Monday, December 10, 2012

Healthcare Social Media: Learn from the Best at Einstein


It’s not easy to stand out in the crowded world of social media healthcare. There are major personalities that play a very active role. Think of all the big brands that publish often. So how does a biomedical research institute and medical school’s social media activities become relevant, timely and robust?

I first noticed the Einstein Coll of Med Twitter handle during a Sunday night #hcsm (healthcare social media) Tweet chat. I started following it and within days noticed interesting content. What really piqued my curiosity was that there was a personality behind the handle; someone was clearly interacting with the audience: there were constant responses clearly not auto tweeted.



Then I found out they have an awesome blog, "The Doctor’s Tablet," plus a robust YouTube channel and Facebook page.

I decided to find out who was behind all this wizard magic.

Meet the social media team behind The Albert Einstein College of Medicine: 


Social Media Manager


Managing Director of Communications and Marketing


Kim Newman,
Media Relations Specialist


Assistant Director of Media Relations and Communications


In Six Secrets of Social Media Superstars in Healthcare, Reed Smith and I (Ahava Leibtag) propose six best practices in order to achieve true success with your social media program. Download the eBook and then find out if the Einstein team matches up (Spoiler: they do.)

Q1: How did you get started in social media?

Paul: "When I started at Einstein in 2008, there was no social media presence. Not even a YouTube channel. So, we were late to the game from an organizational perspective. However, Einstein’s Dean Allen Spiegel as well as Associate Dean Gordon Earle to whom I report - value communications across the board. Our team started by solidifying the support from senior leadership that we needed. Then, we began slowly and built upon each success—informed by the model of crawl, run, walk—which was a necessity when I look back on it now."

Q2: Describe your backgrounds: How did your professional experiences help you prepare for your current roles as social media managers?

Paul: "I was a broadcast journalist for 15 years, spending part of that time as an investigative health reporter. Then I was a consultant for corporate and nonprofit clients. When I transitioned to academia, I found I really loved this environment. As a former journalist, I come at this current role with a journalist’s sensibility, but with a marketing sensibility as well."

David: "I was a print reporter and then went to work for Prodigy. I was an online community manager in that role; reading online message boards and moderating them. Then I moved to Everyday Health and was their online community manager for Twitter. A lot of things that happen on Twitter and Facebook—people say this is all very new—but it happened back in 1989, just at a much slower pace. Concepts are the same, technologies are newer and we still need to speak to people as a person and not as an entity."

Kim: "I have a background in traditional media and PR. I worked as a publicist in food and consumer health for clients like Everyday Health and Weight Watchers. I love this current role because it’s a great combination of academia and science along with my PR background and combining that with the consumer health experience. It’s all about the interactive community and getting the message out there."

Deirdre: "I worked in media relations at New York’s PBS station for many years and when I came to Einstein, the institutional culture seemed very familiar. Quality content is the top priority and the core audience is made up of curious, thoughtful people. No matter where you are, it’s important to keep your audience in mind and to find and tell the stories that will really resonate with them."

Q3: How do you plan what and how you’re going to publish? In other words, what’s your content strategy?

"What’s good about our group is that we operate across lines, so that we know what’s going on (Rule #4 from the eBook: Manage in teams for cross collaboration).

On Monday mornings, we have an editorial meeting—where we discuss everything. We’re all in one room and have an understanding of how the different platforms support each other and what’s happening out there. That means the internal communications person, science and publications editor, media relations team, multimedia producer —the whole group decides what we’re working on, publishing and how it’s going up by platform.

Q4: Why do you divide content efforts by platform?

The team explained: "We figured out persona development over time. What sells on Facebook is different from what sells on YouTube. Because of this, we decided to figure out content by channel. For example, the entire editorial team works on an email newsletter that is published two times a month. Sent to the extended Einstein community—researchers, students, alumni and donors—the content includes subjects they know resonate well with those audiences, as well as a wrap up of what’s going on at Einstein.

After the newsletter is completed, the editorial team eyes the content critically and decides what belongs on which platforms. That way they ensure, "all the content we’re spending time creating works for a different platform and has a shelf life; meaning it’s not going to die in a week. We’ve iterated constantly to figure out which platforms which content belongs on."

"This helps to keep the content fresh, by extending the content on different platforms," explains Kim.

Q5: Do you use any tools for shared collaboration?

The team cites the use of Divvy HQ, an editorial calendar software. They also use HootSuite to track everyone else to "make sure we’re not stepping on anyone’s toes." Constant emailing and calling is also important to their process.

"We play as a team—throw a lot of balls and have each other’s backs. More back and forth makes the team feel together," explains David.

Q6: Who and what informs your work?

The entire team talked about attending conferences and participating in Tweet chats to sharpen their skills. "We also follow the mainstream influencers," said Paul, "because you can’t just stay in healthcare to learn the marketplace. You have to go outside of it to learn how to improve on what we already do."

Paul also cited his participation in the social media residency at Mayo Clinic as an excellent foundational element that consistently informs his practice.


Q7: Do you have any advice other social media managers like yourselves might want to know?

  • Don’t worry you might be behind: The team explains that starting from behind might have actually helped them. Having limited resources allowed them, in retrospect, to focus on one platform at a time. And, all members of the team have a core communications background and experience in consumer health, which helps inform their decisions.
  • Iterate: Paul explains, "We got really good at one platform, understanding it was an iterative process, and then worked at it until we felt we could move on to the next one." (Rule #1: Understand the audience on different channels.)
  • Find the right talent: The team predicts social media managers are going to continue to focus on integration of different areas, including media relations, marketing, and communications. Therefore, you need to draw people from outside the department to help round out the things you don’t know.
  • Use data: The team uses analytics to support decisions, which definitely makes their C-suite happy. They measure engagement by platform, which drives buy-in from those executives who also approve budgets. (Rule #6: Measure analytics to validate time, energy and effort.)

The passion, energy and enthusiasm this social media team has for their roles radiated through my telephone. Not only can I feel their excitement, but more importantly, it’s obvious in the way they interact with their brand community.

Congratulations, Einstein! You’re social media superstars.

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