Twitter, baseball, and bringing research to the real world of addiction treatment


July 18, 2014

Maureen Fitzgerald
Communications Coordinator, ATTC Network Coordinating Office
Senior Editor, NIATx

Last month (June 2014), I attended a great workshop on science writing and communication skills for the 21st century. One of the featured speakers was Lee Aase, director of the Center for Social Media at Mayo Clinic. His workshop, “You Are Now the Media. Really” was about how social media is revolutionizing health care.

Aase got the Mayo Clinic started with social media, launching podcasts in 2005, Facebook in 2007, and Twitter in 2008. A TwitterChat about wrist surgery that Mayo Clinic hosted with USA Today (featuring the wrist recovery of Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Jason Werth) encouraged other people with similar wrist injuries to inquire about the surgery. Dr. Richard Berger, who pioneered this surgery (called the UT split), later wrote to Aase that several doctors had trained with him to learn the procedure because of the TwitterChat

Berger said:

“Social media has driven this into practice in less than 2 years, when it takes 17 years on average!”

Could social media have the same effect on the spread of evidence-based practices in behavioral health?

Mayo Clinic also has a YouTube channel and several blogs. One of its most successful videos (with millions of views) was of an older couple playing the piano. You can watch the video and read the story of these “Octogenarian Idols” here.

Social media has been so successful that today Mayo Clinic has an entire department dedicated to it, the Social Media Health Network.

Aase says that before social media, the most effective communication channel for the Mayo Clinic was not paid advertising or TV spots, but word of mouth—patients referring one other to the clinic’s doctors.

Social media are the word-of-mouth of the 21st century.

In the 21st century environment of health care reform, behavioral health care organizations have to market their services and compete with one another. Social media, in all its forms—Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and blogging, to name just a few—have become essential and affordable marketing tools.

Has your organization made the leap?

If you’re looking for ideas and inspiration, check out the four-part social media webinar series Marketing with Social Media on the NIATx website. The first is a presentation by Lee Aase similar to the one I attended.

Aase also offers some fun and informative resources on his  Social Media University, Global (SMUG) website. For example, Twitter101: Intro to Twitter is just under three minutes and gives a great overview. You’ll be happily tweeting away before you know it.  

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