Mayo's online brand has always been strong, but Aase gave it a major boost when iTunes started offering podcasts, posting some existing recordings from Mayo physicians. iTunes featured the Mayo material on its home page and downloads soared to 74,000 within a month. One thing led to another and now Mayo has 400,000 Twitter followers, 100,000 Facebook fans, a host of blogs, and a YouTube channel with more than 2,000 videos and 7 million views. Mayo's Center for Social Media, with eight employees and a medical director, helps other providers learn to use those media tools. Mayo is having its fourth annual social media conference later this month, and also offers other types of training. In his spare time, Aase runs Social Media University Global (www.social-media-university-global.org), a hands-on training course.
On word of mouth
We have a 100-year tradition of people spreading their stories about their experience at the Mayo Clinic, and that helped us make the argument that what happens with social media isn't really new. I think people appreciate our leadership, because when they make the case for social media within their organization, they can point to us as an example.
On the role of social media
When we started, our objective was to tell stories, and get journalists to tell stories, about research at Mayo and about our patients. We've had success because journalists can see and hear our experts and our patients, rather than just listening to some PR guy on the phone. We can't fully quantify the benefits, but we can point to subspecialties where a video with an expert led to increased appointments for mysterious conditions.
On being proactive
When we had Jesse Jackson, Jr. as a patient [for treatment of bipolar disorder], we published a blog post with information that had been approved by the family and his doctors. That helped the media relations team manage the immense interest. Hospitals can use these tools to share updates with local media about a multi-vehicle accident or a chemical spill, and can use them to highlight their organization's expertise.