Editor's Note: Farris Timimi, M.D. is the medical director for the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media.
We often view the introduction of social media tools into an organization as a one-time event when in reality it is a process like any other, moving through logical stages.
From a high-level perspective, each of us who advocate for social media in our organizations ought to develop a clear plan for this process. This plan should include action items, metrics and goals that will be unique to your organization.
However, for all organizations, two common stages represent barriers that can be difficult to overcome if not anticipated and understood.
The initial stage is probably the most risky. For most organizations this centers on the recognition of competitive advantage: what competitors are doing online, coupled with a growing realization of the real opportunities being missed. The response may be “We need a Facebook page, Twitter account and YouTube channel right now, look what our competition has and look how many likes/followers/subscribers they have!”
If your organization is at this stage, while you certainly should try to identify early adopters and encourage them, your real time, effort and energy should be to focus on one simple mantra, repeated over and over:
It is critical that you develop and share the message that the real risk of social media is not participating in the conversation at all. Frankly, only by nurturing and building a broad understanding of this imperative will you be able to build the management momentum you need to move forward. You need to focus on growing the number of your operational and middle managers who really understand the need for social media.
The tactical error that is all too easy to make is to instead focus on your virtual bandwidth (getting a Facebook page, Twitter account and YouTube channel) before you have developed your organizational human bandwidth. Focusing on the former has a high likelihood of resulting in lukewarm interest and a meager degree of support and engagement. You must really build the coalition of the willing, before you build the coalition of the online.
The second most common stage where problems arise is during adoption and roll out. You have human bandwidth and you have convinced the majority (or at least enough) of your middle managers of the need for social media in your practice, research or education. You have provided training and support. Your next target should be the strategic and purposeful choice of social media projects. You need to consciously identify proverbial low-hanging fruit. Go for quick wins. Only by building a portfolio of these success stories can you really engage the social media naysayers and those reluctant to participate.
How do you identify projects with a high probability of success? Ideally, they should meet three broad criteria.
The first two are fundamental. Asynchrony refers to individuals separated by time; geographic disparity refers to those separated by space. Social media tools are uniquely designed for these opportunities, and therefore can have impressive impace.
Social constructionism can be more subtle, but it is the most powerful marker for success. It refers to Lev Vygotsky’s work from the 1920s, focusing on leveraging an individual’s learning by shared labor on an archetype and magnifying the learning that occurs as a product of group interactions; in essence the creation of group knowledge and shared artifacts with shared meaning.
Today we call it crowdsourcing.
Identify all three of these in a potential project, ensure that the project aligns with an existing opportunity, and ensure that the engaged and trained human bandwidth you have cultivated is a part of that project. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Then build your series of key stories that make up your internal road show for diffusion throughout the organization.
Social media has the potential to fundamentally change medical care, research and education. Know the key stages, anticipate the hurdles, and be ready to leap over them.