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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

HIMSS, Social Media & Heathcare IT Community

HIMSS10Have you heard of HIMSS? It focuses on "transforming healthcare through IT" [i.e, information technology]. I hadn't until I started working with Awarepoint and discovered that HIMSS - the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society - uses social media to promote its mission to the healthcare IT community.

HIMSS recently held its annual conference on March 1-4, 2010 in Atlanta. I attended HIMSS10 and not only experienced Awarepoint's Fireside Chat with Tom Hamelin from UCSD Medical Center and heard Dennis O'Leary, M.D. address "Leveraging RTLS for Quality, Safety, Efficiency and Productivity", but also learned how HIMSS uses social media. More specifically, via its HIMSS Facebook Fan Page, Official Facebook Group, Twitter presence and LinkedIn Group and subgroups.

HIMSS' social media team, Cesar Torres, Cari McLean and Ward Seward, offered daily social media sessions as well as 'Meet the Healthcare IT Bloggers' panel discussions.

I particularly enjoyed meeting Cesar Torres, manager web services for HIMSS, who has been immersed in social media for the past two years [check out his personal blog Urraca: Cesar Torres' Fiction and Machine Lore]. Cesar explained that HIMSS uses social media tools to support the HIMSS mission of bringing together the Health IT community. Social media has helped forge greater connection around the yearly HIMSS conference for 22,000 members, exhibitors and visitors as well as educate non-members about the benefits of HIMSS.

Cesar spent time describing the social nature of tools like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. They are about building trust and authenticity and not about sales pitches. The HIMSS interpretation of that is to apply a "30/70 approach" where 30% tweets are HIMSS related news announcements and 70% about connecting health IT leaders, extending professional relationships, educating and directing people to those who have the right knowledge.

HIMSS10 Social Media CenterInteraction on all of these platforms matters. Welcome, respond to, acknowledge comments, tweets and conversations. After all, these are tools for relationship building [i.e., that's why they are described as 'social'].

Furthermore, be ready to respond in a customer service frame of mind. You will hear about issues and concerns and need to be prepared to react [not too dissimilar from what Devon Valenti described].

Something to point out: HIMSS has - as of 3/23/10 - over 1,700 fans on Facebook, over 4,600 Twitter followers and close to 27,000 members in its LinkedIn group [started May 2008]. These communities were built slowly over time with a focus on quality interactions starting from zero.

Formal guidelines matter to prevent self-promotion. They appear prominently on LinkedIn as a featured conversation and in the welcome message new group members receive. Cari McLean actively moderates the HIMSS LinkedIn groups ensuring that discussions follow guidelines, that they truly add value and be active. As Cari has discovered, community management takes time. Yet, look at the success her active involvement has generated for HIMSS.

Cari, Ward and Cesar all monitor and moderate Facebook; all three are active on Twitter.

Facebook, as Ward Seward demonstrated, is more personal than Twitter or LinkedIn and effective for connecting more closely with community members. Cesar likes that Fan pages have so many multi-media features and make for a dynamic, energetic and participatory environment [those taking part in the HIMSS Social Media Center programs were encouraged to take their photo for posting to Facebook. Mine is below; my arm was just long enough!]

Cesar's 10 steps to Tweeting [applicable, in my opinion, to all social media]

1. Ensure accuracy
2. Be transparent about your identity and mission
3. Be judicious [don't violate privacy/confidentiality]
4. Write what you know
5. Perception is reality = be sure that all your content is consistent with your work and values
6. Publish the truth [facts, attribute, don't be vague about sources, don't lie]
7. Twitter is a conversation, not a broadcast mechanism
8. What you write is your responsibility
9. Did you screw up? if yes, admit it.
10. Be a leader. Share what you're doing and create excitement.

CB Whittemore at HIMSS10 Social Media Center

Cesar's personal social media tips:

1. Observe first
2. Say thank you and please
3. Experiment and explore
4. It will take time
5. Have fun

Thank you Cesar, Ward and Cari for sharing your HIMSS social media experiences, tips, steps and guidelines. I loved witnessing how relevant social media tools are for bringing together members of the Health IT community and extending the momentum around annual meetings.

What are your reactions? How might you apply some of these lessons to your business or industry?


  1. Thanks so much for the kind words. I had a great time meeting so many people in the social media center and sharing our story and expereinces with social media. This year I saw a huge increase in numbers of people plugged into social media, and even more interest from people who are new to the tools. I hope people can contribute to this post their own tips on how to interact on social media, as well how it's applied to their own organizations or businesses.

  2. Cesar, I love that you have created such a strong sense of community for your members and that you have nurtured both community and social tools to grow the social media center into what I witnessed at HIMSS10. I look forward to seeing what HIMSS11 will bring! Thanks again. Best, CB


Reminder: Please, no self-promotional or SPAM comments. Don't bother if you're simply trying to build inauthentic link juice. Finally, don't be anonymous: it's too hard to have a conversation. Thanks, CB

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