Mayo Clinic Social Media Progress Report

After presenting at a Web 2.0 Summit last week in Oakland, CA, I got to thinking it would be good to do an update on where we are with Mayo Clinic‘s engagement in social media. We’ve made a lot of progress in the last three years from a completely “old media” focus to a more balanced approach, continually increasing our attention to what Charlene Li calls “the Groundswell.” And hopefully when I do another update in a few months, I’ll be able to look back on many more exciting developments.

Here’s a list of where we are as of today in our social media exploration and adoption. For those areas in which I can pinpoint a starting date, I’ll do so.

Care Pages – Mayo Clinic provides this service for hospitalized patients, enabling them to provide updates to family and friends on a secure Web page. This helps keep loved ones informed without the undue burden of repeating information by cell phone for each individual, and it enables concerned friends and family to send greetings to the patient. We’ve had this service for a few years, and I know many patients appreciate how it makes staying in touch while hospitalized easier.

Podcasts – Mayo Clinic’s first podcast was based on our Medical Edge radio program, and launched in Sept. 2005 through what was then the iTunes Music Store. This gave us our first taste of the potential interest in and power of “new media.” In January 2007 we began offering video podcasts of Mayo Clinic Medical Edge television segments, and in July 2007 followed with extended podcasts in several categories: Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Children’s Health, Heart, Cancer and Bones & Muscles. In April 2008, we moved these podcasts to, so users could find and listen to individual segments of interest, instead of subscribing to a particular feed.

RSS/Web Feeds – Also in Sept. 2005, we began offering really simple syndication (RSS), a.k.a. Web Feeds. You can sign up for Mayo Clinic News from all three campuses (or can choose to receive only Arizona, Florida or Minnesota news), health information news, science news or business-related news.

Syndicated Video – Mayo Clinic began using Voxant in 2007 to make its Medical Edge video segments available for syndication to other Web sites. Instead of making people go to our site to view the videos, we wanted to put them where people are going, such as in on-line news sites. The Mayo Clinic YouTube channel was started just last week; expect to see the look improve significantly yet this month. Here’s our latest addition, a video tour of the new Mayo Clinic Hospital in Jacksonville, Fla.


Facebook – with Mayo Medical School and several other health-related science schools (and with our e-mail addresses), Mayo has had people in Facebook for a long time. In the last six months we’ve seen the number of Mayo participants in Facebook more than double, to over 2,100. When “fan” pages became available to organizations and brands in November 2007, we established one immediately (partly because of what you see when you go to We revised and re-categorized the official Mayo Clinic Facebook page in January 2008, and have 1,053 fans as of this writing. In another effort to prevent domain name “squatting,” we also have established accounts in Twitter ( and Flickr.

Finally, we’ve begun sponsoring some official blogs. The first was in conjunction with an event, a symposium on innovation in health care in November 2007. It was hosted on and customized somewhat, but we didn’t map to a subdomain. We followed that in March 2008 with our Health Policy blog, our podcast blog and a blog about diversity in education at Mayo. These have all started in the last two months, and we hope and expect to continue developing new blogs.

Meanwhile, our colleagues at our sister site,, which is Mayo Clinic’s consumer health information site, have been starting blogs and a podcast, too. The blogs cover topics like Alzheimers’ Disease, Nutrition, Stress, Pregnancy and Depression.

Mayo Clinic is one of the United States’ best places to work (Fortune magazine has had us in its top 100 for the last five years.) I feel exceptionally blessed to be able to work for an organization like Mayo, working with such interesting subject matter during this exciting time of innovation and change in the media world.

Why Facebook Won’t Be Friendster

This weekend I got another firsthand view of why, despite suggestions that today’s kids will chase after whatever is the next new shiny toy, Facebook will have long-term staying power.

I witnessed scores of young ladies (the young men were much less active in this) taking pictures of each other and their dates at the Austin, Minn. High School Prom. Then two of them who are really close to me came home the next evening and started uploading dozens photos to Facebook, and tagging all of their friends.

So, for example, here is a pre-prom picture that showed up in my news feed, after Bekah tagged me:

And here’s a partial group picture from one of the early Saturday evening events:

Some observers warn that Facebook will become uncool because people like me (or at least in my age group) can be members. Others say the concern is that with Facebook being a “walled garden” in which your data goes in but doesn’t come out, users will rebel because they want data portability.

I don’t buy either of those arguments. Facebook’s variable privacy settings (as described in Facebook 210) mean people of all ages can coexist in the same social networking space, just as we all formerly used the same land-line phone network and now use interoperable digital cell phones with text messaging.

Just because we have the technical ability to interact through cell phones doesn’t mean I’m regularly “texting” people of my daughters’ generation. But it doesn’t stop us from peacefully coexisting in the same digital spectrum. And if I needed to reach one of them in an emergency, being able to send a message through Facebook may be just the ticket.

Likewise, I only know one of their peers who’s using Twitter. This tool of the geeky set has a lot of potential, but hasn’t broken through to mass appeal in anything like the numbers that Facebook has, partly because a lot of people look at it and can’t immediately see what good it will do them. But if they ever discover Twitter, they won’t let the fact that Robert Scoble and I are using it keep them from taking advantage of its wonderfulness.

They don’t have a problem figuring Facebook’s functionality, though, which is why it’s the top photo-sharing site on the Internet. It’s just simple to use, and over their high school and college years they will load lots of memories to these servers.

Unlike the data portability purists, who want the ability to integrate data from all sorts of yet-to-be-invented services into whatever container site they desire, my daughters and their friends just want to be able to connect with each other easily. And they LOVE Facebook Chat. Data portability means nothing to them. Functionality does. They want to be where their friends are, and they don’t particularly care about the identity of Facebook’s other 70 million active users.

As long as Facebook keeps developing and improving its service and doesn’t violate their trust in a way that creeps them out, the likelihood that many of its younger users will bail for another network is remote. And as they see how friend lists can make it reasonably easy to separate personal and professional networks in one site, they’ll be less inclined to join a network like LinkedIn.

I still think LinkedIn is likely to do well in the long term, because it has a critical mass in business networking. But with 14 million photos uploaded to Facebook daily, I see its critical mass continuing to grow as well. People aren’t going to lightly leave a few hundred friends and their photos behind.

What do you think? The growth in Facebook’s reported number of active users seems to be slowing somewhat, but do you see anything on the horizon that would cause it to decline? Any possibility of a recession (two quarters of negative growth) for Facebook?

Bulldog Reporter on Facebook, Twitter

I’m attending the Bulldog Reporter Media Relations 2008 Summit at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco today and tomorrow, and tomorrow I will be part of a panel about using Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networks. Our focus is particularly on media relations applications, but I’m sure that some of our participants will be relatively new to social networking sites, so we’ll touch on some other uses for social networking sites, too.

Thanks to Critical Mention, I believe we will have wireless internet in the meeting rooms, so I’ll be live blogging as many of the sessions as I can.

One way I like to do this at conferences is by setting up Facebook groups, so attendees can experience social networking first hand, without leaping in and setting up a brand “fan” page. So I’ve set up a Bulldog Reporter Media Relations Summit 2008 Facebook group. This will be an opportunity for attendees and exhibitors to continue their networking after the summit is over.

I’m less experienced a live-Tweeting through Twitter, but will be using the hash tag #mr2008 for my Tweets. For more information on hash tags, see this fan wiki. I also understand I can get live updates from other Tweeters by using track mr2008 (provided any others use that same tag.) If I find out that others are live blogging or Tweeting and using other tags, I’ll post those, too.

The conference agenda looks great, with continental breakfast starting in about five minutes. Time to grab some coffee!

Exploring in DC

What do you do on a Saturday night in Washington, DC? If you’re a geek who happens to also be a basketball fan, maybe you do what I’ve done: watch a couple of NCAA basketball games while checking out some newer social media sites and services.

I’m not quite that pathetic. I did take a ride on the Metro this evening after the conference to go see the cherry blossoms on the Mall. It was beautiful:


But after that, I did come back to the hotel to eat and watch UCLA put away Xavier, and for the last couple of hours I’ve been multitasking, checking out some social media sites, services and applications while watching a closer contest between North Carolina and Louisville.

I may be doing some reviews of these after I get a little more experience with them, but here are some initial impressions.

I like Twhirl, a desktop client for Twitter. I think it can help me have more of the real-time experience of Twitter that would be more helpful. Twittermail looks like a good service, too. Dennis McDonald shared his Twitter rules this week, and I agree with most of them.

One thing I’d like to know is whether I can get Tweets from only selected accounts via SMS. I think I’ve tried this, by signing up for one user’s Tweets. This would be particularly helpful if I could have a high-priority class of Tweets (e.g. family members) that came to me by SMS. Does anyone know whether this works?

I also signed up for Utterz, having seen Chris Heuer use it. My profile name is leeaase. Pretty original, huh? I’ll probably use it to do some blog posts, and then may give it a review.

Probably the coolest thing today is FriendFeed. It pulls in data from 33 other services, including Twitter, YouTube, a blog, Flickr, LinkedIn. Again my account is leeaase. I’ve read a bunch about this and look forward to getting more experience with it.

So what has your experience, if any, been with these services?

Welcome Frost & Sullivan eBulletin Readers

A few weeks ago I got a Facebook message from Caryn Brown from Frost & Sullivan, saying that she wanted to feature my blog as a “Recommended Read” in the eBulletin, a quarterly electronic publication for past participants in Sales and Marketing: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange. (I guess they ordinarily feature a book in this section.) I asked Caryn to let me know when the eBulletin would be distributed, so I could welcome you properly and share links to some of the posts I’ve done about Frost & Sullivan events. She kindly obliged, so here’s a quick intro to Social Media University, Global — or SMUG.

SMUG is the University of Phoenix without the football stadium…or the tuition…or the accreditation. It’s a place for lifelong learners to get hands-on experience with social media tools, which are changing the way people communicate.

With well over 100 million blogs and upwards of 68 million active users of Facebook, I’ve said previously that for PR professionals, unfamiliarity with these tools borders on malpractice. The same is true for those involved in sales and marketing.

Especially when you can learn about them for free!

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