Health Is Social

Infusing Social Media into Healthcare

“Blogging is dead.” I can’t tell you how many times I hear that. According to Ed Bennett’s Hospital Social Network List, fewer than 90 hospitals have blogs. That’s less than 2% of all US hospitals! Meanwhile, over 600 hospitals have Twitter and Facebook accounts. Does that mean blogging is dead? Or does it mean that hospitals are passing on important opportunities to communicate?

I understand why some people think blogging is dead. More and more people are turning to Twitter and other ‘real-time’ media to publish and interact.

Also: Resources are scarce: a tweet…well a tweet is 140 characters. It’s Twitter. How can it get any easier? Why blog when you can tweet? Attention spans are short anyway.

Twitter and Facebook also supposedly ‘viral’ (wonderfully seductive buzzword for the uninitiated).

I’ve been in discussions with clients who have told me their agencies advised them that Twitter, Facebook  and Youtube were all that’s needed anymore and that their websites were basically useless. That blogging wasn’t worth the effort and that nobody reads blogs.

NOBODY READS BLOGS

Nobody reads blogs? Well: Google does. Google loves blogs. Don’t you think Google is an important ‘follower’? Hypothetical: which of these two kinds of ‘followers’ would you rather have?:

  • Ten thousand followers on Twitter, 99.9% of which ignore your tweets and the rest aren’t paying strong attention to you
  • 1 search engine, like Google, who indexes and archives your blog’s content and serves it up to people who are actively looking for what you might have?

Patients read blogs too. “Oh, we tried a blog, but only had 25 subscribers.” Only 25? You mean those 25 people – human beings – don’t matter? What if a few of those readers were healthcare journalists or philanthropists or patients who are connected via their own communications platforms to thousands of others?

For that matter, what if you had 1? What if she’s the one person with a condition and she finds your content of immense and rare value? What if your content enables her to lead a better life, even if in some small way? Why would you refer to her as an ‘only’?

Nobody reads blogs. OK, well nobody reads your tweets. 🙂

You see, Twitter and Facebook and other streaming media create the illusion that longer form content doesn’t matter much anymore.

Actually: where do you think all that good stuff people share on Twitter and Facebook come from? Who do you think earns ROI (however it’s defined) from those tweets and other social streams? The fact is, many of the items shared on streaming media are links to…blog posts.

PROCESS IS POWER

You need three integrated things in today’s world in order to have any chance of having an audience: content, context and process. Content and context provide relevance – a no-brainer.

But you need process in order to deliver that relevance. If you have none of the skills required for blogging, then you won’t understand how to develop and execute the kinds of processes needed to properly execute whatever strategies you have. It’s that simple. Blogging is a skill, and it’s no longer just putting up content – it’s a process.

You don’t need a huge following on your blog. You do need to be good at content generation. Twitter and Facebook won’t do that – in fact, they’ll make you sloppy and lame if that’s all you do.

In today’s world, you do have to be swift in your interactions. But that’s a skill too, one best honed by the experiences of blogging. Too many agencies and clients have for too long forgone the education and skills-building that blogging provides.

I’m not saying you need a blog – I am saying you need the underlying skills. If you know another way to garnish those skills, more power to you.

YOUR BOAT ON THE ELECTRIC SEA OF INFINITY

You (or your client) don’t own Twitter or Facebook. You don’t own your tweets. You have no control over Twitter. No control over Facebook. You don’t even own your name on those services.

The only place you own on the Internet is your domain name. Why would you abandon the only thing in an uncontrollable world that you have some control over?

Why would not take advantage of the wide opportunities to produce an infinite combination of content – enduring and timeless content – that matters most to the very people you serve?

Don’t get taken in by get-rich schemes.

21st Century communications is an endurance feat, not a popularity contest.

Healthcare content is far too important to leave to Twitter and Facebook. You (or your client) are experts (I hope). If you are, I hope you know how to bring forth your expertise online.

There’s so much content in Healthcare and yet one of the most common questions is: But what do we talk about?

OMG – the amount of topic is more than one organization can ever cover. So the opportunities are wide open!

Twitter and Facebook and other social media have value, don’t get me wrong: but without a home-base of your own, you’re missing a key ingredient in your online presence. Kind of like apple pie without real apples.

The Internet is the Electric Sea of Infinity: it’s easy to get shocked and tossed and drowned if you don’t have the right kind of boat.

A well-written and engaging blog is about the only place on the Sea of Infinity where you can build a boat with an anchor.

@PhilBaumann@HealthIsSocial

In future posts and Webinars, I’ll discuss more about healthcare blogging because I think it’s an ignored topic.

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  • NNR

    There’s a slow tide change back to the blog IMHO—Leo Laporte’s recent Buzz fiasco has at least got people talking about how the personal blog has a better chance of being less transient and more important than 140-character snippets on microblogging platforms.

    • Phil Baumann

      Agree – I look at blogging as a foundation – the home planet. Tweets and all the peripheral media as the other stuff orbiting it.

      Phil

  • You lost me after the first 140 characters…

    • Phil Baumann

      Hi Erica

      Yes, it’s hard to get a complet thought in 1…

  • Pingback: Blogging’s not dead | WEBLOGSKY: Jon Lebkowsky's Blog()

  • Thanks for a great post. Very motivating.

  • I’m sharing this post with the Social Media in Organizations (SMinOrgs) Community. It reinforces a lot of the points I make regarding the importance of having a integrated, strategic approach to social media that is built around a social media system with an organization’s website as its home base. Two of the biggest problems with social media initiatives today are that

    1. They’re more tactical than strategic, without proper direction based on the fundamental objectives that the technology can help an organization acheive.

    2. The “shiny penny syndrome” has caused people to think that traditional drivers of digital success like SEO are passe.

    Individuals and organizations that can put these technologies in perspective and leverage them effectively will prevail over the impulsive fad followers.

    • Phil Baumann

      Hi Courtney,

      You hit a couple important points.

      The whole process definitely needs to be integrated and the disparate presences need to be connected. That take an understanding of how these things work together.

      And I do think that as new media evolve, many organizations and agencies follow them like shooting stars while forgetting the ground beneath them. Easy to trip.

      Thanks!

      Phil

  • How many doctors offering good, well research, solid advice do you find online? I am not sure what the answer to that is, but I do know that there are far more proponents of alternative treatments online than medical doctors.

    I suspect the fact that physicians have lost control of the online message doesn’t particularly bother the medical profession, but shouldn’t it bother them when over 60% of patients visit the web first when looking for health information?

    Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr Pamela Hartzband and Dr Jerome Groopman believe that “Physicians are in the best position to weigh information and advise patients, drawing on their understanding of available evidence as well as their training and experience. If anything, the wealth of information on the Internet will make such expertise and experience more essential.”

    • Phil Baumann

      Marie

      You just hit the proverbial nail on the head, and it’s one the primary reasons I started blogging years ago.

      We do need more providers sharing their wisdom, and we need more reasoned legislation that allows them to communicate without unnecessary fear.

      Thank you, Marie!

  • “The fact is, many of the items shared on streaming media are links to…blog posts.” Case in point: I came here from an email subscription to KevinMD’s LinkedIn group. Most of the interaction I see there and on Twitter is the exchanging of news and blog links.

    I think the best point you made is to not underestimate your audience, which of course requires thought to have gone into who your target audience is and to fashion your message (content and delivery) accordingly. 25 regular, involved followers is way better than 70 “bouncers” (the hit-and-run variety of traffic). Google certainly spiders through all that content, and no one has dethroned them in the search business as yet. Plus I liked the “Electronic Sea of Infinity” phrase: the metaphor is quite compelling, plus it has so much early scifi goodness in it. 😉

    • Phil Baumann

      Hi Michelle

      Yes, the Electric Sea of Infinity does have a ring of early sci fi goodness to it – I like the way you phrased that. 🙂

  • Hey Mr B. Your sign-off nails it. The blog (and in my book the website) is the anchor – so so important. This is especially true when you hit choppy waters. Every organisation must have a home on the web where they can explain themselves and say what they need to on a website and ideally on their blog to allow a transparent dialogue – riding out the storm. Tell your client to set that dopey poor advice agency adrift ;+) @aurorahealthpr ^NC

    • Phil Baumann

      Thanks, Neil.

      Good to see you use the D word 😉

      Phil

  • Soumyananda Mishra

    Nice description. The social sites help in increasing the publicity of a site.