Mayo Clinic has built its own Facebook.
Don’t think of Mayo’s social network like Google+, another freshly launched direct challenger to Facebook. Instead, the healthcare titan launched its own patient-focused social network partly because it wants more control. Control over the look to keep the interface consistent. Control over the content to make it more healthcare focused. And control over how it can tell its story without being at the mercy of other organizations’ policy changes.
For instance, Facebook has been known to change its page layout frequently, and with each change comes some not-so-happy users.
“When Facebook makes a global change, it affects our page whether we like it or not,” Aase said. “So this gives us a space where we can customize the look and feel for users and not have it undone when Facebook makes its next design change.”
There are also other considerations of a less cosmetic kind on Facebook: advertisements. Someof those ads may not be consistent with Mayo’s image, but users have no control over what ads appear. The Mayo Clinic social network is free of such commercial paraphernalia.
“We think most people realize that the ads on our Facebook page don’t imply Mayo endorsement, but having no ads is even better,” Aase said, adding thatMayo professionals will monitor the discussion threads for promotional posts from people trying to sell products.
Also, the social network offers more granular privacy settings, so users can decide what kind of information about themselves and their health interests they want to publicize. While Facebook requires a real name, Mayo Clinic’s social network allows a degree of anonymity through a screen name.
In look and feel, Mayo’s social network is a lot like Facebook doused in Mayo colors with an antiseptic, hospital feel. You can add a profile photo, tell people about yourself, discuss your “Mayo Clinic experience” and choose from a series of health interests (there is no single-married status). Selected health interests appear on your site and link to the relevant sections of MayoClinic.com.
It gets more LinkedIn-like with its discussion board feature, which covers scores of health topics. The network also provides content in the form of news articles about Mayo as well as Mayo-created blogs and videos.
The ultimate goal isto let patients connect to one another to talk not only about their diseases and conditions but also about the experience of being treated at Mayo.
“(Coming to Mayo) is a unique experience,” Aase said, noting that 25 percent of its patients come from more than 500 miles away. “People that are coming here for the first time might have questions and so to be able to ask others who have been here is helpful.”
That in turn can drive referrals and bring more patients into the hospital’s fold.
“One of the things that we’ve found out what we have known for many years is that word of mouth is the most important factor in people’s decision to come to the Mayo Clinic,” Aase said.
While Mayo’s social network is primarily meant for patients, Aase said he expect Mayo physicians and those at other medical centers to join as well. Some may even use the platform as a way to connect to patients but any individual case communication will need to be taken offline to protect patient privacy, Aase said.
Now that it has its own network, does it mean that Mayo will reduce its presence on the free publicly available social media channels? Not a chance, said Aase.
“We expect that Facebook, Youtubeand Twitter will continue to be important and will contribute to people coming to this community,” he said.