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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29 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

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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The real title of this Fast Company article written by Ben Paynter is Five Steps for Consumer Brands to Earn Social Currency. It is based on a Vivaldi Partners/Lightspeed study of social media efforts that create true value for organizations and their customers. But there are good insights here for health brand marketers to consider as you develop, execute and refine your social media efforts.

1. Advocates Trump Followers. Strength isn’t always in numbers. While Dunkin’ Donuts has 80% fewer Facebook and Twitter followers than Starbucks, Dunkin’ fans are 35% more likely to recommend the brand given its social media practices. Dunkin has shown that interesting initiatives that help fans engage, with your brand and with each other through your brand, build brand advocates. I think P&G’s is a good example of this.

2. Context Matters. Using the example of beer drinkers, the study found that “product and packaging innovations do not help create relevance in this consumer’s daily life.” What’s important is the bonding or “social context” during consumption. I relate this back to blasting out one-way messages touting latest technologies or chest-pounding statistics versus posting (for instance) a video on YouTube featuring an elderly couple playing the piano in the atrium of Mayo Clinic. Real people. Real story. Real relevant.

3. Not Every Brand Should Be Social. Mass-market brands positioned based on functional superiority, such as Gillette (with 96% of study respondents touting good quality and reliability), aren’t likely to see much upside in social currency. I don’t agree with this statement for the reason they cite, as social media programs should always be built around achieving specific objectives – whether building awareness, cultivating relationships, promoting new products, or targeting new markets.

4. Social Tools Are A Means, Not An End. In reviewing Axe and Clinique, the study concludes that Axe’s social-media efforts don’t translate as strongly into meaningful talk or an ardent defense when compared with a brand such as Clinique, because the Axe audience knows that it’s all a goof. By contrast, Clinique’s more instructive approach –- for example, YouTube how-to tutorials — has earned it stronger social currency. Certainly, the inherent benefits that your health brands provide give you a leg up in creating this social currency.

5. Gimmicks Marginalize Trust. Last year, Wendy’s “You Know When It’s Real” campaign featured commercial spots, online games, and contests highlighting how its never-frozen patties are cooked to order. Burger King created the Whopper Sacrifice, asking fans to drop 10 friends on Facebook to get a free hamburger, the latest in a string of Internet-sensation stunts. Today, BK’s fickle fans have moved on, but customers trust Wendy’s products much more, according to the Vivaldi-Lightspeed study. The ability of your health brands to help improve lives –– and the different ways to demonstrate this through social tools — lend themselves to building this trust.

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As part of our “Insider Insights” series, I feature the personal perspective of a health brand marketing, digital, social or innovation leader. I’m pleased to have Nick Dawson, Community Engagement leader at Bon Secours Virginia Health System, as this month’s participant.

Here’s what Nick has to say about the future of health brands and social media:

1. The organizations and brands that will thrive in the future are those that…
….take pride in serving people. The web, and technology in general have afforded us an amazing amount of connivence of choice. We can compare the price of flights across multiple carriers, check the best rating on a dishwasher and buy music for pennies, all before getting out of bed. When selection and price make things commodities, service is the one thing that becomes a differentiator. However, if I have a choice between two providers and the quality of care is equal, I am going to pick the one that treats me the best. I often think about The Experience Economy by Pine and Gilmore and the Cluetrain Manifesto by Loc, Searls, Wineberger and Levine as both ahead of their time. They are prophetic works that suggest that when organizations value their relationship with customers and provide excellent service, the reputation of the organization markets itself. At Bon Secours, we have seen a clear path from employee engagement to world-class service to market share.

2. Specific to social media, how has it impacted the way your organization conducts business?
We are becoming better listeners. I do not think we are unique in that regard; savvy companies are moving away from information push and embracing pull. We will continue to do what we do well, and rather than simply tell people about it, we are asking them. What do you think about this facility, this new procedure, this doctor? We also spend a lot of time online just listening. What are people saying about doctors in our service areas or about healthcare in general? What can we learn from those conversations that we may not know, or which may validate our assumptions? An additional note, which is great news, is we are revenue-positive in our efforts.

3. What are the key challenges your organization is grappling with as it considers participation?
There are two distinct challenges. The first is spreading the word. Ironically, the best social media still seams to be a face-to-face conversation. We are working from both ends of the organization to spread the word about what we can do with these tools. For senior leadership it is about building their comfort level with participating as individuals; (a welcome change from where many organizations were a year ago in developing a comfort level about even using social media.) We are doing the same thing with individual employees by encouraging them to think about our social media efforts as having an unlimited bandwidth to tell any story. When we hear about team members or departments doing neat things, we approach them about a blog post, or video.

The second challenge is in fostering the creativity and encouraging participation. Many people have singular exposures to these tools. Facebook is for sharing baby pictures with friends, twitter is about what you had for breakfast and Youtube has cats playing piano. Others perceive a time requirement as a barrier to entry. I try and encourage people to think about the conversation, not the medium. There are online spaces for any way someone feels comfortable telling their story; it is our job to support that.

4. What are your top lessons learned for implementing a social media strategy?
The biggest lesson was one of cohesion. Our organization believed in our work, but was unclear on our direction. Our communications team was together on the vision. Crafting a formal strategy helped us learn how to present our successes and sell our services to our leadership and throughout the rest of the organization. It was a cathartic experience to whittle our plan town to three simple goals: service, advocacy, and market share.

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How social is your social media program? Beyond your current and prospective customers, consider whether you’re creating something of value for:

1. Employees: such that they are more/fully engaged; proud of your/their collective contributions; are more aware of the world around them; and seeing new and different opportunities to help make lives better
2. Shareholders: are you engaging the ones who care not only about financial return, but about the long-term (sustainable) impact of that return; and who increasingly are investing in companies that are balancing purpose with profits and making a difference in the world
3. Society: are you creating value for society at large at the same time that you’re helping customers move forward; hopefully, melding these two (increasingly compatible) concepts together
4. Company: beyond your financial worth to creating value such that the whole of your contribution exceeds the sum of your individual parts

Challenge yourself to think more expansively about your social media program. You have the opportunity to create new value for audiences you might not otherwise be able to engage through traditional channels.

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I wrote a post last month about PatientsLikeMe, a wonderful organization dedicated to making a difference in the lives of patients diagnosed with life-changing diseases after they were recognized by Fast Company as #2 on the list of the top ten most innovative healthcare companies. 

It was co-founded by Ben and Jamie Heywood after their brother Stephen (who has since passed away) was diagnosed with ALS. At it’s core, it is “an ingenious website where people share and track data on their illnesses – and where the collective data has enormous power to comfort, explain and predict.”

Here’s a video of a talk by Jamie last October at TED. It’s about his brother, their company, the community they’re building/have built, and the possibilities for the future. Above all else, it’s a wonderful and inspiring story.

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There’s a new book just released called Age Of Conversation 3, and it’s the third book in the Age of Conversation series.

A crowdsourced publication, it brings together 150+ authors from around the world, leading marketers, writers, thinkers and creative innovators contributing individual chapters, investigating the roles that community, conversation, experimentation, engagement, and collaboration play in shaping the 21st century’s economy of ideas. I’m proud to be a contributing chapter author.

The book helps readers use social media. Teaches them how to use it smarter, better, more efficiently.  Shares stories, ideas, strategies and observations. And in the spirit of community, all profits from the sale of the book are donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The book is broken down into these sections:

At the Coalface
There is much to be said for good strategy, but what happens when the strategy is done? This section is about working at the coalface of social media. It’s about the real world lessons that come hard and fast – case studies and the stories and events that are much better in the re-telling than in the moment.

Conversational Branding
What happens when a brand ventures into online conversation. What does it mean to participate in these conversations? Is this earned media? Is it paid for? Or is there an in-between space?  How important is brand in the social media space?  How does the conversation shape or change the brand?

Much is made of influence, but what does “influence” mean in social media? Who has it, and who creates it? Does influence mean different things to different people?  Is it hype or can it make the cash register ring?  Is influence one of the new currencies?

Getting to work
They say that the best approach to social media is dive in. But getting to work can be harder than it first appears. What have you done to quickly get to work?  Or perhaps this section is about how you use social media to get to work — literally.  Is it a viable tool for networking and job hunting?  Or maybe this section is about how social media is changing the face of work.

Corporate Conversations
There’s plenty of coverage of social media when the focus is on marketing or advertising. But what is happening in other parts of your business? Or if you’re a consultant or agency, how do you introduce social media to the C-level at your client’s business?  How do you make social media more relevant to the bottom line?

Can you measure social media? Many claim you can and many claim you can’t. But if you can, should you? And how do you measure it?  In terms of ROI?  Or influence? Or ability to do good?  What are the metrics that matter and how do you get to them?

In the boardroom
Is social media a fad dreamed up by the marketing department to get the attention of executives? What are the hard questions and firm answers that get thrown around the boardroom. And who, if anyone, is best placed to answer?  What role should the C-level executives play in a company’s social media strategy?  

Pitching social media
The work has been done and the late nights are weighing heavily on your shoulders. But it’s time to buck up – to pull it all together and wow your client. What do you do to impress? Is there a new art to pitching social media? Or, if you’re from the PR side of the table, how are you pitching your client’s stories to social media’s influentials?

Innovation and Execution
People make great claims for social media. Is it the long dreamed of silver bullet? Can the tools and techniques be harnessed to drive innovation? How can you take an idea or a strategy and make it work for your brand or your business?  How do you move from idea to actual execution?  

Identities, friends and trusted strangers
Many people are now living much of their lives online.  Who do you call friend?  How do you set boundaries or decide who to let into your circle of influence?  How do you know who to trust when you can’t look them in the eyes? What tools, techniques and sites do you find most useful in creating your online brand?

The book can be purchased from Channel V Books, a company that works with business thought leaders who need to publish books in order to promote themselves and their businesses, enhance their credibility and attract new opportunities.

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