The Mayo Clinic has been able to leverage and enhance its reputation as a trusted source of health information through a robust online presence and expansive social media program.
What does it take to be a leader in social media for an entire industry?
The Mayo Clinic of Rochester, Minn., has become just that type of leader for the healthcare field. The Clinic is not only the most popular provider of medical information on YouTube (its channel is at www.youtube.com/user/mayoclinic), but the Mayo Clinic Twitter page has over 570,000 followers and the Mayo Clinic Facebook page has over 450,000 likes as well. The Clinic also publishes a podcast and several popular blogs.
How did the Clinic’s success come about?
It didn’t hurt that the Mayo Clinic has long been one of the most popular and well regarded medical destinations on the Web. The 2013 Harris Poll EquiTrend survey named the Mayo Clinic website the top Health Information Website, ahead of WebMD. Health and medical research has been one of the most popular activities of online consumers for years, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
But a vibrant social media presence still does not emerge by itself. There were, in fact, several noteworthy actions and strategies that the Mayo Clinic took that were significant in its path to social media success:
- It integrated its social media with its mission and goals. The Clinic determined how social media helps achieve its organization’s larger goals. Its web site states the philosophy of its social media: “Mayo Clinic believes individuals have the right and responsibility to advocate for their own health, and that it is our responsibility to help them use social media tools to get the best information, connect with providers and with each other, and inspire healthy choices.”
- It established a social media unit. In 2010, the Mayo Clinic created the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media to coordinate and focus the Clinic’s various social media initiatives and programs.
- It got support from executive leadership. According to the Clinic, CEO John Noseworthy was “a key force” in developing the Center for Social Media. In a presentation at the 2011 Social Media Summit at the Clinic, Noseworthy talked about the critical role of social media in the future of health care. (See also the Summer 2013 article “The Executive's Role in Social Business” in MIT Sloan Management Review for a further examination of the relationship between executive leadership and social media initiatives.)
- It publishes outstanding content. Lee Aase, the director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, told the website Social Media Today that one thing that the Clinic learned along the way in its social media initiatives was the critical nature of good content. “Patients want in-depth, great content,” he says. “Interaction is important, but really, you need great content.”
Another interesting indicator of the Mayo Clinic’s leadership is its creativity in trying to discover new benefits from social media. For example, the center has been showing a video of a doctor and offering new patients an opportunity to ask him questions online. The Clinic’s hypothesis is that if patients first can interact and get to know a new doctor on a social platform, they will have a more positive attitude when it comes time to actually visit the new doctor.
Other industries have their own social media trailblazers, too. In a recently published report from MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte, Social Business: Shifting out of First Gear, we profile Dell and Cisco, companies that have pioneered the use of social media in the IT industry. We also examine approaches other companies have used to carve out a leadership position in social media for their own industries.