The Value of Twitter, Part III: Tom Vanderwell on Twitter

In my last post I told the story of how listening through Twitter enabled me to meet Tom Vanderwell, and some of the neat outgrowths that have come from that fateful tweet.

So as part of this “Value of Twitter” series in honor of the publication of Twitterville by Shel Israel, I thought it would be a good idea to let you hear directly from Tom about how he uses Twitter and the benefits he’s seen. (In the last minute or so he also talks about how Facebook has been surprisingly helpful.)

How about you? How have you seen Twitter help you in your business or professional life?

The Value of Twitter, Part II: Listening and Connecting

In Part I of this series in honor of @shelisrael and his new book “Twitterville,” I said Twitter is valuable as a “recommendation engine” for interesting Web content. Many people see Twitter as a good way to broadcast messages from your organization, and we’ll get to some of those uses in later posts. But even before you’re ready to take the official plunge into active organizational use of Twitter, you can gather lots of information on what people are saying about your organization.

To paraphrase Yogi Berra, “You can hear a lot just by listening.”

I use Tweetdeck as my desktop productivity enhancer for Twitter for several reasons, as I describe in Twitter 106. (I like CoTweet and Hootsuite as Web-based power applications, particularly for advance scheduling of tweets.) Tweetdeck is great for listening and immediate interactions, and by setting up a fairly sensitive, highly specific search term in one of the panes (as described in Twitter 131) and putting that next to my “Mentions” pane I can see at a glance whether someone is tweeting about me, Mayo Clinic or @mayoclinic.

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That’s how I met Tom Vanderwell (@tvanderwell) in March, as I described in this post at the time. He had mentioned Mayo Clinic in a tweet on a Sunday night, and because it came up in my Tweetdeck, and because I engaged with him in conversation, it led to us having a real-life meeting in Grand Rapids, Mich. just three days later.

What are the odds of something like that happening? I don’t know, but I can tell you for sure that they’re as close to zero as you can imagine if you’re not listening and engaging via Twitter.

But that’s not the end of the story.

Tom and I connected a couple more times in subsequent months…the first of which was when he joined us by phone for Tweetcamp II. A month or so later, when I was looking for examples of small businesses using social media, we interacted again by Twitter, phone and email, which led to this post.

We connected again earlier this month, when I traveled to Tom’s hometown of Grand Rapids to celebrate my granddaughter Evelyn’s first birthday. I tweeted Tom in advance, asking if he would be willing to get together so I could interview him for a couple of stories, and he quickly agreed.

So on Evelyn’s birthday, two weeks ago today, I stopped over at Tom’s home and interviewed him with his own Flip video camera (he had taken my advice from our March meeting and got one!) about his experience as a Mayo Clinic patient, and how he has used blogging and Twitter for his business.

Tom’s Mayo Clinic interview is here on our Sharing Mayo Clinic blog. The next post in this series will feature Tom’s perspectives on Twitter, and later I will have another post on Tom’s use of blogging.

But let’s quickly review the benefits I’ve seen personally, just in this case, by listening and connecting through Twitter:

  • I’ve made a personal friend. Tom and I have a lot in common, as we’ve discovered in our two face-to-face meetings and via our electronic interactions.
  • I’ve learned from someone who is using social media in another industry, and how he is finding social media practical and profitable. And I’m getting to share those insights with you.
  • I’ve met a Mayo Clinic patient who was enthusiastic about sharing his experiences on our Sharing Mayo Clinic blog.

That’s a lot of value for my investment in Twitter…and it’s only one case study.

The Value of Twitter, Part I: Recommendation Engine

In honor of Shel Israel’s new book, Twitterville: How Businesses Can Thrive in the New Global Neighborhoods, which is coming out Thursday and in which I understand I am mentioned, I’m planning to do a few posts over the next several days on the practical value of Twitter for businesses.

I’m really looking forward to seeing the book. At the time I did my email interview with Shel we had not yet become officially active with our @mayoclinic Twitter account, and one of the points I made was that even without lots of interaction it’s smart for organizations to at least claim their “brand” name and automatically tweet with an RSS feed. From a purely defensive posture, it’s wise to have claimed your brand’s name on an increasingly popular social networking site like Twitter, to prevent someone else unrelated to your organization from “brandjacking” you. Our @mayoclinic Twitter activity has changed a lot in the last six months or so, and I hope at least some of that was captured in Twitterville. If not, that’s another reason for me to do a series outlining my thinking about Twitter today, and what I see as its main values for business in general and health care in particular.

On a related note, @PhilBaumann challenged @EdBennett and me yesterday to “sell” the value of Twitter for health care in 140 characters or less. Here was my response:

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That’s as good a summary as I can do within a Tweet, and in this series of posts I plan to expand on those themes. But for the fuller exploration, I’m confident Shel’s book will be excellent.

So here’s my first contribution:

Lots of people don’t “get” Twitter, and the question posed by its interface: “What are you doing?” is responsible for much of the mainstream misunderstanding. Just as Second Life skeptics routinely quip, “But I don’t even have time for my first life!” there is a similarly common (and unimaginative) phrase used dismissively of Twitter: “Who CARES what I’m having for breakfast?!”

I sure don’t. Care about your breakfast choices, that is. But if you’re reading an interesting article online as you slurp your coffee, it may be really helpful to me if you “tweet” the link so I can read the article as I savor my gluten-free Corn Chex.

That’s one of the significant values of Twitter: it enables you to find others with similar interests, and when they see (and tweet about) an online news story that interests them, there’s a good chance you’ll think it’s worthwhile, too.

So while Google’s search engine is great when you’re looking for particular information that you know must be out there somewhere, one of Twitter’s values is that it helps you get notified about things for which you wouldn’t think to search.

So tonight, for example, I saw this tweet from @BradMays:

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I clicked the link and it took me to this story that shows the viewership of the online video site Hulu as compared with the number of viewers for various cable TV companies.

I would never have thought to search for this information, but it’s interesting to me as someone who follows media trends, particularly comparing more traditional delivery channels like cable vs. Web sites.

And because @BradMays is among those I’m following on Twitter, I came across this information and have marked it for future reference. It might well show up in a presentation in the coming months. In essence, he served as an unpaid scout/adviser, helping me find interesting material on the Web.

But I still have no idea what he had for breakfast.

Blogging 115: The Blogroll

A blog’s Blogroll plays two main roles. When you add a link to your blogroll you are typically either saying:

  1. “I have found this site helpful, and I would like to share it with you” or
  2. “Here is a blog that covers some of the same subject matter as mine, and if you like my blog you might also enjoy this one.”

So politically oriented blogs tend to include like-minded others in their blogroll, for example. And blogs that are about social media often have blogroll links to others that have a similar focus.

The SMUG blogroll has been rather spartan because I haven’t updated it for about 18 months. Here’s how it looked before I began this post:

So I’m taking the opportunity of this course to both demonstrate blogroll management and to bring the SMUG blogroll up-to-date. Or actually, it’s what it looked like immediately after I did this first addition.


Here are some more blogs that fit both of the above criteria, and which I’m therefore adding to my blogroll:

These are only a Baker’s Dozen of the 230 or so feeds in my NetNewswire feed aggregator, but they’re the ones I think will be most interesting for the SMUG student body. I also added links to some of our Mayo Clinic social media sites (on Facebook, YouTube, our News Blog and our Podcast Blog.)

Also, this course is the first one for which I’m using a YouTube screencast instead of a narrated slidecast. I’ll post about how I did it in a future course. I obviously have some things to learn to improve the quality of the screencast (and make it a snappier presentation), but I think having the ability to show exactly how to do things instead of narrating still frames will be really helpful in the show-and-tell courses.


  1. Go to the sites linked above and subscribe to their feeds. See Social Media 102 on RSS feeds if you need a refresher.
  2. If you have a blog, create or update your blogroll. You get extra credit points for adding Social Media University, Global.

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