Digital and Social Media Impact of Zika Virus: Strategy Recommendations


There is increased search on Google for information about Zika virus, based on data supplied by Google Trends. Charleston, SC is leading the state geographically with increased Google search about the virus along with our neighboring state (Georgia) seeing an increased amount of search. Bottom-line, people are searching and seeking information.

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A New…Digital/Social Media Strategy –> We are hungry for the next stage?

As I sit in a meeting discussing next years digital/social media strategy…I feel hints of my old days sitting in those morning editorial meetings as a journalist. Every morning, we talked about the stories of the day, relevance to the audience, timelines, how to tease, and how to cross promote.

Large organizations are no longer structuring new media & social media strategies…they are online content creators and providers. In the age of digital media…it is no longer about delivering content, it is sharing content. Big difference. Delivering and sharing are two completely different models and mind sets.

Today, my friend Sandy Dees of GHS.org shared a New York Times article about the digital/social strategy behind the movie Hunger Games. “Danielle DePalma, senior vice president for digital marketing, drafted a chronology for the entire online effort, using spreadsheets (coded in 12 colors) that detailed what would be introduced on a day-by-day, and even minute-by-minute, basis over months.”

As you read the article…this digital distribution strategy is more than just an editorial calendar, it is a timeline associated to digital scavenger hunts using Twitter; cultivating fans to take part in a virtual world like the movie Hunger Games.

We are moving past exploration…it is no longer about just creating a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a YouTube channel…we are in the age of engaging conversations and learning we must let the audiences guide us. It is no longer about using social and digital outlets to just post content and hope the audiences will come…more about how can we cultivate conversations.

Now, I know I am sharing what we already know…but do we really? We are still creating post card websites, YouTube channels full of content that no one will watch, Twitter feeds with little interaction. Large hospitals all over have numerous pages for no other reason than pleasing another department and hoping they are updating the page in three months. I have them in my newsfeed, numerous hospitals and none of them make me want to click…AT ALL. Or is that the point?

My colleague Reed Smith, who helps manage social and digital efforts for numerous healthcare organizations in Texas, shared some insight from his conversations with many of his counter parts from other hospitals during the social conference at the May Clinic. He explained that many large hospitals are dealing with the same situation…learning how to deal with digital and social efforts in a 2.0/3.0 world. Lots of departments, services lines, physician practices want to take part in the social space yet have a hard time living up the true burden, how to truly engage their audiences. Lots of spaces, lots of websites, lots of social accounts…leading to a house of brands.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center shares their social/digital tool kit online…funneling people inside the hospital to this site who are interested in having a social presence. If you want to join in the conversation…you must fill out the form. Cool tool kit…but it is more than a checklist…it is a culture.

Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson is a pioneer in this space, leading us down a path of understanding how to integrate the social space into the daily routine of a physician.

As stated in an opinion article from the LATimes:

“The problem, Swanson said at the South by Southwest conference Sunday, is that insurers won’t pay for the videos she creates to educate patients or the blog posts she writes about important new developments in pediatric care. No matter that these steps would lead to healthier patients who place fewer demands on the healthcare system.

She does them anyway, but the idea of communicating online with patients is anathema to her fellow doctors. “There’s an overwhelming climate of fear” among physicians, she said, about the liability they may incur or the privacy violations they might commit if they respond to emails or write blog posts about medicine.”

We are our own news organizations. We are taking control of our content…but are we building communities? We can find metrics for success by building fan bases, creating social strategies to sell services? But are we really measuring success or just graphing some numbers to make ourselves feel better? Better that we are empowering our organizations as we take control of our content?

I asked my wife today, why would you want to follow a healthcare organizations fan page? What would you want to get from that experience? She wants information that she can use, invitations to events to educate her about our child’s care. Relevant services that make sense to her daily life. No where did she say she wanted to see awards of recognition as a top hospital, best “this” and best “that”…she wants information that make sense to her.

I think I have to agree with Dr. V’s thinking:

“I can’t help but wonder if we’re in the midst of a social health correction – a readjustment of expectations and beliefs about the near-term potential of social media to revolutionize health.”

And I love this as he continues…

“We created filter bubbles that allowed us to hear the messages of those telling us precisely what we wanted to hear.  We saw the rise, plateau, and ultimate dissolution of social media consultants who would save us by telling us how to correctly use Twitter.”

It is time to move on and actually start engaging our tribe before we loose what we supposedly built over the last few years. It is time to consolidate, focus, and have a conversation with those who are our brand ambassadors. These social/digital outlets cannot save us..especially when all we do is use those channels/outlets as a one directional conversation and push our stuff. If we want to be a newsroom, content providers…it better be relevant or it will diminish faster than many traditional news outlets.

Seattle Mama Doc has found her passion!

I had the greatest opportunity to chat on the phone with Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson from Seattle Children’s Hospital…and it was a treat. First of all, she is a very busy woman, not only as a physician and a mother but also as a thought leader  when it comes to physicians communicating through social outlets. Her message that I thought was very profound, and I am paraphrasing…”I have this IVY League education and I want to find every way possible to use it to empower and educate my patients and the people around me.”

She is obviously a smart lady that found something unique through her blog and twitter. She can tell stories and empower the people around her using her knowledge, her experiences, and her background so they can make better decisions as parents. She takes pride in her writing and is very passionate for the purpose behind the message. In the thirty minute phone conversation with Dr. Swanson…it was everything I could do to soak-up all her passion and knowledge.

Early on when the blog started, she found a need. She found that she only had roughly 15 minutes in the room with her patients. With the demands of her job and the need of seeing as many people as possible, she could only provide so much information. She found herself writing her blog as an outlet to provide more information beyond the 15 minute consultation. From video blogs to analyzing the latest research, she takes time putting the patient first when speaking through her message.

She feels like this is the new way to get back to the days of small town physicians, where you can build a personal relationship with your patients. She uses her blog to share her love for children, passion as a physician, and willingness to educate people as much as possible. She can take those questions that might not get answered in an exam room setting, and articulate them via her blog. She can spend more time addressing research, trends, and answer questions through the discussion of each blog post. She wants to bring that small town reality back to the exam room, but do it in a way that meets the needs of the patients of this digital age.

She does not spend time looking at metrics, clicks, and hits (The Digital ROI)…she focuses on the questions and concerns of her patients. She also focuses on the trends and research plaguing families. I know as a parent-to-be that my wife and I are bombarded with new trends from SIDS to what to feed our newborn when she arrives. I think Dr. Swanson has found a way to reach people (like my wife and I) that few doctors have been willing to do…speak passionately online.

If I was in Seattle…I would want her to be my child’s pediatrician. I am fortunate I was able to spend 30 minutes on the phone with Seattle Mama Doc…I think her name matches her style!

You can find Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson (Seattle Mama Doc) in the following places:

Her Blog: http://seattlemamadoc.seattlechildrens.org/
Her Twitter Account: http://twitter.com/SeattleMamaDoc

***Image Credit: Seattle Children’s Hospital and Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson