 and it was the big project Dr. Timimi and I revealed in our opening keynote.

Bringing the Social Media Revolution to Health Care was a collection of essays, mostly from members of our External Advisory Board (EAB), making the argument for why health care organizations and professionals should get involved in social media. Meredith Gould, Ph.D. was our editor, and besides Dr. Timimi and me and a foreword from Mayo Clinic CEO John Noseworthy, M.D. (which I may or may not have had a role in drafting) authors included:

As I flip through the book’s pages even today I’m amazed at the group we pulled together to produce this book, and the concise quality of the contributions. I’m glad it included several patient voices, and that we used all proceeds from sales of the book to support patient scholarships to attend our conferences and Social Media Residency, a decision the authors graciously and enthusiastically supported.

Some other key projects and developments during 2012-14 included:

Our #SocialAtMayo video, produced by Jason Pratt, which included members of our Mayo Clinic social media team explaining Mayo’s employee social media guidelines as well as several employees describing how they use social media in their work. It also has a nice soundtrack that will be familiar to those who watched the video in my last post.

As you’ll see in the video, we had added a new team member, Tony Hart, who had a position using social media to promote CME courses for the Department of Medicine.

We also added several new members to the EAB, as others completed their terms:

We began holding Social Media Grand Rounds, modeled after medical or surgical grand rounds meetings, as a way between conferences to share case studies or best practices, whether those were from within Mayo Clinic or from our member organizations.

Finally, in keeping with the Residency metaphor, we also developed a Social Media Fellows program for those who were taking home the lessons and applying them strategically in their work.

  • Bronze Fellows developed a strategic plan for using social media in their work.
  • Silver Fellows executed their plan and reported back what they had learned.
  • Gold Fellows were those who began giving back by teaching and encouraging others to use social media in health care.

Lisa Wylde was the first person to achieve both Silver and Gold status. As a leader in the Australian Private Hospitals Association, she attended our conference and Residency and not only applied her learnings, but bought 1,000 copies of our book to distribute among hospital leaders in Australia.

Lisa’s involvement in the network led to some developments I never would have imagined.

I’ll describe those in my next post.

The #MCSMN Story (5): Key 2011 Foundations

We officially launched the Social Media Health Network (SMHN) site, the precursor to the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network, on Feb. 10, 2011 using a local service provider. Our platform was WordPress with the open source BuddyPress plug-in, which enabled us to create user accounts.

Having dues-paying members of the network enabled me to be helpful to colleagues outside of Mayo Clinic who had questions about how to make social media work in a health care context. The revenue we generated helped to support our social media staffing. Because we wanted to be accessible to hospitals of all sizes, we set up a sliding scale for member organizations based on their annual revenues, which created some interesting issues with international government-owned hospitals.

A few weeks after we launched SMHN I got a call about membership from Paul Speyser on behalf of an online cancer community called While I was on the phone with him I reviewed his site and noticed that the basic look and feel was similar to SMHN, so I asked him, “Do you mind tell me what the underlying technology is for your site?” His response: “WordPress and BuddyPress, just like yours.”

We had been paying a our vendor, who didn’t have previous experience with BuddyPress, at an hourly rate for programming. I saw an opportunity to barter with Paul, that instead of charging for an SMHN membership perhaps he and his team could help with programming our site. That eventually led to a long-term relationship as the company he co-founded, CareHubs, has provided the platform for not only MCSMN, but also eventually Sharing Mayo Clinic, Mayo Clinic Connect, the Mayo Clinic News Network and Mayo’s News Center for staff.

Speaking of Mayo Clinic Connect, this Mayo-hosted online community for patients and caregivers which now has more than 110,000 members also had its origins in 2011, officially launching July 5. At that time our community platform wasn’t yet really ready for prime time, so initially we used a white label version of another health community site. We later migrated to CareHubs.

So in many ways a network recruitment call laid the foundation for many of the capabilities Mayo Clinic has had beyond using the general-purpose social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Another foundational development was selecting Dr. Farris Timimi in December 2011 as Medical Director for Social Media to replace Dr. Victor Montori, who had originally served in an informal, volunteer role and needed to direct his attention elsewhere. This partnership between physician and administrative leaders for significant initiatives is part of Mayo Clinic’s secret sauce. Dr. Timimi has been an integral leader of our social media efforts, particularly in relationships with his fellow physicians and bringing clinical practice, education and research perspectives into our programs.

Given our interest in having annual conferences to gather the broader health care social media community to learn and share best practices, our early collaboration with Mark Ragan and Ragan Communications also was important. They handled the event details and logistics and consulted with us on speaker selection. With all we had to do in launching Mayo Clinic’s social media efforts, running conferences was outside of our scope, so we essentially hosted their conference as a joint effort for several years, using #MayoRagan as the conference hashtag

Those annual conferences created an interesting rhythm for our program, too. When Dr. Timimi and I would deliver the opening keynote address, one part of it would be highlighting what we had accomplished in the previous year. So at the October 2011 #MayoRagan conference one of those updates was telling the story of Mayo Clinic Connect, which we had launched a few months earlier.

We also used those conference keynotes as opportunities to unveil new projects or to launch new initiatives. In 2011 our novel project resulted from our cardiology colleagues approaching our team with an idea to do a version of the 2010 Pink Glove dance, but with red surgical gloves (for heart disease) instead of pink (for breast cancer awareness.)

While we didn’t want to get into producing an unoriginal derivative knock-off, it did get our creative juices flowing. We only wanted to do it if it would be something meaningful, educational and fun. The result we unveiled at #MayoRagan 2011 was our Know Your Numbers music video, a parody of Tommy TuTone’s 1981 hit, 867-5309/Jenny. I was the author of the parody lyrics and the Executive Producer, and Makala (Johnson) Arce did a great job as Director.

We created a band for just one night:

As the song mentions and the video shows, we also created an educational app for Mayo’s Facebook page. It was a fun project that also was went deeper.

2011 was a whirlwind year, but we were just getting started. In tomorrow’s post in this series I will recount developments from 2012-2014.

The #MCSMN Story (4): Recruiting a Team and External Advisory Board

After the July 26, 2010 announcement of the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media (MCCSM) and Social Media Health Network (SMHN), the enthusiastic response created a significant urgency to make them happen.

Over the next several months we built Mayo Clinic’s first dedicated social media team to join MCCSM and support SMHN, and also recruited a stellar External Advisory Board.

The MCCSM Team

In addition to Dana Sparks and Joel Streed, who had been part of my team for several years as mentioned in part 1 of this series, and whose early work got us some of the quick wins that built momentum for the program, approval of MCCSM meant we could bring several new members to the team:

Makala Johnson (now Makala Arce) was Employee #1. She had been an intern and then filled in during a maternity leave on another team. She started as a Communications Associate in September 2010 and grew with us until she elected to stay home after her own maternity leave in August 2019. I’ll highlight some of her work in a future post.

Ron Petrovich came from a TV news background and became the manager on our team, taking charge of our syndicated media efforts among his many other roles. He has since advanced to become a peer as Communications Director for Mayo Clinic’s News Delivery team, and with my retirement next week is back in the saddle leading the Social Media team too.

Shawn Bishop came from our Mayo Clinic IT department and brought important technical skills to our team, especially as we developed our WordPress-based blog and community platform through CareHubs. He started as a Communications Associate and progressed to Senior Communications Specialist. He continues that good work in a newer role with Mayo’s Center for Digital Health.

We also added three Communications Specialists to the team, one for each of Mayo’s three group practice sites. Randy Schwarz was on the Rochester, Minn. campus and also had the major responsibility for SMHN. Jason Pratt was our first Florida Specialist and had an emphasis on social video production, bringing lots of energy to the team. Susana Shephard in Arizona had background as a Spanish interpreter, and so in addition to her social media consultations she took the initiative to create Spanish accounts for Mayo Clinic on Facebook and Twitter.

Polly Gilgenbach, Joyce Groenke, Laurel Kelly and Stacy Theobald were administrative assistants who took on expansive roles in support of this initiative. While Polly and Joyce preceded me into Mayo Clinic retirement by several years, Stacy has advanced from assistant to coordinator and, with the completion of her bachelor’s degree, is now the social media Communications Specialist for the Minnesota campus. Laurel is a coordinator working with Ron on the News Delivery team.

The picture at the top of this post is from our second team retreat, which was 10 years ago last week, and also includes our first medical director for social media, Dr. Victor Montori, who volunteered for the first couple of years after having helped to inspire the creation of MCCSM.

The External Advisory Board (EAB)

The first members of the EAB came from those I had met online and in-person who were sharing helpful perspectives on the use of social media in health care. In and among the staff hiring interviews, I was scheduling calls to invite these online allies to be part of the EAB.

After we got our first dozen members, however, I realized that in addition to this old-fashioned networking I needed to harness the power of social media and crowdsource the remaining EAB members. We announced the initial members but then created an open invitation process for others to express interest in joining.

I often say, “Facebook is for your friends. Twitter is for the friends you don’t know yet.” Our EAB process demonstrated the truth of this proposition. By opening the applications and promoting with appropriate hashtags through Twitter we were able to pull together an amazing EAB.

The picture below is from our first in-person meeting, in Jacksonville in March 2011, and in addition to Shel Holtz on the big screen via Skype it includes several of our MCCSM staff as well as other interested Mayo Clinic staff.

Our first EAB roster (obviously not all of whom could attend our first meeting) included:

In my next post I’ll share some of the highlights of what we accomplished during those early years, along with some innovations and interesting projects.

The #MCSMN Story (3): Creating The Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media and Social Media Health Network

It was 11 years ago today that Mayo Clinic announced formation of the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media (MCCSM) and the Social Media Health Network (SMHN), which eventually became the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network (MCSMN).

As MCSMN is sunsetting Saturday, this post is the next in my series looking back at its origins, growth and legacy, and also recognizing those who contributed so much to bring the social media revolution to health care.

Once we got approval in principle for an expanded social media effort at Mayo Clinic in early 2010, I began convening brainstorming and planning sessions to outline what “bigger and bolder” should look like.

Most of those discussions were internally focused, and included colleagues from various Mayo Clinic departments, divisions and functions. The vision we were developing was to encourage strategic application of social media not just in external communications and marketing, but also in clinical practice, research and education.

We had been using social media tools for a few years to do our media relations work more effectively. Our task force’s role was to set up what became MCCSM, to serve as a resource to our Mayo colleagues throughout the organization so they could do likewise in their work.

To use a chemistry metaphor, we wanted to be a catalyst. A catalyst reduces the activation energy in a chemical reaction. By developing guidelines and best practices, along with a strong enterprise-level presence on the major social networks, we would make it easier for our Mayo Clinic colleagues to embrace and apply social media. We would work out the kinks and also resolve some of the issues that might otherwise hinder them.

We would reduce the “hump” they would have to get over.

Extending this principle was the idea behind SMHN, a sibling organization to MCCSM. As we were developing helpful resources and programs in social media for our Mayo staff, we saw SMHN as a way to make them available to colleagues elsewhere, while also recovering some of the development costs through paid memberships and event registrations.

Even more important from my perspective was the reality that we were all trying to figure out this health care social media landscape, and by convening SMHN and recruiting an External Advisory Board (EAB) for MCCSM we could rally smart people into a movement where we could learn together.

The folks I mentioned in part 1 of this series were essentially the proto-EAB, and Reed Smith’s perspective through the Texas Hospital Association and his wife’s experience with The Studer Group was particularly helpful. Andy Sernovitz’s example in creating The Blog Council (now, a group of the leaders of social media in large organizations, made me think perhaps there was a place for a similar gathering of representatives from hospitals of all sizes.

Mayo Clinic had joined The Blog Council, and as we created SMHN the goal was to extend services and education not only to the leaders of social media in smaller hospitals, but also to clinical and research champions interested in health care social media.

Our vision was first to equip our Mayo Clinic staff, then to equip the social media equippers in other organizations, and finally to support clinicians and researchers who might be the lone early social media advocates. Mayo Clinic’s sponsorship provided some “air cover” (switching from chemistry to military metaphors) that helped advocates sell the legitimacy of social media to their leaders.

Mayo Clinic’s announcement of MCCSM and SMHN on July 26, 2010 was met with significant interest and even excitement. That meant we needed to immediately get about the business of recruiting a team and also building out our EAB.

I’ll recount that story tomorrow.

The #MCSMN Story (2): Early Mayo Clinic Enablers and Encouragers

About 15 years ago I was blessed to be in the right place at the right time to lead Mayo Clinic’s initial exploration of social media. As manager of enterprise media relations I was able to find ways to use social media platforms, especially Twitter and YouTube, as tools to support our media relations work.

In my first post in this series I highlighted a few early external allies in the health care social media revolution, and today I want to recognize people from within Mayo Clinic who made special contributions to our growth and leadership in social media.

My team was then responsible for syndicated media production and for media relations at the enterprise level (as opposed to the specific campuses in Rochester, Arizona and Florida), and Dana Sparks and Joel Streed were my two direct reports. They had started as freelancers, but we were using them so much at a relatively higher hourly rate that I was able to make the case for hiring them full-time, which gave us several bonus hours of work capacity every week at no extra cost. Their willingness to experiment with what we called “new media” at the time was essential to our early good results. If they hadn’t been so cheerful, eager, open and engaged we wouldn’t have built our momentum so quickly.

Chris Gade was my division chair for External Relations, and our chair for the department of Public Affairs was John LaForgia. Both actively encouraged growth in our staff and exploring new ways for Mayo Clinic to connect with our key audiences, and supported me bringing in external consultants Shel Holtz and Andy Sernovitz in 2007 and 2008 to help make the case for new media and blogging. In addition to helping us learn, Shel and Andy provided an external “Lee isn’t crazy for wanting to do this” perspective, verifying that many companies in other industries were actively embracing these technologies.

In August 2009, Dr. John Noseworthy had been named as incoming CEO of Mayo Clinic, and he sent and email with a link to a news article he’d read about the growth of social media to John LaForgia, and asking whether Mayo should consider doing more in this area. As that message was forwarded to me, it gave me license to at least start contemplating an opportunity for team growth.

We were still just coming out of the 2008 Great Recession, and budgets were tight, with very little new hiring especially in administrative functions like Public Affairs. My perspective on what was possible in getting a bigger team was therefore somewhat constrained, and that’s where a meeting with two key internal visionaries was crucial to our next step.

In late 2009 I sat in the office of Dr. Victor Montori along with Jim Hodge, a senior leader in Mayo’s Department of Development and shared my vision of doubling my team from two to four members. As I talked, Jim noticed Victor (he insisted I use his first name instead of “Dr. Montori”) gradually start to slump in his chair, and he asked what was wrong. Victor was losing enthusiasm because he didn’t think I was asking for enough given the potential I was describing.

What Jim said next caused my pulse to quicken: “I have a regular monthly meeting with Dr. Noseworthy. I’ll turn over that time to you, so you can update this proposal and present it to him.”

I was astonished…and a little terrified.

In January 2010 the big moment arrived, as John LaForgia and I met with Dr. Noseworthy and Shirley Weis, who was then Mayo Clinic’s Chief Administrative Office. I outlined some of our efforts to that point, and how we had used social media to generate increase traditional media exposure and to interact with audiences directly, and Mayo Clinic’s leadership because many of our peer organizations hadn’t yet gotten involved.

My proposal called for four new staff, which would triple my direct reports. Showing the photo featured at the top of this post, I said that the good news is our “lead” in social media was actually bigger than Secretariat’s in the Belmont Stakes.

The bad news? “There’s no finish line.”

About halfway through my presentation, Shirley interrupted, “Time out. I’m sold.” Turning to Dr. Noseworthy, she said “Aren’t you, John? I just think it needs to be bigger and bolder.”

I hadn’t even gotten to my “ask” yet!

With their blessing in principle, I was then empowered to convene a broader group to develop the plan for what would become the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media (MCCSM). I’ll describe what resulted from that effort in my next post in this series.

But before I close this discussion of key early internal supporters who aided our pre-MCCSM social media journey, I need to mention a few more:

  • Brian Kaihoi, who led the Public Affairs team responsible for and when I came to work at Mayo Clinic, was and continues to be a fountain of knowledge about Mayo history and particularly negotiating its technical infrastructure.
  • Amos Kermisch, who succeeded Brian leading the web team, was a great collaborator who encouraged me to explore blogging and also helped me to understand that I could use and domain mapping to provide the hosting infrastructure while maintaining a Mayo Clinic look and feel.
  • Mindi Klein, who was part of Brian’s and then Amos’ team, programmed the RSS feed as an “above and beyond” task which made our first podcast possible.
  • Jane Jacobs, also on the web team, but with a media relations background and a good understanding of how we could harness the web for media relations. We were and are different in almost any category you could imagine (and even did a joint presentation based on that theme at a conference in Orlando), but these different perspectives made our combined work much stronger.
  • Karl Oestreich, my successor as manager for media relations, whose hiring in 2008 enabled me to focus on our syndicated media and on social media. His support was essential to keeping the media relations team engaged. He’s now my interim division chair and has been a great colleague. I’m thankful Chris Gade recognized that we needed to split up my job in 2008, because it brought Karl into our leadership team and also gave me the psychic bandwidth for leading the charge in social media.

Teamwork is among the foundational values of Mayo Clinic, and I have been blessed to work with these team members and so many more over the last 21 years. I’ll recognize more of them as this series continues.