From a simple project by Blake Mycoskie in 2006 to help get a small group of kids in Argentina new pairs of shoes, TOMS has since redefined what it means to bring about social change (and health) through business.

With their One For One™ business model, a pair of shoes is donated for every pair purchased. The success of their bandage-style shoes (more than 1 million pairs distributed in over 20 countries) proved it’s possible to truly be led by purpose and be profitable. TOMS has also proven that social media is the catalyst for digital activism be it on Facebook (942,116 likes), Twitter (732,763 followers), guerilla marketing or blogging.

Now, TOMS is expanding beyond shoes (leaving this “descriptor” behind in its brand name) and transforming into a truly one-for-one brand. Similar to its “one for one” BOGO (buy one, give one) model, TOMS is expanding its brand into a second product line (eyewear) to give the gift of sight to those in need.

TOMS new collection of sunglasses, priced from $135-$145 a pair, come in three styles and will be sold in the same way as TOMS shoes – for every pair of shades sold, TOMS will help give sight to a person in need through medical treatment, or sight-saving surgery (such as cataract operations) through a partnership with the Seva Foundation, and prescription glasses. The TOMS website also offers the option to upload a photo for a virtual fitting.

Why glasses? Helping save vision is a solvable problem, and Mycoskie feels it’s an issue where TOMS can make an immediate impact. And it certainly flows from their mission and model of solving great human needs worldwide. TOMS Eyewear will begin with initiatives in Nepal, Tibet, and Cambodia. Seva has been in the business of sight restoration for over 30 years – and has given help to nearly three million people globally.

I’m a huge fan of TOMS (could you really not be?). It’s a company…
• built around a massively important (and attracting) central energizing idea
• propelled by a cult-like culture
• driven by a purpose to solve a real problem
• providing a uniquely branded experience
• empowering customers through their actions
• ultimately creating (and fulfilling) a global one-for-one community of like-minded participants.

Please share your point-of-view.

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Why state-of-the-heart technology, not state-of-the-art technology, is what really moves people.

Great video interview on Big Think, from Peter Gruber, Chairman and CEO, Mandalay Entertainment Group.

His premise, so wonderfully put and so true, is that what really moves people is not state-of-the-art technology, but state-of-the-heart technology. Ask yourself, he states, an important question: the benefit of this technology, how does it make us connect better? I don’t mean connect technically better, that’s important but how does it make us connect better. How does it get more and deeper heartfelt connection between people?

“Unless it moves something, unless it renders a benefit, unless it makes the distances closer, unless it makes it more resonant, more memorable, unless it offers a deeper meaning into your heart, into your soul, a deeper purposefulness, it’ll be vestigial, it’ll be gone.”

I think Peter’s words capture perfectly the true value of social media. The ability to listen, genuinely connect, and engage in real and respectful ways, as we’ve always valued and wanted.

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What does the future hold for healthcare brands as they begin to engage/extend their engagement with patients and communities through social media?

In this interview, part of our “Insider Insights” series, Melissa Tizon, Communications Director at Swedish Health Services, Seattle, shares her point of view.

1. How has social media impacted the way your organization does business?
Social media has added a whole new dimension to the way we engage our community. It’s been a wonderful way to stay connected with Greater Seattle and be part of the conversation. It’s also given us a new tool for telling our own story. Whereas we used to rely on traditional means, we can now broadcast our own stories via social media and engage the community in the process.

For example, last summer, we hosted a “sleep up” in the middle of the night via Ustream, Cover It Live and Twitter. Our sleep experts were on air the entire night talking about sleep issues and answering questions. More than 10,000 people tuned in (many more than we could have reached through lectures), so we feel we struck a chord and provided value for people struggling with health issues.

2. What are the key challenges Swedish is grappling with as it considers social media?
One of the main reasons we became active on social media was to see what people we’re saying about us online. Once we tuned in, it was amazing what we found. We discovered we had lots of brand ambassadors saying great stuff about us. It’s wonderful to discover compliments online, and it’s been a great opportunity to share them with our staff, say thank you to the folks who posted the comments and stay connected to them.

But from time to time, we also come across not-so-glowing comments, including service issues that need to be addressed. They can range from “I can’t get an appointment for two weeks” to the cable TV in my hospital room is out. Personally, I think it’s great to get these comments because my team and I can easily notify the nurse manager on duty and get the issues taken care of real time. We monitor social media channels on a daily basis, and we’ll escalate issues immediately if appropriate.

But I think one challenge for us and every health organization will be who owns customer service via social media? Is it the marketing communications department or patient relations? There’s a gray area between informal patient feedback sent via social media and formal complaints typically submitted in writing. This is an issue that I’d love to discuss more with my peers nationally to see how they’re addressing it. There’s been a lot of focus on HIPAA and social media. In the same vein, I’d love to see more conversation on how to handle patient feedback via social media.

3. What are your top lessons learned for implementing a social media strategy?
If you’re still getting resistance to social media from the likes of Legal, IS and HR, don’t give up. For departments responsible for managing risk, it’s natural to be cautious and not want to open up what seems like a can of worms. But my experience has been that these groups realize that social media isn’t just a fad, and that they’d rather be prepared for what may come than be caught off guard. Also, I think they want to have a hand in shaping an enlightened social media policy for your organization.

My second lesson learned is that it pays to be personally proficient in social media. If you’re on a marketing communications team and have not engaged on Twitter personally or are not staying current on the newest tools, I encourage you to do so. You can’t think of social media as someone else’s job. Just like writing and editing are valued skills in our work, so is having a good grasp of social media. Because we’ve played in the space, we have a better understanding of the role it can play in our integrated marketing communications campaign, and how it can compliment our PR, advertising and internal-communications efforts.

We are very fortunate that we had a new member join our team last summer. It takes a village to gain momentum and build buzz around your brand via social media, and she’s been great about getting our physicians on board, and training our managers and staff. She helps people in our organization understand what they need to be thinking about when they use social media both personally and professionally, what they can do to support the organization’s brand and she brings a keen understanding of authenticity and building trust online.

4. In closing, the organizations and brands that will thrive in the future are those that ….
ultimately, differentiate on patient experience (and social media can play a role here as well). The more you can streamline the process for patients and make the experience as positive as possible, the more successful you’ll be in the long run. For a long time, the public has accepted/put up with flaws in healthcare – long wait times, lack of communication from staff, confusing bills, difficult to navigate way finding, etc. But in the future, patients will have less tolerance for a sub-par experience, and they’ll be much more discerning about where they go for care.

They’ll vote with their feet and choose the provider that makes the experience as seamless as possible. Good service and comfortable, clean facilities are a proxy for quality in the mind of the consumer. The average patients are probably not following your organization’s key metrics for clinical quality, but they will notice if it seems like their doctor or nurse isn’t listening to them, if their food arrives cold or if the facility isn’t spotless and well-kept.

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A strong social network can create a good mood and enhance self-esteem.

This was one of the interesting facts I stumbled upon the other day doing secondary research about wellness.  Here are some others from the web page Dimensions of Wellness:

• Socially isolated people are more susceptible to illness and have a death rate two to three times higher than those who are not socially isolated.
• People who maintain their social network and support systems do better under stress.
• Approximately 20 percent of Americans feel lonely and isolated during their free time.
• Laughter really is good medicine.
• Cholesterol levels go up when human companionship is lacking.
• Warm, close friendships cause higher levels of immunoglobulin A (an antibody that helps keep away respiratory infections and cavities).

Seems that social media (clearly not in the absence of being up close and personal) is actually good for one’s health!

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I was proud to see this article from a couple weeks ago in HealthLeaders Media, because we are fortunate to be the agency working with the Orlando Health corporate marketing team on this “Family Is” campaign.

You can read about the specifics of this campaign by clicking on the above link. But here’s a summary of the characteristics that have made this effort successful:

1. grounded: in corporate brand strategic direction
2. relevant: starting with the theme of the effort itself, “Family Is”, to their primary female target audience
3. internal engagement: staff are proud of their Orlando Health brand, and this program reinforces their sense of pride and their distinguishing level of service
4. external engagement: Family is a compelling subject that people want to participate in through their scrapbook contributions
5. presence: the program surrounds audiences both offline and online
6. sharable: which reflects the universal importance of the theme itself
7. measurable: both quantitative (visitors, time spent, friends/followers, interactions) and qualitative (conversation, sharing, sentiment)

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The future of marketing is about doing things and saying things with people. Building relationships that are collaborative, helpful, personal and honest. Requiring your healthcare organization to expose a lot more of its humanity, because customers trust each other/trust people more than they tend to trust your organization.

Blogging gives you that ability. The ability for a searcher to enter a keyword phrase, land on your post (written by a real person), which can lead to dialog, and a connection beyond what other social vehicles can provide.

Here are seven specific benefits of your blog to your healthcare organization:

1. Creating Attraction (starting with search)
2. Creating Value For Your Audiences (on their terms)
3. Building Trust (sorely lacking yet vital to building strong healthcare brands)
4. Creating and Strengthening Brand Relationships (between you and your audiences)
5. Energizing Employees (which leads to happier customers)
6. Building Transparency (a highly sought after characteristic)
7. Creating Separation Vs. Others (community building, access to customers, volume and revenue)

Are there other benefits that you’d add to this list?

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How can you contribute to making a meaningful difference in the daily lives of your communities and patients? Your blog, through your content, your insights, your stories, your solving of problems, is a means to do this.

I had the pleasure of delivering this presentation – Entering The Blogosphere: The Nucleus Of Your Healthcare Social Media Strategy – at IQPC’s recent Strategic Social Media for Healthcare Summit in NYC. Given the feedback (fortunately very positive) and the follow-up conversations I’ve had, I thought it would be of value to socialize the presentation.

It covered why and how healthcare organizations should enter the blogosphere, the important strategic and tactical considerations it takes to get up and running; and offered tips to how organizations who are already participating might improve upon their current efforts.

I hope you find value in the presentation. Any questions, comments or suggestions to share with me and others?

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KeepBritainBiking.com is a service of UK-based Devitt Insurance Services Ltd (“Devitt”). The website helps bikers exchange views and useful information about biking, to help new and experienced bikers get the most out of biking.

Here are some lessons for health marketers to take away KeepBritianBiking.com:

1. It creates a meaningful difference in the lives of its customers – beyond the initial transaction and the occasional call about a claim or a rate adjustment.

2. It allows Devitt to build an emotional connection with their customers – above and beyond the functionality of its (and all others) insurance products.

3. It allows biking customers to connect with each other – a group that places great importance on sharing.

4. It maintains Devitt’s relevance and increases its odds of success – through a different offering, delivery of unique benefits, and the opportunity to extend its customer base.

5. This “social community” promotes word-of-mouth – and gets friends talking about biking (through its biking forums, biking blog and biking gallery) and Devitt.

6. Ultimately, it stretches Devitt brand meaning – delivering more emotional and self-expressive punch to customers beyond a traditional insurance company.

What are your thoughts about this effort?

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