“Creating a Facebook page is like adopting a puppy. Starting a blog is like getting a pony.”

That’s the off-the-cuff formulation that emerged from the blogging session at our Mayo Clinic Social Media Residency on Monday.

And today it becomes my 39th Thesis, joining the first 35, along with 36, 37 and 38.

I’ve previously remarked that creating a brand page on Facebook is like puppy adoption. It’s fun at first. It can be messy, and requires lots of care and feeding.

But especially with the declining organic reach of brand Facebook posts and the increasing need to supplement good content with paid advertising, a Facebook page can grow up to be a dog.

Photo Credit: Steve Lodefink on Flickr
Photo Credit: Steve Lodefink on Flickr

In the context of our Residency discussion on Monday, it seemed the pony analogy captured the even more intense involvement required with a blog.

You need to ride ponies regularly. You need to build or rent a barn to house them. Vet bills are more expensive. And as far as care and feeding goes, a pony eats like…well… a horse.

That’s why a blog is at the peak of the SMUG Social Media Pyramid. It requires a more significant commitment than most other forms of social media

None of this is to say that you shouldn’t have a Facebook brand page or a blog. But you might want to consider sharing one, just as my dad and his friend Jim Sorgine decided to get a pony together during my youth. They each had two kids, and one pony was plenty for the four of us.

Or you might consider contributing to an existing blog or Facebook page. That’s how we counsel many of our stakeholders who are interested in a social media presence:

Send us your posts for Facebook, and we’ll put them on the Mayo Clinic page. Write guest posts on one of our Mayo Clinic blogs. See if this is something you can keep up in the long term, and whether it’s something you’re really committed to building.

If so, you’ve built great momentum, and we can help you create your own site.

If not, you’ve gotten a bigger audience for your limited series of posts than you would have reached on your own. And you don’t have the long-term commitment.

So, in a sense, the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media is in the pony rental business.

If you’d like to go for a ride, and your topic is related to social media in health care, you could join the Social Media Health Network and write a guest post.

Or if you want to write something that’s about social media but not necessarily health-related, you could become a visiting professor at SMUG.

Saddle up!


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.

Social Networking: From Facebook to LinkedIn and Beyond

Today I am presenting the third in a monthly series of adult education social media workshops through Rochester Community and Technical College. The first was an introductory overview session, and in the second we took a deeper look at Twitter: Social Media’s Gateway Drug.

Here are my slides. Note that many of the slides contain links to the referenced Web sites.

How do you take down a deceased family member’s Facebook profile?

From the mailbag this morning:

My son passed away Jan 10, 2013 and still has an active site on facebook.  A friend of his is posting messages from him in heaven to his family and we feel that this is inappropriate. How can I get this site closed?

Any suggestions on how this mom can take down her deceased son’s Facebook profile?

Should states ban student-teacher interactions on Facebook?

Yesterday’s Washington Post had an editorial about a misguided trend among state legislatures to ban communication between students and teachers through sites like Facebook and Twitter:

However, in some places, new laws and proposed measures are impeding teacher communication with students outside of school-sanctioned e-mail systems. The most recent practitioner of educational technophobia is Missouri, which last month adopted legislation intended to ban direct communication between teachers and students via Facebook.

The law is so broad it could effectively also bar student-teacher contact via Gmail or other non-school e-mail services. “No teacher shall establish, maintain, or use a nonwork-related Internet site which allows exclusive access with a current or former student,” the law reads.

The Post editorial board makes a good case against laws like this. I agree that these laws seem overly broad. I think are they well-intentioned as ways to prevent inappropriate relationships between students and teachers, but that banning Facebook messages is overkill. Facebook is just another means of communication, a platform more than 10 percent of the people in the world use.

Banning Facebook interactions seems analogous to prohibiting telephone contact between students and teachers. A private Facebook message can be sent even between users who don’t have a friend relationship, just as telephone conversations can happen between anyone via cell or land line. Should there be laws against phone calls too?

What do you think about these laws banning Facebook messaging in the schools?