Tweets have more Capitol Clout than Email

Before I began my career in health care, I worked for 14 years in political and government jobs at the local, state and national level. The last of those was as press secretary for former U.S. Rep. Gil Gutknecht. I had helped Gil set up his first Web site, but when I left in 2000 the Internet hadn’t yet gotten to be a big thing in politics. And social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter were nonexistent.

In the post-9/11 era and in the aftermath of the anthrax scare, email took over as the highest impact means for citizens to communicate with their members of Congress. This morning Gil passed along an interesting article indicating that social channels are having more impact than email campaigns. Here’s an excerpt:

Advocacy campaigns have relied heavily on email for more than two decades, but a recent survey shows that a handful of well-conceived comments on social media may be just as effective as thousands of emails.

In a poll of House and Senate offices by the Congressional Management Foundation, three quarters of senior staff said that between one and 30 comments on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter were enough to grab their attention on an issue. Thirty-five percent said that fewer than 10 comments were enough.

“The contrast is shocking between Twitter volume and email volume,” CMF President and CEO Brad Fitch said.

The article, which was published just before the last election, goes on to explore some of the reasons for the higher relative impact of social compared with email.

Having worked in a congressional office, here’s what I think:

Even if an advocacy group can generate messages from several hundred constituents, those messages feel less authentic to the congressional staff than social posts do.

If I send my congressman an email, a staffer in his office reads it and will likely categorize it along with others in a report to the congressman. If I’m one of a handful of people sharing the same concern or idea, it’s not going to register.

But if mine is one of thousands, and the language of the messages are similar, it feels more like astroturf than grassroots.

An email message is the end, while a social post is a beginning. Organized campaigns can get constituents to send email messages, but those messages are invisible to the broader public.

But when you or I comment on Facebook or Twitter, we’re not just addressing our elected officials: we’re sharing sentiments with our friends and connections, too. Instead of going into the email black hole, the messages are out in the wild, and able to influence others.

Members of Congress pay attention to public opinion, but they can tell when activists are juicing the numbers.

So if you have something to say to your government officials, tweet it in your own words. It might encourage others to speak up. And over time, that can make an impact.

It’s not about flash mobs and splash. It’s about authentic involvement.

What’s Next Big Thing in Health Care Social Media?

It’s an understandable question, and one I’m frequently asked. In fact, it came up again this morning in a phone conversation.

Those who ask it typically are looking for tips on the new, cool platform that everyone will be using next year, and that currently is relatively unknown or obscure to the broader population.

The answer that came to me is one that I think will become my new standard:

The next big thing in health care social media will be that social media in health care isn’t a big thing.

I’m not saying that social media won’t be important in health care: I think it will be just the opposite. Social media tools will be incorporated throughout health care, and will be vital elements in all of our communications.

But they won’t feel big because they’ll just be normal. They will have become accepted as a standard way of working. They’ll be as unremarkable as email is today.

That’s when social tools will have realized their enormous potential: when using them becomes standard operating procedure.

Interestingly, just a couple hours after the first conversation, I had a wide-ranging and stimulating discussion with a gentleman from Germany, Peter Carqueville.

Peter PhotoWe enjoyed our video discussion via Skype, and I reminisced about my college days in the early 1980s, when I had to wait in line on Sunday night for the one phone on our dorm floor, to make an expensive collect call. I talked about how amazing it is that today we can talk across seven time zones and an ocean, and that it’s free.

But Peter topped my story: while I looked back on what seemed to be scarcity of telecommunications access,  he had grown up behind the Iron Curtain in what was formerly East Germany, where most families didn’t even have phones.

The next big thing in health care social media will be when we come to take use of social tools for granted as we do unlimited cell phone minutes and text messaging — and free video calls via Skype and Goolge+ — today.

Integrating Social Media in Your Hospital’s Communications

I’m presenting today at the Iowa Society for Healthcare Marketing and Public Relations Spring Conference in Des Moines. I believe this is the third time I’ve been with this group, and so I’m looking forward to sharing some new material and perspectives. Here are my slides:

I welcome your questions and comments. And if you would like to pursue deeper exploration of this material, our Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media Social Media Residency program provides a day-long immersion. The next session is May 12 in Rochester.

 

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Social Media: What’s all the Fuss?

Today I am starting a monthly series of two-hour sessions on social media organized through Rochester Community and Technical College. I hope the participants will find the series encouraging and empowering as they explore ways they can use social media tools personally and professionally.

Below are the slides from my first presentation, which will introduce many of the important social platforms and also sets the stage for sessions to be held over the next three months. Because I move quickly through the slides, I want to have them available for review here. Many of the slides include links to relevant sites or examples.

If you have questions or comments on any of the material, let’s discuss in the comments below.

A Fresh Look at Social Media

I’m in Orlando today for a presentation to FSHPRM, which is the public relations and marketing group affiliated with the Florida Hospital Association. I’ve spoken to this group a couple of times previously, the last time being in February 2009. It’s fun to look back at what I was saying then, and how far we have progressed.

Here are my slides for this morning’s presentation:

I’m organizing this presentation a little differently from what I’ve done in the last couple of years, and also adding some new material. What do you think?