Still think Facebook is a Fad?

If you are dealing with skeptics questioning whether social networking is worthwhile for your organization, maybe this post (and the Washington Post article that inspired it) will help you make your case.

From yesterday’s Washington Post:

In 2010, Facebook pushed past Google to become the most popular site on the Internet for the first time, according to two Web tracking firms. The title caps a year of rapid ascent for Facebook in which the social network hit 500 million users and founder Mark Zuckerberg was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year. It also marks another milestone in the ongoing shift in the way Americans spend their time online, a social change that profoundly alters how people get news and interact with one another – and even the definition of the word “friend.”

“This is the most transformational shift in the history of the Internet,” said Lou Kerner, a social-media analyst with Wedbush Securities and former chief executive of, an early networking site. “We’re moving from a Google-centric Web to a people-centric Web.”

According to Experian Hitwise, Facebook jumped to the top spot after spending last year in third place and the year before ranked ninth. The company found that 8.9 percent of unique online visits were to Facebook this year, compared with Google’s 7.2 percent. Meanwhile, ComScore, another firm that calculates Web traffic, said Facebook is on track in 2010 to surpass Google for the first time in number of pages viewed. Each unique visit to a site can result in multiple page views….

Another interesting element from the story is the comparison of market valuations, which pegs Facebook at $45 billion, roughly a quarter of Google, despite the search giant having more than 20 times Facebook’s revenue.

This reminds me of a post I did three years ago, in which I said Facebook was worth more than the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Cubs, the Los Angeles Times and YouTube…combined.

Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer and their Microsoft (MSFT) colleagues had given Facebook this $15 billion valuation, buying 1.6 percent of Facebook stock for $240 million.

This seemed like an outlandish valuation at the time, even before the 2008 economic meltdown sent the prices of everything crashing.

Facebook still isn’t publicly traded, but the latest figures suggest it has tripled in value in just over three years.

And now it’s the most-trafficked site on the Web, adding nearly a million users a day.

It has about 8 percent of the world’s population among its regular users.

If your organization’s work involves interacting with humans, Facebook is definitely worth your time and attention.

Three Reasons Why Mayo Clinic Health Manager Matters

As regular readers know, I work for Mayo Clinic, so my opinion on this isn’t exactly objective, but I think the launch today of Mayo Clinic Health Manager is pretty significant.

I’ve had the opportunity over the last several months to learn about this product as it’s been in development, and it’s got some neat advantages that I think make it a step beyond what’s available currently in the world of personal health records.

  1. Portability. Some other products are sponsored by employers or health plans. In Mayo Clinic Health Manager, the record belongs to you, so if you change jobs you don’t have to worry about having to re-enter data.
  2. Personalized Mayo Clinic guidance. Based on the data you put into the program, you’ll get tailored recommendations for steps you can take to improve your health, screening tests you should have, and the like. The more data you provide, the more useful recommendations you will receive.
  3. Being connected to Microsoft HealthVault. This gives a couple of important benefits. First, you have strong security for your data. When I set up my account, it made me choose a password that was a lot stronger than what I typically use, for example on my Facebook account. And as more pharmacies, hospitals and medical devices provide for automatic upload of data to HealthVault, that will improve the personalization of recommendations you can get from Mayo Clinic experts.

I did a post last year about Turbotax and how much I like it for doing my personal income taxes, and how I could do my taxes in an hour because all of the data from my six children (some of whom are no longer dependents) could be carried over from year to year, saving me having to enter the data anew each year. At the same time, I don’t worry at all about the safety of my tax records. I’m confident that Intuit has it covered. And it’s great to have the deduction finders, and audit alerts and error checking, not to mention electronic filing.

I think the same principles will hold with Mayo Clinic Health Manager. Getting the data entered once into a safe place will simplify managing your health. You’ll be able to produce an immunization report, for instance, with a couple of clicks. You’ll get expert guidance tailored to your health situation. And you can make notes of the questions you wanted to be sure to cover in your visit to the doctor, so that you can print it out and take it with you. No more worrying about forgetting to cover your important concerns because you freeze up in that anxious moment with your health care provider. It should make those visits more orderly and productive, too.

But while Turbotax charges for electronic filing of your federal and state tax returns, Mayo Clinic Health Manager is completely free. The other thing I like about the program is that it lets you enter data in small chunks as you have time. I just added my height and weight, along with my history of colon cancer screenings.

Unlike the IRS, Mayo Clinic Health Manager doesn’t require you to meet a deadline for “completing your return.” In fact, you’re never really done. But as you put in more information, and as the product grows in providing more tools to give you guidance based on your data, it will improve your ability to manage your health (and that of your loved ones who grant you access to their records, such as aging parents, your spouse or children.)

You can read more about Mayo Clinic Health Manager, and see an introductory video, on the Mayo Clinic News Blog, or sign up for your free account.

Microsoft, WebMD and CIGNA on Consumer Medical Data

The title of this session is Next-Generation Consumer Engagement — New-Age Solutions to Advance Consumer-Driven Health.

Jim Mault, M.D., from Microsoft started with an illustration, asking how many people know how to access credit card transactions online vs. getting access to our immunizations or cholesterol test readings. Not surprisingly, only about half of the health geeks here knew how to get these health records. The absurdity defies explanation.

You’re already suffering the risk of someone (a hacker) getting your online health information, but getting none of the benefits.

Need Portability and Interoperability to realize the potential benefits. In HealthVault, Microsoft is developing a health info ecosystem, much like Facebook and MySpace did for digital photography. Unlimited opportunity for you to share your data, on your terms, with whomever you want.

John Young from CIGNA says lifestyle accounts for most of the risk of chronic conditions. He says it’s not a decision of whether to do consumer-driven health care, but how. By year end 59 percent of employers will be using consumer-driven models. Companies need to design their plans as an “on-ramp” to promote consumerism. He says consumerism could save about $2,300 per employee per year within 5 years, without cost shifts. CIGNA’s offering is CIGNA Care Connections, and he says the key is making it simple. Better choices = improved health and lower cost. Incentives drive better decisions. Pharmacy tools enable consumers to compare specific costs for their particular prescriptions. Next up is a Cost of Care Estimator. Patients will get much more interested in how much the bill will be when they have HSAs and similar plans. 

Need to change language; instead of “coinsurance” need to say “amount you pay after the deductible.” The goal is to build confidence and self-sufficiency among consumers.

Craig Froude from WebMD Health Services works with a lot of big employers and health plans with the goal of improving health outcomes and lowering health care costs. They create an individual profile for each IBM employee, for example, and import lots of data from various sources into the system without the employee needing to enter information. Based on these data he says they deliver personalized, targeted information and recommendations. It’s called WebMD Health & Benefits Manager. He says 1.8 million people took a risk assessment last year, and 43 percent started an exercise program, 40 percent changed diet, but 26 percent reported making no changes. His team’s goal is to increase the proportion of users actually taking action.

Vince Kuraitis, the moderator, concluded the presentations with what he calls “5 New Realities”

  1. Personal control of PHI displaces health care incumbents and puts patients in charge. Emerging reality: Patients say: “It’s my data. Hand it over. NOW.” Now HealthVault and Google are making it practical for patients to exercise the rights they already have.
  2. Proprietary IT and processes give way to open standards and collaborative business models. Collaborative Care Management Networks are required to coordinate care, just as you don’t worry today about using a non-network ATM (other than some extra fees.) But 70 percent of PHRs are not interoperable.
  3. The Personal Health Info Network facilitates incremental advances toward interoperability and liquidity. This has been moving very slowly, but now we’re moving from Ready, Aim, Fire to Ready, Fire, Aim
  4. The jury is in: patients will use PHRs. Conventional wisdom says adoption rates are low, but the emerging reality is patients value integrated PHR systems. Kaiser has 30 percent adoption and Group Health has 50 percent.
  5. Google, Microsoft and others are collaborating in creating a new ecosystem. Conventional wisdom says it’s a battle between the titans, but the emerging reality is “It’s a new ecosystem!”

In the ensuing discussion…

Continue reading “Microsoft, WebMD and CIGNA on Consumer Medical Data”

Yammer Time(s)

Yammer, which I have been featuring in a new curriculum offering, was featured significantly today in the New York Times and its Technology blog.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Successes like YouTube, the online video site sold to Google for $1.65 billion in 2006, convinced some venture investors that building a Web site with a large number of users could still be more valuable than making money from paying customers.

Now, as the global economy enters a severe downturn, the relative merits of these two philosophies will be tested again.

The two poles of the debate are apparent in the world of microblogging, where people use the Web or their cellphones to blast short updates on their activities to a group of virtual followers.

Yammer’s business model is compelling, Mr. Sacks said, because it spreads virally like a consumer service, but earns revenue like a business service. Anyone with a company e-mail address can use Yammer free. When that company officially joins — which gives the administrator more control over security and how employees use the service — it pays $1 a month for each user. In Yammer’s first six weeks, 10,000 companies with 60,000 users signed up, though only 200 companies with 4,000 users are paying so far.

The founders and backers of Twitter, which has reportedly raised $20 million from venture capitalists, are just as adamant about their decision to grow first and monetize second.

I love Twitter. In fact, a Tweet from Dennis McDonald is what alerted me to the blog post, which led me to the article. But I think the real strength of Yammer is precisely that it didn’t make a choice between growing and monetizing.

It has a business plan.

It can grow immensely (as it has) through viral, bottom-up adoption. It’s mode of adoption isn’t really much different from Twitter. Anyone can sign up for free using a company e-mail address, and can invite co-workers. The only limit is that people from outside your company can’t be part of your network.

But for most businesses, that’s actually a plus. I can talk with my co-workers about what I’m working on, or share links, without the whole world seeing.

And I’m betting that with this New York Times coverage, the growth is going to greatly accelerate. I recommend you check out both the article and the blog post.

Yet despite being positioned for strong growth, the Yammer leadership actually has a plan for how to make money from the service; a fee amounting to $12 per employee per year.

Some companies may try Yammer and then decide to go with their own microblogging networks, completely behind the corporate firewall. But at least through Yammer they can experiment with the concept for free instead of spending a bunch of money on a new software package and trying to get employees to use it.

This is a variation of how Microsoft has driven Sharepoint, except the Microsoft staff already has strong relationships with the corporate IT departments. Microsoft gives Sharepoint to companies for a free trial, and then charges a large fee if they end up deploying long-term.

Yammer doesn’t have those IT relationships, and so is using a bottom-up strategy.

I will still use Twitter for connecting with the world, but it’s going to be fun experimenting with Yammer to see how it can help workplace collaboration.

Do you use Twitter? Have you tried Yammer? What do you think of the two services and how you might apply them in your work?

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PR in Today’s New Marketing Milieu

I’m in the afternoon sessions at Media Relations 2008, for a presentation by Dr. Georg Kolb (formerly of Text 100) and Frank Shaw from Waggener Edstrom Worldwide.

Update: Here is Georg’s presentation from

Georg sees three major trends contributing to creation of what he calls “New Publics.”

  • Individualism – on the societal level, we today don’t believe as much in institutions as our ancestors did. Instead of the stability of family and extended families, he says, “we’re a mess.” Living all over the place. Patchwork families. Today we build trust by talking to people like ourselves. Instead of just taking the word of our personal physician as our grandparents would, we may also get second and third opinions, and also opinions of other patients.
  • P2P Networks – Peer-to-peer networks exist now through technology to make it practical for us to find and connect with people like us.
  • Niche Markets – A super-fragmented marketplace of groups of peer networks.

Georg talked about how much discussion is happening outside the mainstream media dialogue. For example, you may have an employee group organized within Facebook. This is a sphere of influence you need to learn to navigate. Georg says four basic principles should help:

Continue reading “PR in Today’s New Marketing Milieu”