More Social Media-Mass Media Synergy

In several previous posts here on SMUG and also on the Mayo Clinic News Blog and Podcast Blog, I’ve told the story about

Now WABC TV in New York has run a story about diagnosing mysterious wrist injuries, featuring Jayson and another another patient Dr. Berger has helped return to recreational golfing. It’s on

Social media tools such as YouTube and Twitter, while not directly mentioned in the WABC story, have played a huge role in spreading the word about Dr. Berger’s research discovery.

And as a result, many more patients will, like Erin, have an opportunity for a future without chronic wrist pain.

This post, which we put on the Mayo Clinic News Blog at the time of the first USA Today article and Twitter chat, has a list of the surgeons who have trained with Dr. Berger since he discovered the UT split. We’re sure many patients have been helped by these other surgeons as well.

This latest WABC story will continue to accelerate the diffusion of this research discovery, helping to fulfill the promise of social media as outlined in Thesis 33.

And in case you’re wondering how Jayson is doing now, check out his walk-off home run from yesterday’s game.

28 Minutes with the Chancellor

One of the points I regularly make in discussing social media tools is the opportunity they provide for providing in-depth information to people who have a particular interest. The example I most frequently cite is this 10-minute video on myelofibrosis, which has been viewed more than 5,200 times on our Mayo Clinic YouTube channel.

It doesn’t matter that Dr. Mesa’s video lacks mass appeal; it provides important information for patients with myelofibrosis and for their families, giving them just what they need, and what they are interested in seeing because they have strong personal motivation to learn about this type of blood cancer.

What you see embedded below is another example of a video with limited mass appeal. Shawn Riley (@rilescat), who blogs at HealthTechnica, hosts a regular TV talk show called Health Connections on our local Austin, MN PBS affiliate, KSMQ. When we announced our new Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, the producer of Health Connections asked if I would come on the program to talk with Shawn about social media in heath care, and about our new center. This interview was broadcast locally last Tuesday, and now the 27:47 program is available (thanks to viewers like you) on YouTube.

I don’t expect this video to get anything near the traffic of Dr. Mesa’s discussion of myelofibrosis. But if you’re among the global niche those interested in applying social media in health care, you may find it helpful.

“We don’t buy any green bananas”

Words of wisdom from Marlow Cowan, the elder half of the “Octogenarian Idol” piano duo whose YouTube duet at Mayo Clinic…

… has been viewed more than 7.2 million times as of this morning (and which led to their appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America as well as NHK, the national TV network in Japan.)

Marlow is now well past octogenarian status (he’s 91), and his wife Fran celebrated her 85th birthday yesterday. My wife Lisa and I were honored that their daughter, DeDe Shour, invited us to join them for the surprise birthday celebration at their home in Ankeny, Iowa (click any of the photos to enlarge):

We got to see some pictures from their very full life together…

…and then also join their family (even some great-grandchildren) for dinner at the Country Kitchen in Des Moines.

At dinner, Marlow and Fran reflected on how their lives have changed in the last 15 months since their video went viral…

…how they’ve renewed connections with former students and members of the touring youth musical performance groups they hadn’t heard from in decades. They’ve had numerous requests for concerts, but travel isn’t as easy as it used to be. Marlow and Fran both expressed their gratitude to God for their 63 years of marriage and the many blessings he has given them. They see their performances as a way of serving him by sharing those blessings with others, so they do as many as they can.

Marlow said they have certain stipulations when they agree to a concert, one of which is, “They’ve gotta have a back-up act in case something happens to us. We’re not getting any younger, you know!”

At their advanced ages, he said they’ve also developed a couple of rules for their personal lives: “We don’t buy any green bananas. And we eat dessert first.”

Words to live by.

It’s All Free (Or At Least It Was)

Chancellor’s Note: This is a reposting of the first WordPress Page I created, which was originally published on October 19, 2006. The original title was “It’s All Free (And Mostly Easy)” and it was my first attempt to keep some basic themes foremost on my blog, which was at that time called “Lines from Lee.” As you’ll see below, I had resolved that I wasn’t going to do anything on my blog that required me to spend any money. This page (now demoted to a post) highlights all the things you can do in social media for free.

Over time, that “It’s all free and mostly easy” theme morphed into the school motto for SMUG: Suus Non Ut Difficile, or “It’s Not That Hard.”

I’m going to be cleaning up some of the navigation on SMUG, and demoting some of the other Pages to “Post” status as well. This also will give me a chance to reflect upon things I wrote three to four years ago, and see how my thinking has evolved since then.

And how many things I saw in social media then really haven’t changed. It’s still mainly free. And it’s not that hard.

So…here’s a blast from October 2009:


With 100 million blogs listed in Technorati, obviously there isn’t too much inertia preventing people from starting blogs, but among public relations professionals I have seen less familiarity with blogs, podcasts, and social media.

This ought not to be.

One reason for the reticence to jump in might be a lack of understanding and a misperception that it’s expensive, difficult or requires extensive IT support. That’s why I’ve decided that on this blog I will only use services that are FREE, such as:

Flickr, for photos:

Lee Aase

YouTube, for video (and audio):

(For the story behind that clip, click here.)

And, of course, is a free blog hosting site.

For social networking, I use Facebook (and you can friend me here.) MySpace is also free.
Many of these services offer paid upgrade packages that let you do more, and maybe you (and I) will want to do that in the future (e.g. to be able to upload more than 20 megs of photos per month). But the point is, you can start right now with a blog and have it up and running in about 90 seconds (and that’s if you take a minute or so to decide what you want for your username or domain name.)

So, I may blog about some services that have a cost, but what I incorporate in my site will all be free.

This is my first time creating a standalone page (outside of the reverse chronology of the blog.) I hope to add some related pages that would highlight other free stuff, and maybe a step-by-step tutorial on how to get started.

If you want to use another free hosting service other than WordPress, that’s fine. Blogger and others probably have some features that differ slightly. But for whatever tutorial I develop, it will be in WordPress, so my examples will be easiest for you to use on that platform. Besides, how much better can you get than free? And if you decide to wait and research which is the best free hosting service, that’s a recipe for procrastination. Just do it.

Also, to prevent inappropriate mixing of business and personal worlds from an email perspective, go get a free email account from Google or Yahoo!

Here’s another post where I have boiled this all down into a 12-step social media program for PR professionals. Follow this plan and you’ll be conversant with key social media tools and trends within a couple of weeks. Not expert, but at least conversant.


By the way, I’m now up to spending about $80 a year for blog hosting. And the above post was published just six months after Twitter was created, well before it had gotten any kind of critical mass. Just another free (and easy) service that has become much more prominent in the last four years.

Advertising Age, Hospital Marketing and Social Media

Advertising Age has an article this week in the print edition about hospitals, advertising, marketing and social media, and relates it all to health reform. I was glad to get to talk with the writer, Rich Tomaselli, last week to discuss some of the things we’re doing at Mayo Clinic, and our philosophy relating to social media. Rich had said the article would run either this week or next, and so I was glad when Jane Sarasohn-Kahn (@healthythinker) alerted me to it with her tweet linking to her blog post about it.

I think both Rich’s article and Jane’s post are good and make some valid points, and commend them to your reading.

Here’s my Advertising Age quote, upon which I want to expand a bit:

One of the most famous health-care facilities in the country, the 118-year-old Mayo Clinic, now has a social-media manager, Lee Aase. “Social media is the way word-of-mouth happens in the 21st century,” he said. “Twitter is just one of the most powerful networking tools that I’ve ever seen. It enables you to make connections with people that have a common interest.”

Quotes in mass media (like magazines, TV or radio) are always taken out of context. That’s not a criticism, it’s just a reality. Space and time are limited and expensive. Rich and I talked for about 15 minutes, and it was a great conversation. I’m sure he likewise had good talks with the others he quoted (and he did incorporate elements of our interview in his narrative.) There’s no way all of that is going to fit in a print article.

One of the benefits of social media, however, and why these tools are so powerful, is the opportunity they afford for more in-depth content and discussions. They provide a way to get more in-depth information to (and feedback from) people who are interested.

Given the fact you’re reading this, you must be one of those interested ones, when the topic is advertising, health care or social media. So here is some of the context of my conversation with Rich, and some reaction to the messages I saw in the article.

First, I’m quoted as saying “social media is the way word-of-mouth happens in the 21st Century” which is true and accurate, but the real point, and what I emphasized in the interview, is the continuity of social media with how Mayo Clinic’s reputation has been built over the long term. For more than 100 years, the number one way people have found out about Mayo Clinic is through the recommendation of a friend or family member. It’s also consistent with Thesis 1, that social media are as old as human speech.

Mayo Clinic hasn’t advertised nationally in the traditional media outlets. As Jane says in her post:

It takes information PLUS a “life moment” PLUS a “care connection” to a friend or loved one to deeply engage in health.

Paying for advertising (information) to be sent to a broad, undifferentiated group of people who aren’t currently experiencing the “life moment” or “care connection” is an iffy proposition. You’re paying to reach a lot of people who just don’t have a current need.

As I told Rich, the fact that 25 percent of our Mayo Clinic patients come from more than 500 miles away adds another layer of difficulty to the advertising equation. People need to be much more motivated before they will travel that distance for care. By definition, those patients are “deeply engaged.” But traditional advertising in mainstream media isn’t likely to be a great way to reach them because they are widely scattered across the nation (and even the world.)

This brings me to my other major observation, that the connection of all of this increased social media activity to health reform is significantly overstated. At Mayo Clinic, we have been involved in social media since 2005, starting with podcasts. We launched our Facebook fan page in November of 2007. We have been in Twitter since early 2008. We have been actively uploading videos to our Mayo Clinic YouTube channel for more than two years as well. And our Sharing Mayo Clinic blog for stories from patients and employees is nearly 18 months old.

I believe health reform legislation is essentially a non-factor in the growth in social media adoption among hospitals. Instead, as I explain it in my 35 Social Media Theses, the reason hospitals are using social media is because this is the defining communications trend of the Third Millenium.

As my good friend Ed Bennett (@EdBennett) said in the Advertising Age article, the number of hospital Twitter accounts has more than doubled in the last year, which indicates that this isn’t mainly spurred by health reform legislation. He also offers great advice on the “why” hospitals should be involved in social media:

Hospitals realize that word-of-mouth is the most significant driver you can have, so social media is an opportunity to humanize what can be a scary, complex institution… I tell hospitals “Don’t get into social media because you think you’re going to get more patients. Do it because you’re helping be responsible to people reaching out looking for answers.”

Social media in health care is about much more than just marketing. As for the increase in advertising spending that’s being reported, maybe health reform is playing a role in that. It’s not really my area of expertise, so I don’t have a strong opinion on the matter.

What do you think? Do you agree that increased social media interest among hospitals is essentially unrelated to health reform?

What relationship, if any, do you see between health reform and the reported growth of spending on hospital advertising?