Saturday, June 28, 2008

Franchising your Content

Whether you are a fan or you consider them the coffee antichrist the Starbucks model of brick & mortar development is a marvel that is difficult to ignore. As we all know there is a Starbucks in every airport, train station, college campus, in every business district, on almost every corner. Additionally the brand can be found is sin grocery stores, Hospitals, Local Deli etc. Similar to the early days of spread of the ATM machine the presence of the location is by default and opportunity to promote and extend the brand.

The concept is simple. The more places that you are found the more opportunity there is for your customers or potential customers to reach, and connect with you. Is the location important? Of course. However, the strategy behind the location is more important than who your neighbors are. Is it good business practice to choose not to open a Starbucks in a business district if you don’t like the billboards in the neighborhood? Does this potentially dilute the brand? Yes, but only as far as mass brand recognition damages exclusivity.

The needs of your customer should be the drive of where you choose to place your product or service. In health care we know that (1) consumers start their search for health care information on search engines. We also know (2) they take advice and recommendations from the people they trust, their friends, family, community and professionals.

Inclusion in most social media sites also means additional inclusion within the search engines.
Creation of content within a social media site provides opportunity for customers to connect to your presence directly and/or share your content within their own community.

Of course your communication goals should be considered in your decision to “franchise” your content outside of your site. Just as a new brick and mortar this expansion requires management in the form of dedicated resource/s. Just like the Starbucks machine in your local deli, this does not necessarily mean a new “body” but it may require training of your current team and attention to the needs that may come from the additional traffic that your expansion may cause.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Joining the Conversation

Late last week "the institution" made a big step forward in our journey into web 2.0.

We participated in the conversation!

Not anonymous, not a friendly "Thanks" to a fan speaking positively but a public high profile post with a name attached to a negative comment made about us by one of are larger non-fans. I was so proud of us that day. We responded with a straight in a short but effective statement that was posted within few hours of the blog being put up.

In typical blog fashion the conversation within the comments turned from the actual post to comments directly to our comment. Our post changed the level of responses, into a real conversation about what we are doing, what our position is, where we really stand in the debate. There were lots of commenter's taking our side, and only a few still voicing disapproval. The best part for me were posts cheering us on for stepping into the conversation.

This one step out into the fray has opened doors for us across social media channels. I expect it will help the internal critics to understand that 1) At the moment this form of communication is not going away 2) Ignoring it does not improve the brand

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mirco Blogging to Win Friends & Infulence People

Just last week I had lunch with a patient, his wife, their adult daughter, and a co-worker. It was a wonderful experience. We laughed, and talked about all of the things we had in common. We talked a bit about treatment, but not much.

That was the first time I had ever met them in person, but I felt like I have known them forever...thanks Twitter.

I ran into their daughter on Twitter a few months ago, when she stumbled onto our Twitter pages. I tweeted back and a relationship was formed. I mentioned our meeting to the editor of our online publication and she wrote a story about the connection and how patients can connect to each other and the world through tools like Twitter.

Yes there is lots of noise on Twitter, and plurk, and pownce and sites like these. I hear complaints about not wanting to know what some guy in North Carolina had for breakfast. But with some simple searching you can connect to the people and conversations that matter in your world. (try searching with Those conversations are happening whether you are in on them or not.

The other question I hear is about monetization of the use of these sites. For me our lunch that day was enough to make it worth it. But if we must, after lunch we headed over to a services clinic that the family knew nothing about and made the patient an appointment for a self pay service. During lunch we also had a conversation with the wife, also a survivor about treatment options that might be available here that were not currently offered to her at her treating facility. If she finds something, she is potentially a new patient. I speculate, but assume that she made the decision to ask based on the conversation and relationship we all began to build that day. She was not asking a hospital, she was asking a person that she knew.

This for me is what my job is all about. Being a resource for the people out there on the internet looking for help, answers and a human connection to a brand.