CASE STUDY: Mayo Clinic

Organization: Mayo Clinic; MayoClinic.org Background: Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit medical practice dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of virtually every type of complex illness.

Business Need: To leverage the Mayo Clinic’s established reputation in direct promotion, rather than relying only on third-party media representation. In short, “Don’t just pitch the media, be the media.”

Social Media Solution: A custom YouTube channel, which serves as an excellent platform to distribute syndicated press package videos created for traditional TV news and information to the media parties interested in featuring the Mayo Clinic. Furthermore, the YouTube channel became a place for amateur and casual videos.

Business Result: Very large numbers of viewers (currently over 2 million) means a lot of exposure. Thanks to low production costs on many of the clips, any return on investment is significant. This channel has become a destination within itself and a way for Mayo Clinic to leverage its reputation without having to always use a third party.

What actually happened: Lee Aase, Manager, Syndication and Social Media at Mayo Clinic points out that for over 100 years the Mayo Clinic has relied almost completely on word of mouth and third-party media to spread its reputation. As social media is the new word of mouth, the various platforms available fit in perfectly with the clinic’s traditional means of promotion. Plus, it affords the Mayo Clinic the opportunity to use its own reputation to its advantage.

As Mr. Aase stated, “Don’t just pitch the media, be the media,” meaning the Mayo Clinic has a very strong reputation, and does not have to rely solely on third party media representation to establish credibility. They already have a lot of credibility in their field, and can use that as a way to appeal to a wider audience."

In addition, because the clinic is a not-for-profit organization, there is less pressure to see an immediate return on investment, and more opportunity to use social media in a purely altruistic sense. Of course, this also brings greater social media success, because social media is often about sharing valuable information.

The implementation of a YouTube channel provides the clinic with another platform to utilize the 90-second to 2-minute syndicated press package videos created for traditional TV news and information to the media parties interested in featuring Mayo Clinic, and creates a platform to pitch to traditional media.

It also reinforces the clinic’s established reputation by providing information and advice to patient communities, and speeds up the dissemination of medical information on rare or specialized illnesses to people across the world at a rate never experienced before. Though there is not as strong a focus on ROI as there might be in a corporation, Mr. Aase explains that the clinic still sees new patients coming in because of content they viewed on the Mayo Clinic YouTube channel.

A perfect example is the 10-½-minute video of Dr. Mesa discussing myelofibrosis, a rare form of blood cancer, which was shot with a simple $150 Flip camera. This video has been viewed more than 4,000 times. Dr. Mesa has heard from over 50 out-of-state patients who chose Mayo Clinic because they saw his video and asked specifically for Dr. Mesa. Not only does this video provide necessary information to potential patients, the clinic’s ROI from making that information widely available through YouTube is substantial.

One key element in the clinic’s social media strategy is the inter-connectedness across platforms. Mayo Clinic runs a Twitter feed, Facebook page, YouTube channel and several blogs, and Mr. Aase says these different channels are all crucial to a successful social media campaign. In July 2010, Mayo Clinic increased its commitment to using social media by creating the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media. The center’s purpose is to go beyond the public relations and marketing uses of social media, and to use variations of these tools throughout the organization.

Through the center, Mayo Clinic aims to accelerate adoption of social media in the clinical practice, education, research and administration.  The center’s focus is not only internal to Mayo Clinic, however. The center also will be a resource for other hospitals and health-related organization looking for guidance in applying social media. “Many staff in health care organizations who are interested in using social media have pointed to our Mayo Clinic example to help make their case to leadership,”

Mr. Aase explains. “Through the center we have a way for them to join a formal network, and to get access to materials and resources to support their venture into social media.”

Mr. Aase says the network will not be limited to medical providers, but also will include non-profit health related organizations and associations. “We want to be a resource to any organization looking for ways to apply social media to improve health,” he says. “Our fundamental goal is to help patients through social media, whether that means giving them increased access to scientific information or helping them to get together and learn from each other, becoming active partners with their health care providers.

We also want to help medical professionals in research and education connect with each other, and are eager to play a role in spreading the use of these powerful communication tools throughout the health system.”

For more information about the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, go to SocialMedia.MayoClinic.org.