Just my two cents

Musings on social media and the world as I see it


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More changes in Facebook and “Heartbleed” – what you should know

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Things always change in the world of social media and sometimes it’s hard to keep up. Recently, two things cropped up that deserve more attention than others.

You can read more of this post on Hospital Impact:


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Nothing is free anymore. Don’t be fooled.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a Red Sox fan, and yes, I’m was also an Obama supporter. (Let the comments fly — feel free!). Red Sox fans love to see their team celebrated. So to see them at the White House with the president is just a wonderful thing.

As I watched the live stream of the event, I saw an unbelievable moment when Big Papi himself, David Ortiz, presents POTUS with an “Obama” Red Sox shirt and stops the action to take a selfie with the President who was happy to do so. So here’s this great selfie that I loved and had to retweet, along with nearly 40,00 other fans.

But today, it turns out the April Fools joke was on me and so many others. Apparently the selfie that appeared to be a spontaneous moment full of fun and good humor was once again, sponsored. Yes, that’s right. Just like the multi-million retweeted Ellen/Oscar celeb selfie, this was also pre-arranged as a promo for Samsung.

Now I know that brands have lots of power and they also rely on their advertising and marketing to make a profit. Yup, I get it. But I feel duped and disappointed to learn that this was not a good-hearted, spur-of-the-moment thing. Instead, it’s just another way for a big brand to capitalize on a great moment.

Seems to me even social media is all about the money now, and it’s becoming more apparent by the day.  What a shame.

UPDATE: In this morning’s Boston Globe, David Ortiz vehemently denies that the photo was pre-planned. I certainly hope that is the case. I think we all want to believe that these kinds of magical moments still happen. And if it is true, leave it to Big Papi to be the one to make us all believe they can.


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Facebook says you want to play you gotta pay, so what’s a brand to do?

dollar sign on money bagMy last post was about managing social media for my employer for five years. Every day brings something new — maybe just a change to what we’re used to in existing networks, or maybe even the next big thing in the tech world.

Unfortunately, the next big thing in the world of Facebook is if you don’t pay, you probably can’t play. Yes, sadly, the quest for the almighty dollar is invading the social sphere too. In case you missed it, here’s an article from Time on the changes in reach: “The Free Marketing Gravy Train is Over on Facebook.” So if you’re not seeing a drop in your brand’s reach, you probably will, and maybe as low as a dismal one or two percent. Yes, you read that right –and  it doesn’t get much lower than that, does it.

For companies using Facebook brand pages, if the advertising budget doesn’t include some Facebook advertising, then it seems to me that you have to consider whether the time you spend on this major social network is even worth it. If  this is all true, then without spending money brands will not get a worthwhile return on their investment (time & personnel resources) in Facebook.

This makes me wonder if brands will also begin migrating away from Facebook to other networks liked LinkedIn and Google+, where sharing content is still free, at least for now. We know that Google+ posts help with the ever-important  SEO. While researching this post, I came across some interesting stats on Google+ showing that it’s the second ranked network just below Facebook in terms of active users (I still think these “active user numbers are over inflated, but anyway…), and itt also shows LinkedIn in the top five networks as well.

Personally, I’ve always viewed LinkedIn as a professional networking site, however, recently, there was a story on publishing on LinkedIn from Social Mouths. Over the next few months, any user on LinkedIn will be able to post long form content. That certainly could cause brands to rethink their content marketing plan. There are also some marketing pros, like this one, who believe that brands must be in both of these networks.

I would tend to disagree, and suggest that brands only spend their time and energy developing communities on the networks where their audience already exists. There is no need to be on every network if your audience isn’t there – and with limited resources, it’s important to spend your time where you will get the most bang for your buck. Now apparently, brands who aren’t spending the bucks probably aren’t going to get that desired bang from Facebook, so perhaps it’s time to start investigating and checking in with your audience to see where they are, and if they’ll engage with you on other networks.

There’s also another camp that is making more and more sense to me. Gini Dietrich (a social media, marketing and PR wiz) and others strongly believe that you need to “always build your community on something you own.” Then you encourage people to engage with you there, by promoting it through the existing social networks.  This post is brilliant and the practice is sure to gather momentum as Facebook (and soon others) hop on the pay to play bandwagon.  It’s certainly more reason for brands to devote time and effort to developing its own blog or enhancing its existing blog and website. Also, when you think about the ebb and flow (think MySpace) of social networks, isn’t it better to build something that you own and control and not rely on the whims of others when your community is at stake? I say yes, without a doubt.

Now I can’t say that this is the direction my employer will be heading in, but I think it’s something that every brand must consider given the ever-changing landscape that is social media.  So, dear readers, do you think brands will begin shifting away from a social network that demands you pay to play? What will you do?


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A milestone – celebrating five years in two different ways

The americanThis week my hubby and I celebrated our 5th anniversary. A milestone, some might say, especially those who knew us in our more, shall we say, “tumultuous” years. But things change, time passes and suddenly it’s five years later. Because we’re in the middle of trying to sell our home and buy a new one, our plans for a lovely tropical vacation to mark the occasion were out the window. So instead, we went out for a nice lunch, and I enjoyed the feeling of being quite decadent sipping cocktails in the middle of the day. (And if you’re looking for a great restaurant in Providence, RI, try The American. Highly recommend it! My grilled shrimp on fresh baked multigrain with a lemon caper spread was quite scrumptious, as was my cosmo!)

Anyway, enough about that. This year also marks another milestone for me — it’s been five years since I launched social media for my employer. It’s been an amazing, never dull, always something new, dip your toes in and try the water, learn from your mistakes and find the next big thing kind of five years! I’ve learned many lessons along the way, and I’ve met some amazing people.

There are so many people you meet in social networks, especially like Twitter and LinkedIn, who are always willing to help, or to listen, or to read a blog post and to share it or to laugh with you or offer their sympathy. Then there are also people who never cease to amaze me, and usually not in a good way. Below is a list of some of the more remarkable things from my five years in social media that will forever be embedded in my memory. All of these are real, but I won’t use names or exact quotes, to protect the not-so-innocent.

  • A tweet that stated the user would send a “bag of feces” to our patient financial services department if someone did not call him. He didn’t realize we were on Twitter, and was happy to get a response from us. Needless to say we were both happy he got a phone call.
  • A Facebook user who demanded the hospital take down a post from its page because he didn’t agree with it and he didn’t think we were presenting it accurately… to the point of calling a member of the management team to demand it be taken down. It was a link to an actual news story I might add, not an OpEd.
  • A post from an employee of one of our hospitals posting a picture of said hospital’s emergency department and saying never go to the [expletive] hospital. Lovely.
  • The hospital staff member who had a blog and went into very specific details of his patients that day, including physical descriptions and what they were wearing and the health issue they were having. Did you really think that wasn’t a violation of federal HIPAA privacy laws or did you simply think those didn’t apply to social media.
  • The child who was furious that his parents took him to one of our hospitals and had to be banned from the Facebook page because of his rantings, only to create a new Facebook page to “hate” said hospital. Obviously the warnings to parents we share about monitoring their children’s use of social media were ignored!
  • The girl who took a picture of the “no pictures or videotaping without authorization sign” and then tweeted it and posted on Instagram for all to see. Nice.

Now I know I represent my employer in all things social and so I have to watch what I say. I’m actually very nice and don’t say what I’d really like to say to these people when I respond. Although I do love surprising them when they don’t know we are active in social networks. But even if I don’t say it, I’m sure as heck thinking it! You can feel free to fill in the blanks.

So now, dear readers, share some of the things that have surprised you the most in the social media world.


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Communicating with patients; stick with the tried and true

Even in our socially networked world, sometimes the best form of communication is a blast from the past.

Even in our socially networked world, sometimes the best form of communication is a blast from the past.

Over the years, the way we communicate with patients has changed drastically. I remember the days when, working for a health plan, we would coordinate postal mailings. Then email came along and then text messaging. And of course, there’s always been traditional media outlets–television, newspaper and radio…

You can read the rest of my latest post for Hospital Impact here:


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Social Media — forget technology: it’s all about the human connections

communicaitonsI’ve always said that my favorite part of social media is to be able to talk to people one on one. It’s a nice change. After years of issuing press releases, and coordinating interviews, and writing speeches and newsletters to SEND a message out, I was never able to get to know people in the audience, or receive

With the dawn of social media came a huge change. People are connecting with each other and those people may never have known each other if it weren’t for the networks and the changes and capabilities technology  has given us

Today, I read this article in the Huffington Post about why brands need to become more human in social media, and it’s a trend that’s needed because of the way technology is changing. There are many salient points in the article, and you certainly won’t hear any argument from me when it comes to technology changing. It’s a constant, ever-evolving  thing, and it can be hard to keep your finger on all those changes

Respectfully, though, I need to argue with the author about the reason brands need to be more human. It’s not because of technology changing, but it’s because the technology is now there that allows brands to BE human. The past decade has drastically changed how individuals can connect with others and how brands can reach their audience. I propose that the reason brands should even enter the world of social media is to strip away all the corporate speak and just talk to other people.

The days of one-way messaging are long gone. The days of a brand spitting out its mission and vision and a few ads are over. If brands are NOT putting a human voice behind their social media and interacting with their audiences, fans and communities as people, then it’s all pointless.

I’ve often said that my favorite part of my job is the chance to get to know people in our brands’ communities as individuals. These one-on-one relationships are important, not only for the brand’s reputation, but because it is done with sincerity… and that’s something that must be part of all of your communications. If it’s not, social media users today are savvy enough to know when it’s just corporate speak. And then it’s time to rethink your plan, because it’s just not working.


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Getting the message out — keys to effective communication in the digital age

communicationsFor my entire adult career, my jobs have always been in the communications departments of large companies. In the many roles I’ve had over the years, I was usually involved with communications to a variety of audiences — employees, physicians, customers/consumers, media, board members, general public, etc. The rules of thumb of communications have remained consistent through the years, in that communications should be strategic, timely and appropriately tailored to each audience.  That’s all well and good.

The problem today, with digital tools like social networks, is the timeliness factor. We no longer have all the time in the world. The longer you wait to post an important message on your brand’s Facebook page or tweet it out or post it to your online newsroom can make or break a brand. If there is an important customer/consumer/patient piece of information to get out there, your brand can certainly take a lot of heat for not being timely and getting the necessary information out to the public as quickly as it should have. And if you don’t, what’s your defense? We couldn’t get our act together?

Working as a communication pro in the digital age means we no longer have the luxury of “working within a news cycle” to craft a message as perfectly as possible. We no longer have hours to deliberate as a group over one draft after another. Today, it’s much more important to get the key points of the overall message out as quickly as possible. And it must be honest, forthright and timely.

Personally, I think one of the worst impacts to a brand’s image is when a major piece of information about your product or service gets to the general public by any means other than YOU. You should be the one taking charge of the messaging and leading that effort by being the first one out there and using every avenue at your disposal to do so — traditional media, social media, websites, online newsrooms, blogs, etc. as well as internal communications so your staff is aware of what is happening too.

Once it’s out there, you can’t control what is said, and you can actively talk WITH your audience, not just send the message out there. That’s the beautiful of communication in the digital age. If negative comments or inaccurate information is out, you can respond to the criticism and provide the right information. You can be on top of the messaging, if you get out in front of it, and your brand will be all the better for it; even if it is delivering bad news, it’s all about being honest and forthright and timely. People will appreciate that and your brand will benefit from it.

Is your brand working with the new rules of the digital age in terms of timely communications?


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Does your company have a strategy or are you a fish out of water?

Photo by kainr/Creative Commons.

Photo by kainr/Creative Commons.

I think it’s often easier to find the things that are wrong in your company rather than appreciating the good things. Recently two things opened my eyes to just how lucky I am to work for the company I do.

The reason for this post, though, is not to shower accolades on my employer, but rather to point out some important things that could impact the marketing and social media efforts of companies.

Last weekend I was at a wedding, and one of my former colleagues was there. I was thrilled to see her because I adore Caitlin. She is a smart young woman, a beautiful and talented writer and a genuinely nice person.

She is now working for a biomedical company. She made a point of telling me how behind the times the company is. There is no overall marketing strategy, there is no coordinated communications efforts or advertising efforts, and social media is a completely mystery to them. In fact, the vice president asked her, “So, that Skype. Is that Facebooking?” Wow. It seems almost impossible in this day and age, right? Surely that company is an anomaly, yes?

Apparently not. Yesterday, I read a post shared by Mark Ragan called “Lessons from a social media disaster.” The post describes a company that appears to be in total chaos: no strategy, no leadership, no IT support, no content creators. Another wow.

So I guess that company that was NOT an exception to the rule. I guess I am lucky in that I work for a company with a clear mission, vision and goals. On top of that we have strategies and clear tactics for all of our marketing and advertising efforts. What we do always supports the overall mission, whether it be marketing, social media, advertising, or caring for our community. We also have policies and procedures so everyone can understand what is expected of them.

Having worked in this environment for all of my career, I think I would be completely lost in a company that didn’t function this way. It’s hard to imagine trying to do anything today when you don’t have a coordinated effort among all the parties responsible for your company’s success. In fact, it sounds like a perfect prescription for failure, right?

Or maybe I’m just partial to doing things that make sense. Personally, I think it’s that strategy that holds the key to success in everything you do. Without a plan, you’re kind of like a fish out of water, especially when it comes to social media.

Do you have a plan when it comes to your marketing and social media efforts? Are there things that you would change about your organization’s environment or culture that you think would help its success? What would it be?


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10 health care marketing folks to follow on Twitter

I’ve been on Twitter for almost 5 years now. It has become my go-to source for everything: research, breaking news, trends, health care marketing information, and meeting wonderful people. Over the years, I’ve used the “list” function in Twitter to easily organize the people I follow so I can quickly browse through categories like “news outlets,” “journalists,” or “healthcare marketing” folks.This post is to highlight some of those on my list because if you are in health care social media you should be following them too. Now believe me when I say this list is not all-inclusive, and I know there are many folks who deserve to be on this list, but there’s just not enough space in a blog post to single out all the amazing minds who are sharing info!

@leeaase Lee Aase is probably one of the best known folks in health care social media. If you look him up on Wikipedia, here’s what you’ll find: “Lee Aase is an American pioneer in using social media tools in the hospital environment, and is an advocate for social media adoption in health care.” I’ve had the opportunity to talk to him a few times by phone, and even called him once to get his opinion on a course of action when we were going through a crisis situation. Of course his advice was amazing, but beyond that, he’s a genuinely nice person who has really figured out what it takes for a health care organization (or any organization for that matter) to be successful in social media. Be sure to check out his blog too .

@edbennett Ed Bennett is someone I came to admire admired several years ago when I  first I stumbled upon him and his blog, Found in Cache http://ebennett.org/. I was so grateful to make that connection. He’s got a  soothing voice, is quite witty and also loves dogs, which in my opinion makes him a great guy! I think of him as one of the pioneers in this field, and we have much to thank him for, including the big list of hospitals in social media (now moved over to the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media). While we haven’t met in real life yet, I’m hoping (fingers crossed!) it will happen one of these days. It would be my honor.

@nickdawson Nick is a guy with some wonderful, original thoughts about health care and the social media world but is also willing to talk about many subjects. I LOVE his LinkedIn profile: “Former hospital leader now using design-thinking to inspire better staff and patient experiences.” He seems to travel a lot more than I ever could think about, and is a speaker at many of the big conferences. I’m hoping to hear him one of these days, but until then, I’ll have to follow him on Twitter and I hope you will, too. And, don’t forget to check out his blog.

@hivedan Dan Hinmon is the head of Hive Strategies, and works in hospital social media.. He shares a wealth of information and personally is such an enjoyable person to chat with. He’s also got a blog that should be on your reading list, the Social Media Strategy Blog. And be sure to check out his 7 core values at the heart of social media.

@danamlewis Dana Lewis is one of those people who I consider simply amazing. She manages the social media efforts of Swedish Health Services and is the founder of Healthcare Communications and Social Media, #hcsm, a weekly Twitter chat. You can find information on #hcsm here. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked her a question on Twitter and always receive a quick, helpful response.

@riggrl When I met Jen Riggle on Twitter, she was working for a firm on the East Coast. She’s got a wonderful take on the industry and she is also a guest blogger here on Hospital Impact , so you may be familiar with her amazing work. She is kind, thoughtful, smart and witty, and shares fantastic information you won’t want to miss.

@ReedSmith Reed is one of those really smart guys who is thoughtful and is always on my “go-to” list with questions about the industryHe is the founder of the Social Health Institute and is also a consultant for health care organizations and practices that are using social media. Be sure to follow his blog for new insight into health care and social media.

@Ahaval I’ve followed Ahava Leibtag for quite a while, and recently had the honor of being interviewed for her blog. She is one of those people who never seems to stop! She’s smart, funny and so hard working that  her passion for this industry comes through loud and clear. She’s a thought leader on digital strategy and a talented writer who always shares valuable information. You can check out some of her publications here and her blog here.

@chrisboyer Chris directs digital marketing for Inova Health System, and is simply amazing. His blog says “Chris Boyer is an active participant in the rapidly evolving field of healthcare new-media marketing. He’s a speaker and educator and someone who puts talk into action by creating and testing new digital strategies.” He is, in a word, brilliant, in my humble opinion, and I’ve learned so much from him. Be sure to follow him on Twitter AND subscribe to his blog.

@dandunlop Dan Dunlop is the president of Jennings, a health care marketing agency. Dan is one of those folks who you feel as if you’ve known for a long time, even if you’ve never met him in real life. I chat with him often on Twitter, and also love to read his blog, The Healthcare Marketer, where you’ll find plenty of tips and tricks of the trade, as well as some through-provoking questions on why we do what we do.

If you’re using social media for your hospital or medical practice, or if you’re in the field and just tweet personally, be sure to tweet these folks and introduce yourself. And like so many people in the Twitterverse, they are all kind and willing to help you with questions you might have, or point you in the right direction.

There’s also a group of “health care influencers” who can provide an overview of the health care industry and trends.  Also, be sure to follow the hashtags #hcmktg and #hcsm to keep up with all the latest in the health care marketing field.

Now I know there are so many others I could and should have mentioned here, but I limited myself to 10. So let’s add to this list and share some of the “tweeps” on your health care social media list.

 This post was originally written for and appeared on www.hospitalimpact.org


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Why people use social media as their personal soapbox and why hospitals should care

business man with laptop over head - mad

Years ago, when someone was unhappy about a product or service, the response was typically to call a customer service department or write a letter to the editor. Of course they also complained to family and friends – and that word-of-mouth bad advertising went a long way.

Today, social media gives people a powerful voice to share their thoughts, good or bad, about any topic under the sun, and be heard like never before.. Think about that. One person behind a keyboard or with a smartphone in his or her hand has the potential to be heard by millions of people around the world. It sort of boggles the mind when you think about it, doesn’t it?

So with that potential reach, it’s no wonder that when someone is disgruntled, they’re heading to their favorite social media networks to post a complaint, a photo or a video showing bad service or poor judgment (think Dominos pizza) by employees. It’s the place to go to complain, unless, of course, you’re in the “business” of social media. Then you might think twice about it as I recently did.

Just a few weeks ago, my dad was hospitalized in a very scary 10-day stay at a hospital. That hospital is part of the health system for which I work AND manage its social media. Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad Dad was there and received the care he did and is now home. The doctors and staff were wonderful, but there were some things that just didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked.

Being an employee, I knew who to call to talk about it. But if I wasn’t, I probably would have taken to social media to make a comment or two. Then I thought of the many patients and their family members who find themselves in a hospital each year. According to the CDC statistics, more than 35 million people are hospitalized every year. The statistics here show that about 54 percent of people are on social networks. That means almost 19 million of those people are using social media. How many of those 19 million people do you suppose would know who to contact in a hospital if they weren’t happy about their care?

In this day and age, the chances that a disgruntled and unhappy patient will take to social media to vent and be heard are pretty good. We know people want to be voice their opinions, especially when it comes to their health, and what they see as bad care.  Think about the bad advertising that can result from those posts. Think about the potential reach of those social postings. It’s no wonder that people are hopping on their social media soapboxes to complain when they’re not happy with their hospital care.

Now let’s remember this: out of a total of 5,724 hospitals in the U.S., only 1,501 are using some form of social media. That’s only about 26 percent of hospitals. (There’s an interesting infographic here on how hospitals are using social media these days, and of course there’s the big list of hospitals on the Mayo Clinic Social Media Health Network.).

Those negative comments can certainly impact your hospital’s reputation and brand image. After all, word of mouth advertising is very strong. When it comes from friends or family, it’s even stronger. The 26 percent of hospitals using social media might catch those negative posts and complaints, and then be able to respond and do something about it to reverse potential damage to the brand. If they’re NOT in social media at all, then there’s no chance of responding. Let’s just hope the post, photo or video doesn’t go viral.

When you think of it in these terms, it’s easy to see why hospitals, and any brand in any industry, must consider being part of today’s social networks. How do you deal with unhappy patients/customers on your social networks?

(This post was originally written for and was published on http://www.hospitalimpact.org on 8/15/2013.)