If the Mayo Clinic can use WordPress blogs, Facebook and YouTube to help achieve their enterprise goals, why can’t you?

Net: Despite being in a business where privacy is heavily regulated and systems stability can literally be a matter of life or death, The Mayo Clinic has established itself as one of the leaders in applying social media technologies to build their brand and engage employees and customers (i.e. patients). And they are doing so with great agility and very little incremental investment.

How many times have you thought or said one of the following rationales for not developing an internal and external Web 2.0 strategy to build your brand, engage your employees, customers and business partners in the co-creation of enterprise value, and increase profits?

“Our brand is a matter of life and death to our business.”

“We are in a serious industry.”

“We can’t diminish our brand by playing around with something my kids do.”

“We are one of the country’s oldest and most revered companies in our business.”

“Protecting our customers’ information is a top priority.”

“Our lawyers and IT executives will take years to even think about approving something like this.”


I just listened to an outstanding interview on the For Immediate Release (FIR) podcast. Started in January of 2005 by Neville Hobson, one of Underwood Partners UK colleagues, and Shel Holtz, from Concord, California, FIR is one of the longest running podcasts. In addition to their twice weekly podcasts on business and nonprofit enterprise applications of Web 2.0 and social media technologies, Shell and Neville frequently interview leading edge practitioners. The February 5th FIR Interview featured Lee Aase, Manager of Syndication and Social Media at the Mayo Clinic. The interview is very well done, lasts about 50 minutes and is well worth your time. A few highlights:

  • The Mayo Clinic began experimenting with podcasts in 2005 by taking interviews with their doctors they had developed for their web site and posting them on iTunes . They were surprised to see downloads rapidly grow from 900 to 74,000 a month. As a point of reference, the Mayo Clinic treats about 50,000 patients a year, or less than 4,200 a month.
  • Lee’s team found using flip video cameras to interview doctors to be an efficient way to get breaking news (e.g. research findings) to media and patients. Paraphrasing Lee: “It was low cost and enabled us to be a lot more nimble. Instead of going through the four day process to get copy editing done for a traditional news release, we shoot a ten or fifteen minute interview and pull out five minutes of it for video news releases.
  • The Mayo Clinic created what they call “a culture blog” sharing.mayoclinic.org, where patients share their experiences with diseases and treatments.
  • Mayo uses WordPress for their blogs with the full blessing and support of IT. Lee: “We have been very blessed with our IT colleagues who were supportive of using WordPress.” Mayo uses CSS customization and maps the blogs to a sub-domain of their patient web site. The Mayo Clinic is paying about $55 a year per blog or “about a couple of Starbucks per month.”
  • Health care providers are all bound by HIPPA regulations that prohibit them from providing information about patients’ conditions. But the legal team working with Lee, whom he describes as innovative, supportive and “enlightened folks,” determined that if the patient decides to tell their story it is the patient disclosing information, not Mayo Clinic. He adds that the Clinic has blog guidelines and encourages patients to think carefully about what they put on the site.
  • Mayo Clinic has a Facebook group with 5,577 members. The Mayo Clinic main page on Facebook offers people a chance to write on their wall. Said Lee: “We did this so that people’s friends would see that they wrote on our wall and what they said about us.”
  • The Mayo Clinic YouTube channel was established 12 months ago. Although some questioned “whether YouTube was the kind of place for an august dignified brand” like the Mayo Clinic, Lee’s team did research and found that among those who had an opinion, 39% were positive about  a Mayo Clinic page and only 6% were negative .
  • YouTube was also a no or low cost initiatives as the videos come from interviews used for other purposes and YouTube is free for nonprofit organizations. They use YouTube as their video server because is far cheaper than self hosting and easier for others to imbed in their blogs and share with friends and colleagues. (They also make the raw files available.)
  • The Mayo Clinic engages employees with an internal blog “Let’s talk” and has used it to engage Mayo’s 50,000 staff members in their strategic plan by inviting comments and asking employees to collaborate on such topics as “What does quality mean in your area?”

Why engage in social media? Lee states that the primary drivers of patients to Mayo Clinic are word of mouth and stories in the news media. Their social media programs combine the power of both while increasing engagement and collaboration of many of Mayo Clinic’s stakeholders. He goes on to add:

“We treat 500, 000 patients a year and have 50,000 employees. Our goal is to engage and empower them and to get them involved.”

Question:

If the Mayo Clinic can use Word Press blogs, Facebook and YouTube to help achieve their enterprise goals, why can’t you?

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  1. Lee Aase
    Lee Aase says:

    Thanks for the great review, Craig. I hope other organizations will take advantage of the opportunities afforded by Web 2.0 to get engaged with their key stakeholders, whether employees, customers or patients.

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