I really like Twitter. Its scrolling 140-character tableau of news nuggets fit perfectly on my hand held device, lap top and home personal computer. It’s easy to glance at between tasks and the advertising is blessedly minimal. I control the content by following and unfollowing other Twitter accounts with a simple click or a touch.
But why, physician-skeptics may ask, is Twitter any better than traditional web browsing, email, list-servs and handheld apps? I thought about that and am pleased to offer my Top Twelve reasons why every doc should include Twitter in their informatics medical bag.
1. Lit Headlines: The major medical journals use Twitter to efficiently describe their latest content with links.
2. Fame: Traditional print authors are publishing more and more about less and less. Getting peers to follow your original and insightful tweets is the new route to attaining status as an expert. I have more than 500 daily followers vs. how many actually read the average peer-reviewed article?
3. News Junkies: Some of your like-minded peers are freely aggregating and retweeting relevant headlines with links for your perusing efficiency. They can be indefatigable.
4. Kool-Aid Immunity: Did you know your Chief, Chair, VP, lead administrator or Dean wants to control all your communication? Twitter is an easy way to step out of the information bubble and monitor contrary news about that EHR, medical device, performance standards, your institution’s business partners, the competition and more.
5. Efficiency: Twitter trains you to be both brainy and brief. If you can’t fit it into 140 characters or less, you’re wasting your readers’ time.
6. Messaging: The “@” allows you to interact with established and potential colleagues outside of your institution’s email system. Thanks to this function, I have met some wonderful colleagues.
7. Medical Conference Tweets: View formal and informal updates and insights about that conference you’re attending from not only the meeting organizers but other attendees.
8. Community: Like-minded colleagues are not only clustering in listservs but in Twitter.
9. Room for Diversions: Efficiency makes it guilt-free to include non-medical content.
10. Speed: It’s astonishing how quickly Twitter users spot and link just-released reports that take days to appear on the web and weeks to appear on print.
11. Searches: Yes, traditional literature searches and Google have their advantages, but the “#” function can find links to information resources that you might otherwise miss.
12. I am on Twitter.
There were two interesting developments in the field of social networks for healthcare practitioners last week. The first was the publication of a paper in JAMA “Variation in Patient-Sharing Networks of Physicians Across the United States”. The second was the sale of Sermo Physician Network to WorldOne for an undisclosed price. Sermo had raised $40+m in venture capital prior to sale, making a bet that social networking for physicians could drive value to pharmaceutical and financial firms based on disclosing interactions between members of the network.
If physician behavior and prescribing activity are key to your healthcare business, I think it is important to understand the relationship and differences between these two events.
Sermo bet hard on the Facebook model – physicians would interact on social networks,
share knowledge and insight, and third parties could benefit from getting access to those interactions concerning their products or services. Sermo had also begun expanding its revenue model by providing paid content and sponsored education programs to network members, trying to capture “digital” dollars from life science companies. Pharma companies are desperately trying to gain advantage through digital advertising campaigns to influence physician prescribing behaviors, and multi-channel marketing efforts including the development of web sites for branded medications.
These companies also struggle to understand how useful these branded websites are by linking on-line activity to increased sales – linking eyeballs on websites to increased prescriber activity. Return on investment is difficult to measure and pharmaceutical companies traditionally rely on labor-intensive surveys to gain insight into how these digital marketing efforts are working.
The paper in JAMA, and the related editorial, do a great job breaking down the
challenges and opportunities for building businesses or marketing efforts dependent on understanding physician behavior. Here’s the gist of their findings – it’s not about SoMoLo , it’s about big data. Physicians tend to work in isolation, they influence healthcare primarily through the individual patient-physician encounter. It’s difficult to track how physicians interact with each other and the greater healthcare system because there is no true healthcare value chain in the US. Physicians are busy, they don’t tend to spend a lot of time with on-line or mobile networks. And they tend not to like
surveys, even when you pay for their time and opinions.
In a recent interview with Larry Miller, CEO of Activate Networks , Larry told me that patient referrals constitute 50% of interactions between physicians, with the remaining 50% being composed of collegial interactions, friends and coworkers, and associations within practice groups or hospitals. To quantitatively measure real physician interaction and influence you need to map the flow of patient data through the system, through insurance claims data, clinical data (electronic medical records) and patient labs to create a physician-to-physician interaction network. Larry calls this an“experiential,
community level network” that has much greater value than an on-line social network influence model, and Activate Networks is seeking to capitalize on this model using a big data analytics approach.
The authors of the JAMA papers recognize that the ideal way to understand true physician networks is most likely a combination of social relationships and shared patient interactions. They also correctly point out that understanding how various aspects of networks are related to better care and lower costs could be central to enabling accountable care and successful healthcare reform. To drive quality and decrease costs, we need to understand where standards of care exist and how physicians influence those standards. Physicians care, payers care, and patients care. Pharmaceutical companies desperately care. If you have ideas on how to link these kinds of quantitative and qualitative insights, I have clients that would like to talk with you.
“My mother asked me what Twitter was the other day,” said one of my consultants recently, laughing hysterically. Though my consultant laughs now, her 71-year-old mother’s interest shows that slowly but surely, the entire spectrum of the population is becoming savvy to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and other new modes of social media that are popping up faster than you can post a Tweet on Twitter.
Last year, I don’t even think I knew what Twitter was, but that’s what’s so phenomenal about social media. It’s redefined the marketing, PR and advertising worlds in an extremely short period of time.
Between only February and March 2009, Twitter’s unique-visitor traffic rose 131 percent, taking the number of visitors to 9.3 million. Facebook now has 250 million users with over 100 million who log in at least once per day.
To many in the business world, social media is a strange, confusing concept. “Why would I care to know what you had for breakfast or what music you’re listening to?” you say? Social media is about closing the gap between companies and their consumers. Knowing everything about your consumers firsthand, even down to what they ate today, is a gift. Isn’t this the type of access marketers have been aching to gain for decades?
Last week, I attended a social media seminar led by the director of a public relations firm. She hit it on the head when she explained the attitudes that more traditional executives have toward social media. “They think social media is a bunch of kids on MySpace in the middle of the night,” she said. As she went on to explain, nothing could be further from the truth.
The basis of social media is sharing information in real time, and in doing so, making friends with business partners, customers and so on. To have the opportunity to post articles, blogs, videos and press releases for free and instantaneously have your entire social network see them is priceless. With a high number of users on these social media websites, information spreads like wildfire. Even faster than global news outlets. Now, that’s serious market exposure.
With the use of social networking sites, consumers and the media have total access to companies. This allows a few special things to happen:
· A culture develops within your social networks where you and users can connect and share ideas.
· You can provide value to your network by posting links to relevant resources and information.
· Companies become more trusted as members of their social networks feel less intimidated and more equal.
· You establish a leadership role among users and are able to listen and follow others.
If you combine all of the above outcomes of successful social media, this leads to consumers and the media becoming friends with a company. And that’s really all that matters because sales and media exposure will automatically follow.
Social media is not going anywhere, and those who refuse to accept that and jump in will ultimately outdate themselves and lose out on revenue.
What has your experience been with social media sites like Twitter and Facebook? Let me know your thoughts.
The meteoric rise of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube has created new opportunities for web-savvy marketers. But seriously, what can any of these social networking sites do for you and your healthcare practice? In order to answer that question, we must first understand how social networking sites work for the end-user. You, for example…
Since Twitter has the greatest “buzz” right now, I’ll use it as an example. Unless you have been locked in a cave for the past several months, you have, no doubt, heard the terms twitter, tweet, tweeting and tweeple bandied about everywhere. TV news, sports and entertainment programs, radio and print media have all been telling us not only who’s tweeting whom, but what they’re saying and why it’s important for us to know about it.
How can Twitter work for you?
Twitter is basically an online community that incorporated itself in March of 2007 in San Francisco, CA. It’s a virtual “place” where people can connect, gather, stay in touch and share their thoughts and ideas about virtually anything. Though it’s called a social network, it’s already being used rather effectively as a business/professional network. Think of it as a virtual water cooler where you have 24/7 access to 15 million (and growing rapidly) potential new patients and professional referral sources – around the corner or around the world. And best of all: so far, it’s free.
Twitter, paired with special electronic sensors (which are already in final development) could be used to alert doctors when a patient’s blood sugar or heart rate climbs too high. Such real-time data streams could also aid medical researchers. Doctors are already using Twitter to ask for help and share information about the latest techniques and procedures.
Twitter makes it easy for people to connect with other people. The site asks one question, “What are you doing?” Answers must be 140 characters long or less and can be sent via mobile texting, instant messaging or on the web. To begin on Twitter, you open an account as you would on any other site. Set up your username and password and once your account is open, spend some time exploring the site to see what opportunities there are for you.
Twitter, like other networking sites, works most effectively as a marketing tool when you link it back to your practice web site. Think of your web site as the hub of your online marketing wheel, and Twitter as one of the spokes leading to it. Your posts on Twitter, called “tweets”, can include your web URL (address), your latest new patient offers, health tips and new service offerings. You can even tweet about openings in your daily schedule, as one med-spa I know did recently. They filled their entire schedule within a few hours of tweeting. On a long-term basis, using Twitter consistently and effectively can help drive your web site up the rankings on Google.
In the last few years there has been a dramatic shift in the way people are utilizing the Internet to acquire information – so much so, in fact, that the expectations of Internet users are actually changing. Companies looking to market their products and services on the web can no longer rely on a broadcast approach to target their audience and drive revenue. Largely due to the influence of social media applications like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, consumers are now looking to “participate,” thus forcing companies to embrace new, relationship-based, online marketing initiatives.
The good news is that technology has kept pace with the surging need for social media solutions. There are literally thousands of applications available (blogs, surveys, wikis, online chats, etc.) to help marketers engage and interact with their customers online. Unfortunately, with this sudden influx of available (and often free) online tools, enthusiastic executives tend to over-react and blindly task their sales and customer service staff with the responsibility of implementing as many “Web 2.0” tools as possible. This non-specific approach is a trend that in these tough economic times can often prove unsuccessful.
Companies need to carefully consider their commitment before jumping on the social media bandwagon. Often the decision to implement a trendy new marketing strategy is driven by fear – fear of missing out, losing market share, or getting lost in the ever-changing landscape of strategic marketing solutions. Fear-driven responses, however, generally don’t solve much. In fact, lack of planning and blind acceptance of what the competition is embracing can be costly and ineffective.
Implementing and maintaining a useful social media strategy can be time consuming to say the least. Further, it requires a knowledge base and skill set that may not match that of the staff tasked with the responsibility of getting it done. Worse, if done poorly, it could backfire and damage your brand! Companies must consider the new roles and responsibilities that come with implementing this sort of initiative – especially if it is to be handled in-house.
We all know that developing strategic marketing initiatives is a must for running (and growing) a successful business – especially these days, during a recession. At a time when every dollar matters, shouldn’t marketing solutions actually solve something? Stay tuned for more on this later … In the meantime, ask yourself:
• Is my company really ready to engage in a social media strategy? And more important, will our customers actually engage?
• How will we measure success? Do we know how?
• What applications are most appropriate for our target audience? Will a blog, wiki, or RSS Feed actually be effective?
A social media strategy can prove enormously successful and rewarding if managed correctly; but it MUST add value. Before attempting to leverage Web 2.0 applications, be sure the answer is YES!