Mayo Clinic Interview Reveals Secrets to Social Media Success

To follow up my last post, Mayo Clinic: Social Media Powerhouse, I asked Lee Aase, Manager, Syndication and Social Media for an interview. Thankfully, he graciously accepted.

Here are some of the terrific secrets that Lee was willing to share with you, my readers.

Take Little Steps and Make Big Progress Over Time

I started by asking Lee how he was able to convince Mayo’s doctors and leadership to support social media. After all, most doctors feel marketing is beneath their dignity, and institutions like Mayo tend to be especially conservative.

Lee educated Mayo’s leadership by taking many steps over a period of years. He reminded them that Mayo built its reputation largely on word-of-mouth over 100 years, and he argued that social media is simply a new way for that to happen.

Lee’s constant advocacy built support from Mayo’s leadership to the point where he received approval to launch Mayo’s Facebook Page the very first day Pages became available. (This was also partly a defensive measure to assure Mayo would own its brand name on Facebook.) I just checked, and their Page now has over 13,000 fans.

Today, Lee continually reminds his leadership that social media isn’t going to go away (whether or not Mayo participates), and Mayo now has a rare chance to seize all the new opportunities that social media presents.

Leverage Your Content

One of Mayo’s secrets to success turns out to be – surprise – great content.

Since 2000, Mayo has produced Mayo Clinic’s Medical Edge, which started as branded 90-second public service segments for North American television stations. It is a win-win arrangement, where local stations (which often do not have health reporters) get excellent news segments for their viewers, and Mayo continues to build its reputation.

Anyone familiar with news and editing would understand that it takes on average 20 minutes of interviewing to create one 90 second TV segment. Those long television interviews were later edited to produce shorter 60-second radio segments, five days a week.

When Podcasting came on the scene, Lee and his team realized that they already had mp3 files on their Web site, and that all they needed to create a Podcast was an RSS feed pointing to those files. When they listed that feed in the iTunes directory, they saw segment downloads jump from 900 per month to over 74,000 downloads per month.

Today, Mayo further leverages all of that video on its YouTube Channel.

My takeaway: If you have good content available, you are crazy not to leverage it. If you don’t have good content, you can always create it.

Video and Blogs Are Powerful Tools That Can Be Used In Nontraditional Ways

Blogs are terrific vehicles that allow businesses and organizations to publish content that wouldn’t fit elsewhere. Video can increase a blog’s effectiveness by a factor of 10.

While Mayo has several blogs, Sharing.MayoClinic.Org is the flagship. This blog puts a face on Mayo by covering both patient and employee stories.

Lee used a Flip Video Camcorder, YouTube and this blog to cleverly build national media interest in a story about Jayson Werth, whose wrist injury nearly ended his major league baseball career. After a Mayo Clinic orthopedic surgeon correctly diagnosed and treated the injury, Werth when on to become an All-Star who played in two World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Use Social Media To Communicate With Internal Audiences

While I was writing this post, of my Linked-In readers asked how Mayo is using social media internally. I emailed Lee for input and here is his response:

“We’re very actively pursuing use of social media tools internally as well as externally. We have about 50,000 employees and students across the organization, and enabling them to collaborate more effectively and make connections is a priority. We’ve started with some internal blogs and are looking at other tools to, as you say, break down silos. The early returns have been good.”

Success Begets Success

Social media efforts can work cumulatively to build each other. This week, for example, Mayo’s Twitter account just surpassed 25,000 followers.

Lee’s Parting Recommendations

By the end of the interview, I wanted to get some advice for my readers, many of whom do not enjoy the expertise, experience nor the resources that Lee does. Here’s what he recommends:

1. You don’t have to have the same goals as a big institution like Mayo. Simply set more appropriate goals and expectations. Everyone can do something.

2. Hire experts. Lee, for example, is a smart, mid-40s media relations expert, He has years of experience in traditional media, which he was able to apply to social media when it came on the scene. He is NOT a “kid who seems to understand Facebook and all that social media stuff.”

3. Look at social media a powerful, revolutionary tool to get the word out. Lee used the analogy of cutting down trees with a chain saw versus a hand saw.

4. Claim your organization’s brand name on all important social media networks, so you don’t have problems trying to win it back. Mayo Clinic has had some issues in this area in the past, so they are very aggressive going forward.

5. Keep learning. There are tons of resources out there about social media and marketing, including Lee’s own Social Media University, Global (SMUG) and my firm’s healthcare marketing enewsletter. (You can be notified of new blog posts here via our newsletter or RSS.)

6. Don’t fall into analysis paralysis. Take some baby steps and get into the shallow end of the pool as soon as possible. The great strategic ideas will probably come after you have some experience in the social media world.

7. By the way, you can follow Lee on Twitter,

Thanks so much, Lee, for your insights.

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