Behold The Power of Twitter

At noon today, I had an opportunity to conduct a Twitter training class for physicians from one of our clinical departments at Mayo Clinic.

I wanted to show them the reach and speed of Twitter, and how it can spread messages widely and quickly. So, at 12:28, I put out this tweet to my Twitter followers:

Within seconds, the responses started coming in:

Update: I went back to Tweetdeck to capture the actual times of the tweets. I think it makes the speed of the spread even more interesting. It also shows the half-life of a tweet.

The tweets above all arrived in the first hour. Since then, a few more trickled in…

Altogether, that’s 57 replies or retweets from 21 states, the District of Columbia and Canada.

The total potential reach of the message- to my followers plus the followers of those who tweeted – was 66,986. Of course not everyone among those followers saw the message. If they didn’t happen to be watching Twitter at the time, they missed it.

Still, I think that’s pretty amazing for a lunchtime experiment.

Thanks to everyone who participated by replying or retweeting!

On Beta Versions, Diversity and Perceived Facial Slaps

On Thursday we announced the first 13 members of what will eventually be our 25-member external advisory board for the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media. That same post included a call for nominations for the remaining 12 members, which we are recruiting through a crowdsourcing process. Here’s what I said in that post:

Our goal is to have a well-rounded board with diverse backgrounds, capabilities and interests that encourages a wide range of applications for social media tools to improve health and the health care system, and to bring perspectives from other industries and government to the conversations. These are volunteer positions, although members will receive free admission to events sponsored by the center.

The first 13 members selected for one-year terms are listed on the Advisory Board page. These are among the pioneers in applying social media in health care and humanitarian endeavors. We’re honored that they are willing to serve.

We want your help in nominating and selecting candidates for the remaining 12 positions to give us the well-rounded board we’re seeking, reflecting diversity in all its forms.

We’d like to have representatives from state, local or federal government, public health, medical and scientific journals, hospital and nursing associations, disease-oriented organizations and patient foundations, medical associations and specialty societies, and of course physicians. While we have a pair of patients among our initial members, we’re open to more. And we don’t want to limit nominations to the foregoing categories: we hope to also have representatives from other industries (such as the technology sector) that are more advanced in application of social media than health care has been.

I thought we had made it clear that this was just a start in naming the advisory board, and that we have a long way to go before it’s complete. Maybe it would have been better if I had just done the post with the initial names, instead of having the bios of the first members on this separate page.

DrVes tweeted Thursday night that  “Mayo Clinic Advisory Board for Social Media is a good idea but the doctors are missing in version 1.0.” That led Doctov_V to ask on his blog in a Friday post, “Mayo’s Center for Social Media – Does it Need Physician Advisors?KevinMD took it a step further, saying “Mayo Clinic Center for Health Care Social Media Disses Physicians” and that not having a physician among the first 13 was “a slap in the face.” Others noted the low proportion of women in the initial batch and that some other diversity was lacking, too.

Here’s a bit more background on the process and why we have approached it this way, mingled with some other observations:

Many of our first picks would have been on anyone’s recommendation list. If we had started with a blank slate and asked people to submit names of five people to serve on the board, @EdBennett, @ePatientDave and several of the others would likely have been on 80 percent or more of the ballots.

As I developed a list of people to ask, I started with those I knew best, and from whom I have learned much. I’ve met everyone in the first batch in real life, with the exception of one member with whom I’ve had extensive phone conversations. I was talking with some of them about the concept of our Center for Social Media long before we announced it. Their advice has already been extremely helpful, and it seemed right to ask them to help in a more formal, ongoing way.

After we defined the roles and responsibilities for the board and started inviting these first members, I also had a list of potential “slots” or perspectives we didn’t have represented yet and was asking the initial members for their suggestions.

Then an idea struck me: this is a social media advisory board, so why not build the rest of it socially?

We had some other potential members in mind, some of whom are physicians. But we’re also in the middle of hiring several staff members, creating an internal advisory team, preparing for our Social Media Summit on our Mayo Clinic campus in Florida in late September, and getting ready to launch some other initiatives. Crowdsourcing will help us keep growing the advisory board while also moving forward on these other projects. It will identify people who really want to participate.

And while we thought the remaining “slots” we had were fairly comprehensive and representative, by crowdsourcing we could have people suggest perspectives that we may not have even considered.

So it just seemed right to stop at 13, roughly the halfway point, and throw the process open for nominations. Everyone with whom I discussed this thought crowdsourcing was a great way to involve the community in forming the board.

We expect those who eventually fill the remainder of positions will be much more oriented toward clinical practice, medical research and medical education. It won’t be perfectly proportionally representative, but it will reflect diversity. And it will be matched with a similar advisory team drawn from among Mayo Clinic employees. We’re going to start crowdsourcing that internal advisory team later next week.

We could have tried to build a representative board through old-fashioned networking and waited to announce it until we had all 25 members. That would have taken a lot more work on my part, and the final results wouldn’t have been as good.

That’s the nature of social media. The first version you publish is a good start, and then you ask the community to help refine it.

One final thing about the tweet from DrVes that started this discussion. What we have release isn’t version 1.0 of the board. It’s version 0.52. It’s in beta. Exactly 52 percent of the members have been named. I appreciate that DrVes has been balanced in his comments, noting that physicians will be included when the full board. I also thought Doctor_V’s observations were, well…thoughtful.

But even though he wondered whether physicians would “make the cut,” I can say unequivocally that our external board will have physician members.

Perhaps the main good that will come out of the discussions of the last 48 hours is that more people will become aware of the advisory board opportunity and apply, or nominate others, and we’ll get a stronger board.

That was the idea.

Here’s a final comment from KevinMD, as we have interacted on his blog:

“IMO the entire panel should have been crowd sourced, rather than starting with an initial, invited few.”

I can understand that perspective. I hope what I’ve said here about the development of the board will help him, and others who may share his view, to understand mine.