The High Cost Of Low Quality Social Media

My old man once told me: whatever you do, don’t get dirty unless you know how to garden.

It’s tempting for brands to go for the lowest common attention-denominator in today’s world of tweets and pings and quickie YouTube hits. After all, the cost of attention goes up every single day.

But the cost of getting dirty for attention goes up too. See this post on how low brands might go – and then bounce back here.

Now that Healthcare organizations are “getting” the need to pay attention to the web, there is the chance that we’ll see marketing campaigns and social media efforts go for the “hot” shot…the viral YouTube video, the magical tweet that gets featured on Mashable or NYT.

It won’t take much to go from that to using cheap means to meet expensive needs: like reaching and engaging and educating the right people.

Yeah, sex sells. I’m sure some marketer will find a bright idea to connect a nice pair of legs with diabetes or cancer or bipolar affective disorder.

But Healthcare isn’t prostitution. And women aren’t objects. Neither are people with wellness needs or disease conditions.

My old man’s advice may be the best advice for this weird social media world we’re all being sucked into…or *down* into. You do have to dig into the dirt if you want to do social media “right”. It’s HARD work…really hard work

Being a gardener means being grounded, knowing the dark material you work with, and understanding the power of time and patience and persistence.

The work we do must be high quality.

When choosing what role to play in social media: decide between prostitution or gardening.

The web is a dirty world.

Make it beautiful or pay the high cost of selling your body to the lowest bidder.

@PhilBaumann – @HealthIsSocial


For – Against – With

There are three ways to deal with Technology when thinking about its effects on our health, culture…future.

The first involves working for Technology. There’s no doubt that technology is advancing at such an accelerating pace that the gap between our powers and its may widen to the point where we have no choice but to submit.

The second – which is one conclusion from the recognition of the first – is to work against Technology. It’s not impossible that, if you extrapolate Technology’s advancement, that we will go extinct…that technology is an absolute enemy.

The third approach involves working with Technology, accepting both the inevitable good and bad of its unstoppable advancement and our right to be who we are in this world: human.

The first two approaches are easy to take:

  • If you like to accept things and let technology take care of your needs, no need to work too hard. At least at first. So work for technology.
  • If you’re a fighter, someone who refuses to submit to the power of the non-human, it’s easy to rage or flee. At least at first. So work against technology.

But the third approach – now that’s a challenge. It’s an art. It’s a discipline. It’s a skill to navigate the boundaries of the human and the technological. It’s an intelligence of where technology takes itself…and us. In other words: it requires leadership.

We humans are between Nature and Technology.

We embraced Technology in response to Nature’s nourishing cruelty. Our ancestors would not have survived into our special version without Technology. But now Technology too is emerging as a nourishing cruelty.

Just as Nature could finish us at any moment, so too can Technology.

And just as the answer to the dangers of Nature isn’t to destroy Nature, so too must we appreciate our situation with Technology.

This is the world individuals and organizations face with social and other digital technologies: work entirely for them, ignore or work against them, or figure out how to work with them.

For. Against. With.

Those are our choices.

Are you with me?

@PhilBaumann – @HealthIsSocial – Newsletter



The Weird World of Social Media

Why on earth would anybody want to be friends with a brand? Nobody wants to be friends with a hospital or a pill.

How on earth is that social?

People want what they want and need – they want meaning. Brands aren’t people.

I think too many businesses and marketers are confused about today’s media.

First, many were late adopters – only a couple of years ago, I’d go to conferences and get glazed looks: “What’s a Twitter?”

Now, after reading social media blogs and attending more conferences, companies can’t get enough of this stuff and are purchasing crocks of snake oil.

But few are taking a step back and asking “What are these media? Why do people use them?” It seems like digital marketing agencies and businesses truly believe the notion that “it’s all about conversation”.

No! No! NO!!

Really: who wants to be friends with a brand? It’s an absolutely delusional proposition.

Yes, businesses need to be available to customers. Yes, theses media can be repurposed for business value.

But here’s where the confusion is: people use these media to talk with each other. They do talk about products and services. People talk about what’s meaningful to them.

Social matters between and among customers – not between brands and customers. This is the confusion.

This confusion is creating the weird world of social media, where we’re all supposed to be friends with brands and spend our time reading company tweets. Oy!

So the idea of brands being social is utterly misguided.

The Web is a great platform for people to connect with each other.

So help them make connections with each other.

That’s where companies need to invest resources.

Last century, you could spend 80% of your capital on marketing and 20% on core business. You could get away with shoddy products and services because customers didn’t have platforms to connect directly with each other.

That’s changed. The the mix has to flip: companies need to spend 20% on marketing and 80% on core business.

The purpose of marketing has always been to enhance a product’s attention and presence – not replace it.

This is why most social media efforts will fail.

Build a remarkable hospital. Hire competent nurses and doctors and encourage them to use social networks for their professional development and networking.

The way to do Social isn’t to do the weird thing and make brands social.

Nope: the way to do Social is to run a business with bright people who are committed to creating meaningful products and services, and then helping customers to talk openly and honestly about their experiences, problems, hopes and insights.

Trust me: it’s a much better world than the weird alternative universe where we wake up with yet another request to friend a brand.



Mention Deficit Disorder

It’s nice to be mentioned – at least in a positive way.

Granted, some of us are more easily prone to enjoy flattery and attention than others. A lot depends on childhood experiences, genetics, personality.

Today’s media make it easier than ever to publicly mention someone and have them receive it – instantly.

Twitter epitomizes this: it has brought forth the mention-economy. People love to be Retweeted and Replied to. At least a substantial majority do.

This mention-economics can be a good thing: it can enable new connections, enhance existing social ties and produce a sense of ambient intimacy.

But what happens when the mentions become habit-forming?

What happens if the mentions stop – or if the mentions aren’t enough?

What happens when people feel as though they aren’t getting the mentions they want?

What happens when they reach a mention-deficit?

Do they develop a strange condition? A Mention Deficit Disorder?

I don’t know – it’s kind of a silly way to put things. But I suspect this Web stuff – to some degree – can create what I’ve called Inadvertent Narcissism.

Perhaps what we’re entering isn’t so much an Attention Economy. Perhaps what we’re entering is more of an Attention MEconomy. An economy that has to constantly seek out new ways of engaging and mentioning.

The problem, though, is that people can handle so much stimulation – overstimulate the senses and snap!…the system crashes.

That’s what happens with Attention Deficit Disorder (supposedly) – overstimulate the hyperactive brain and paradoxically calm it down.

Now that many corporations are waking up to social media, they will now realize what they’ve signed up for: finding ways of treating Mention Deficit Disorder without shutting down the attention economy.



Caring Is King: Doctors, Nurses and Social Media

Imagine if every step in the care that you provided your patients were tweets or blog posts or anything else you post online. Would your care be retweeted, re-blogged, Liked?

If you run a practice and are seeking the Web to market your service, you may have heard the tired (and tiring) adage that Content Is King. It’s just a cliche. Is it true? Sort of, but it’s incomplete. A more complete understanding of media production would be:

Content is King. Context is Kingdom. Process is Power.

That’s certainly a rule you should remember when it comes to general online marketing (whether it’s for promoting your business or networking or just having your voice recognized).

But for physicians, nurses and other individual healthcare providers – including Healthcare and Life Sciences enterprises – Caring trumps Content.

In fact: Caring is the content.

The caring is the message.

Care is the medium which propagates the profession.

More and more doctors and nurses are using social media. This is a welcome evolution: we need their voices.

It’s in their interest – and ours – to be sufficiently media-savvy.

Using the tools aren’t hard. It’s the discipline, diligence and integrity to produce quality content, appropriately market their messages, interact with their core audience and to help extend the art and science of caring from the bedside to the byte.

If you don’t care for others, they won’t care for you.

That’s as true for healthcare as it is for blogging.

Caring is King.

Caring is Kingdom.

Caring is Power.


(Apologies for the paternal-dominated language – I had to work with a paternal-dominated cliche.) 🙂

Authenticity in Healthcare Communications

Authenticity as a buzzword needs to die. I’m going to kill it. Love is my gun. So sit back and watch.

During the last Webinar that Health Is Social hosted, an attendee asked a great question about authenticity in communications with patients online. But there are times when the word Authenticity is used and I’d like to address that.

We all want authentic communications – it’s sort of one of those things you just expect. Who wants you to be Inauthentic?

But I don’t think healthcare communicators should worry too much about how to reconcile a professional/corporate personal with Authenticity.

What?! OMG – you can’t be serious!

Hold up – this is what I mean. People want all sorts of things – value, honesty, feedback, information, resources, support, humor… When they deal with an organizational representative, for the most part they understand that they’re working with someone who is playing a role. It’s OK to play a role – doctors play roles, nurses play roles, leaders play roles.

It’s when the roles people play hide things or divert attention that communications and trust break down.


If your interactions with people are honest and clear and helpful, you don’t have to worry about authenticity. In fact, the more focused you are on being authentic, the less authentic you’ll be. Why? Because authenticity becomes a goal onto itself rather than a natural consequence of everything else you do.

Here’s an illustration of this phenomenon. Read the following sentence, pause for a moment and do exactly as it requests: Don’t think of pink elephants prancing in tutus! You thought of pink elephants prancing in tutus just now, didn’t you? Some things you just can’t command – Authenticity is one of those things. Make sense?

When consumers interact with you and you give them what they’re looking for (whatever it is), I doubt very much they go home and say: Hey honey, I had a great back-and-forth online with ABC Company today. I got everything that I needed from them – great customer service, sincerity, empathy and useful information…but I’m devastated because I just don’t think they were authentic.

In the same way, when most people speak highly of you, the most common things they say probably don’t include “Wow, she was authentic! She was really authentic!”. Who talks like that? No, they’re going to talk about what you did for them.

I think Authenticity may be a misleading thing to worry about in online communications. Sincerity is probably a better term. You might care about appearing or being authentic, but I don’t really care. Basically, I want you to be honest and useful.


Ever love somebody? If so, were you worried about being authentic? Or did you just love?

Healthcare – and the communications that weave within and orbit it – need a lot of love in addition to hard work.

Love? Sounds corny. No place in business. Not a Healthcare term.

OK. BUT: If you hate communicating, do you think you’ll communicate well or turn off those who you need?

On the other hand, if you love communicating, don’t you think you’ll turn on the people whom you need to tune in?

Authenticity in Healthcare communications is what happens when you do all of the hard work of serving your informational customers.

If you don’t love what you do, authenticity isn’t your biggest problem, is it?

Not everybody loves what they do. Which means: you have an edge over them.



Love is the ultimate competitive avantage.


Our next Webinar will touch on Authenticity. Sign up here!

Webinar – Healthcare Social Media: Perspectives in Practice

Health Is Social is excited to deliver its first Webinar on Thursday, August 26, 2010 at 1:00pm – 3:pm EST, 10:00am – 12:oopm PST, 6:00pm – 8:00pm London:

Healthcare Social Media: Perspectives in Practice will showcase the practical perspectives of four pioneers in healthcare social media.


If you’ve decided that Social Media is here to stay and you’re either planning or implementing your social media strategies and presence, but are still figuring out what to do or what more you can do, then you’ll want to attend this Webinar.

The purpose of the Webinar is to expand on the theoretical bases of healthcare social media with specific examples and views. Health Is Social believes that social media offers a robust array of possibilities within healthcare, requiring different perspectives on what can be done.

In this Webinar, we cover four of these perspectives: the patient’s, the provider’s, the healthcare organization’s and the professional’s (internal staff):

Hospitals, healthcare associations, practitioners interested in developing their online presence are encouraged to attend the Webinar. We believe Social Media goes deeper than just public relations – these new media offer opportunities to improve collaboration, help redesign internal processes and provide novel ways of adding value to all of an organization’s information customers.


We have four terrific presenters whose collective knowledge and experience offer a unifying blend of themes in healthcare social media:

Dave deBronkart – Patient Perspective

Dave deBronkart

Dave deBronkart, author of Laugh, Sing and Eat Like a Pig, will provide the Patient Perspective.

An accomplished speaker and writer in his professional life before his illness, today Dave is actively engaged in opening health care information directly to patients on an unprecedented level, thus creating a new dynamic in how information is delivered, accessed and used by the patient. This is revolutionizing the relationship between patient and health care providers, which in turn will impact insurance, careers/jobs, quality of life and the distribution of finances across the entire spectrum of health care.

Dave blogs regularly at and actively participates in community discussions on empowering patients. You can follow his wisdom on Twitter by following @ePatientDave.

Bryan Vartabedian, MD, FAAP – Provider Perspective

Bryan Vartabedian, MD

Dr. Vartabedian is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas and attending physician at Texas Children’s Hospital, America’s largest children’s hospital.

Beyond practicing as a pediatric gastroenterologist, he has an interest in the evolving role of social media in health care.  Since 2006 he has been active in the health blogosphere and currently blogs at 33 Charts.  As an active speaker, he has addressed the AMA, American Telemedicine Association and the Texas Medical Association on the issue of MDs in social media.  He maintains an active presence on a variety of social media platforms and in between patients you can find him on Twitter.  In his free time, he serves as a strategic thinker for the next-generation physician social network, iMedExchange.

Erin Macartney : Healthcare Organization Perspective on Partnering Patients with Healthcare Team

Erin Macartney

Erin is a public affairs specialist at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, where she coordinates the social media program, and is responsible for PAMF’s Facebook and Twitter accounts and online newsroom. She is also a regular contributor to Ragan’s HealthCare Marketing and Communications News. PAMF uses a variety of communications tools to create relationships with patients and further health education – helping people become active partners in their own health and health care team.

Previously, Erin was corporate communications manager at Quintiles, an international bio and pharmaceutical services provider; worked in corporate communications at Amgen, a pioneer and leading company in the biotechnology industry; and as a freelance writer and communications consultant. Erin is active in the #hcsm community and co-founder of HCSM Silicon Valley (@hcsmSV). You can follow her on Twitter at @emacartney.

Angela Dunn, Odom Lewis – Professional Development Perspective

Odom Lewis

Angela Dunn, Dir. of Social Media & Recruiting for Odom Lewis, helps you navigate social media for your personal and professional brand in healthcare and pharma marketing.  Angela has more than twenty years of experience in marketing communications.

In addition to helping place top leadership in healthcare and pharma marketing communications, Angela also helps coach CEOs and senior leadership on social media. She was recently featured on the American Express OPEN forum and interviewed by MSNBC at TWTRCON in NYC.

Angela was also among the top 12 bloggers asked to participate in “Best Strategic Learning Investment for 2010” for pharma and healthcare marketers. Angela blogs for Odom Lewis and is responsible for their Twitter account @OdomLewis and their newly developed Resource Hub for Healthcare and Social Media professionals on Facebook.


Order tickets below or visit the event page here.