The Backstory – How I got started in Healthcare Social Media

Note – the following essay was included in Mayo Clinic Social Media Residency Handbook 

My passion for social media was sparked by two events separated by ten years.

How It All Begins

In the late 1990’s, back when the commercial web began, I helped dozens of organizations develop their first web presence.

Many business leaders understood the radical changes a web site could bring, but they were in the minority. Most belittled the idea, sticking with business as usual. (“Our customers use the Yellow Pages.”) Sadly, the most skeptical industry was healthcare. Some major hospitals didn’t have a web site until 2006.

The second event was more personal – watching my daughter grow up as texting, MySpace and then Facebook became the glue holding her friends together. As I explored these services two things became clear and by 2008 I was convinced that:

1. Social media was redefining the web – providing tools people wanted and were using at extraordinary rates. It wasn’t going away and seemed to be in the early stages of something big.
2. Hospitals would, once again, stay behind.

That’s what motivated me in 2009 to build the Hospital Social Network List. A tool for hospital marketing communications (aka, marcomm) folks, it answered the critical management question, “You want our hospital to be on Facebook? Is anyone else doing it?”

Three years later, a significant percentage hospitals are active on social media and we’re just starting to understand the value for our patients, community, and organizations.

These trends are now converging within the healthcare industry:

  1. Workforce demographics – staff who grew up with social media are getting into more senior management positions.
  2. Patient expectations – patients use these social media to connect with hospitals and healthcare professionals for themselves and families.
  3. Patient communities – empowered patients use social media to take charge of their own health and encourage others to do the same.

What can you do to prepare for these changes?

  1. Learn these tools and become comfortable with the communities they build.
  2. Prepare your organization for change. Educate and encourage the participation of your peers and management.
  3. Healthcare has hundreds of topics/areas, what’s your special interest? Find your niche and become knowledgeable and passionate.
  4. Build a network of trusted colleagues beyond your organization. Share ideas, answer questions, and don’t be afraid to ask for advice. (You are always welcome to call me – the telephone is still my favorite social media tool)

But most of all – have fun! There’s a reason 800 million people use Facebook


(photo credit – How It All Begins, by Greg Fallis)

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7 Responses to The Backstory – How I got started in Healthcare Social Media

  1. Anonymous says:

    Love this essay!

  2. Chris Boyer says:

    This is a great essay, Ed. Nicely done!

  3. Cindy Russell says:

    I also enjoyed the essay.  I thought it wonderful that you are engaged with your daughter, what a great observation about her and her friends.  Reminds me that some of the greatest treasures/ideas are in our own back yard.

  4. Jason Boies says:

    Enjoyed this essay, Mr. Bennett.

    I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve shared the  “Hospital Social Networking List”.  It’s a great resource for the industry. 

    “Our customers use the yellow pages.”  *snicker*


    Jason Boies
    Radian6 Community Team

  5. Its very interesting essay I loved reading it and i too think that through social media we greatly influence people’s about health care topics and now a days Facebook plays a vital role in this patients are using this social media to connect with the hospitals and healthcare professionals. 

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