“Creating a Facebook page is like adopting a puppy. Starting a blog is like getting a pony.”

That’s the off-the-cuff formulation that emerged from the blogging session at our Mayo Clinic Social Media Residency on Monday.

And today it becomes my 39th Thesis, joining the first 35, along with 36, 37 and 38.

I’ve previously remarked that creating a brand page on Facebook is like puppy adoption. It’s fun at first. It can be messy, and requires lots of care and feeding.

But especially with the declining organic reach of brand Facebook posts and the increasing need to supplement good content with paid advertising, a Facebook page can grow up to be a dog.

Photo Credit: Steve Lodefink on Flickr
Photo Credit: Steve Lodefink on Flickr

In the context of our Residency discussion on Monday, it seemed the pony analogy captured the even more intense involvement required with a blog.

You need to ride ponies regularly. You need to build or rent a barn to house them. Vet bills are more expensive. And as far as care and feeding goes, a pony eats like…well… a horse.

That’s why a blog is at the peak of the SMUG Social Media Pyramid. It requires a more significant commitment than most other forms of social media

None of this is to say that you shouldn’t have a Facebook brand page or a blog. But you might want to consider sharing one, just as my dad and his friend Jim Sorgine decided to get a pony together during my youth. They each had two kids, and one pony was plenty for the four of us.

Or you might consider contributing to an existing blog or Facebook page. That’s how we counsel many of our stakeholders who are interested in a social media presence:

Send us your posts for Facebook, and we’ll put them on the Mayo Clinic page. Write guest posts on one of our Mayo Clinic blogs. See if this is something you can keep up in the long term, and whether it’s something you’re really committed to building.

If so, you’ve built great momentum, and we can help you create your own site.

If not, you’ve gotten a bigger audience for your limited series of posts than you would have reached on your own. And you don’t have the long-term commitment.

So, in a sense, the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media is in the pony rental business.

If you’d like to go for a ride, and your topic is related to social media in health care, you could join the Social Media Health Network and write a guest post.

Or if you want to write something that’s about social media but not necessarily health-related, you could become a visiting professor at SMUG.

Saddle up!


Helpful is more important than Viral

Alternate title: Why JAMES is the NBA MVP instead of BOSH.

For those of us working in social media, having a “viral” video or blog post is one of the goals to which we often aspire.

In some ways it seems like the ultimate validation, like butane lighters flicking on in tribute at the end of a musician’s concert. Seeing the view counts climb steadily – or even explosively – provides a great jolt of adrenaline or some other helpful brain chemical.

Some have identified keys to virality, which you can remember using a mnemonic involving the surname of the third amigo of the NBA champion Miami Heat:

  • Brevity – The “rules” vary, but most would say two minutes is the outer limit of post-modern attention span
  • Oddity – The more unusual, the more likely viewers will pass along to their friends
  • Serendipity – an unexpected twist; a pleasant surprise that makes you laugh, which leads to the last key…
  • Hilarity – If it makes people laugh, they’ll want to share.

If you have other factors to suggest (and maybe a revised mnemonic), add them in the comments.

But in health care social media, the keys to virality don’t usually apply. Diseases aren’t funny. A video about an unusual condition is generally less relevant to the online masses, and therefore less likely to spread. You can’t manufacture serendipity. And because of the complexity of our subject matter, brevity isn’t always in the interest of patients.

This isn’t a knock against viral videos. I enjoy them as much as anyone, and my sense of humor is, as they say in genetic counseling, overexpressed.

So viral shouldn’t be your goal in health care social media. Shoot for helpful instead, and instead of Chris Bosh, use the MVP’s last name to help you remember:

  • Jiffy –By jiffy I mean make the production relatively quick. Don’t overcomplicate it. Keeping costs low is a major key to cost-effectiveness. The rest of the mnemonic focuses on the “effectiveness” factor in the equation.
  • Accessible – Explain the subject clearly and in a way patients will understand, without jargon. Also make sure you optimize your video title, tags and description to enable users to more easily find it.
  • Meaty – Don’t let arbitrary time limits keep you from conveying the information that would be valuable to your audience. But do edit the video to make it as fast-paced as possible. Take out the filler so the most important content can shine through.
  • Expert – The expertise of your physicians and scientists is the most important resource you have to offer. Their willingness to share specialized knowledge is extremely valuable.
  • Solid – While production should be Jiffy, it shouldn’t be sloppy. As legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden used to say, “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” Always use a tripod to keep your camera steady. Shoot your video in a quiet room, especially if you are using a camera that doesn’t allow an external microphone. Avoid back-lighting that makes your subject look like a part of the witness protection program. Don’t distract viewers from expert, meaty content.

What do you think? What other characteristics are important for helpful health-related videos?

Martin Luther, The Economist, me and you

On October 31, 2009 I published my 35 Social Media Theses, subtitled “The Disputation of Chancellor Lee Aase on the Power and Efficacy of Social Media,” on the 492nd anniversary of Martin Luther posting his disputation on indulgences on the church door in Wittenburg.

Since then, I’ve delivered well over 100 presentations in 7 countries, and in almost every one I’ve used my 35 Theses (get a PDF) as the organizing principle, beginning with the story of how a technological innovation, the Gutenberg movable type printing press, helped make Luther’s theses the first massively viral communication, spreading throughout Germany in two weeks and reaching the rest of Europe in two months.

It all ties to my first two theses:

  1. Social media are as old as human speech, with air being the medium through which sound waves propagated.
  2. Electronic tools merely facilitate broader and more efficient transmission by overcoming inertia and friction.

So it was interesting when Dr. Victor Montori, our former medical director for the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, sent me a link to an article in the current issue of The Economist, “How Luther went viral.” I’m sure it was unintentional imitation, but I’m sincerely flattered anyway. Here’s an excerpt:

Although they were written in Latin, the “95 Theses” caused an immediate stir, first within academic circles in Wittenberg and then farther afield. In December 1517 printed editions of the theses, in the form of pamphlets and broadsheets, appeared simultaneously in Leipzig, Nuremberg and Basel, paid for by Luther’s friends to whom he had sent copies. German translations, which could be read by a wider public than Latin-speaking academics and clergy, soon followed and quickly spread throughout the German-speaking lands. Luther’s friend Friedrich Myconius later wrote that “hardly 14 days had passed when these propositions were known throughout Germany and within four weeks almost all of Christendom was familiar with them.”

The unintentional but rapid spread of the “95 Theses” alerted Luther to the way in which media passed from one person to another could quickly reach a wide audience. “They are printed and circulated far beyond my expectation,” he wrote in March 1518 to a publisher in Nuremberg who had published a German translation of the theses.

This is required reading for SMUGgles. The article does a great job of analyzing at length what I can only briefly introduce in 90 seconds or so in my presentations. It applies network theory to describe how technology enabled such rapid spread, and does a great job of explaining how and why it happened.

I read lots because I enjoy learning, but one of the extra pleasures it provides is validation. I certainly have gotten new and helpful ideas from Guy Kawasaki, Seth Godin, Gary Vaynerchuk and others, but it’s especially encouraging when they affirm what I’m already doing.

For example, if you’ve heard one of my presentations you know that I typically introduce my family, including my grandchildren. After I had been doing that for a while, I ran across presentation advice from Guy Kawasaki in which he suggested including pictures of your kids to build empathy and rapport with audiences. I didn’t start introducing Evie, Judah and Aletta because Guy suggested it, but his guidance validated what had seemed like a good approach, and was just naturally who I am. (For my latest family news, see my Holiday Greetings.)

In some ways, this Economist article serves that same validation function. In my presentations I usually cite Wikipedia as the source for my assertion on the rapid dissemination of the 95 Theses. Because of this article, I now know that Friedrich Myconius is the original source of the quote. And if a writer for The Economist sees the same historical analogy that I have, we can’t both be crazy.

Since you’re here at SMUG, you likely are interested in social media. You “just see” that it makes sense to harness revolutionary tools for the reformation of your industry. But maybe that insight isn’t shared by all in your workplace.

I hope SMUG can provide validation and encouragement for you. My purpose with the 35 Theses is to give you arguments you can use to make the case for social applying social media in your work.

If you work in a health-related field, you also should check out our Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media and consider having your organization join our Social Media Health Network. The Network goes beyond validating your intuition; our aim is to learn together and share best practices so we can harness these revolutionary tools to improve health care, promote health and fight disease.

As The Economist concludes:

Modern digital networks may be able to do it more quickly, but even 500 years ago the sharing of media could play a supporting role in precipitating a revolution. Today’s social-media systems do not just connect us to each other: they also link us to the past.

My first two theses all over again.


Under-promise. Over-deliver.

Listening again last night to Guy Kawasaki’s book, Enchantment: the Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions, one of his tips on “How to Enchant Your Boss” was (and I’m paraphrasing because it was an audio book, so I’m not sure I got the quote exactly right):

Under-promise and Over-deliver. Only make promises you are 120-percent sure you can deliver in 80 percent of the time.

This applies in not only in the workplace, but in customer relationships as well. In fact, it’s probably just a good general rule to live by. I experienced the benefits yesterday when my iPhone 4S saga, previously detailed here, came to an end.

After my AT&T hassle and finally getting to the point where I could place my order through the Apple on-line store, I was told my new iPhone 4S would arrive sometime between November 4-14. I was a little disappointed in that because I will be leaving for a trip to Australia (with a couple of stops before I get there) on November 2.

But I at least had a target date.

Imagine my happiness when I got an email a couple of days ago telling me that my iPhone had shipped from Hong Kong, and that I could expect delivery October 31 by 10:30 a.m. I was able to click through to the tracking on FedEx, and saw that it had been picked up and was on its way.

And how much better it was when Lisa called me yesterday to tell me that she had just signed for a package from Apple!

Here it is:

This is the last photo taken with my iPhone 3G, and was featured in my ceremonial last tweet. All of my photos will be at much higher resolution from now on.

But this was a great example of Guy’s guidance.

  • I ordered my phone originally from AT&T and was told it would arrive in 14-21 days. When I checked in 14 days later, I found that my order had been cancelled and no one had notified me.
  • I ordered from the Apple store and was told it would ship in 7-14 days, and that I should allow 5 days for delivery. My phone arrived 5 days after I had placed the order.

How’s that for under-promising and over-delivering?

If Snow Blowers were like Hard Drives…

…I would have been able to get this one for about 23 cents.

As it was, I picked it up at Sears on Black Friday for $419, or about 40 percent off.

That 23 cents figure is just a guess, and is probably way high, in the snow blower/hard drive comparison of prices and capabilities over time. My dad bought his first snow blower about 40 years ago, and I think he paid about $500. In today’s dollars, that would be about $2,800. Even though my snow blower today isn’t as heavy duty as Dad’s was, getting it for about 13 percent of the price, in constant dollars, is pretty good.

That is, until you compare it to electronics, and particularly my favorite example, hard drives.

Last year I wrote about my brother-in-law, Lane’s, experience in buying what seemed then a massive hard drive in the mid-80s, and how I had bought a hard drive that had 200,000 times more capacity (1 terabyte or 1000 gigabytes) for $70 at a Black Friday sale. I also suggested that smart SMUGgles should mark their calendars for 11/26/10. I predicted that they would be able to buy a 1.5 terabyte hard drive for about $70.

I was wrong.

It was even better: Target had a 2 TB desktop drive (400,000 times what Lane bought) for $69, and a portable 1 TB drive for the same price. I just took a photo instead of buying a drive, because I have about 500 gigs of free space on my drive from last year. I applied that $69 toward the snow blower, a more pressing need.

I think I’ll wait until 11/25/11 to get another hard drive, when I should be able to get 3 TB (or more) for $70.

Anyone want to join me?