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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Brad Jobling On Social Media and Columbia Department of Surgery

Social Media For Business & Entrepreneurship, the panel discussion that Columbia Business School of Alumni Club of New York organized on 6/16/10, meant that I got to meet Brad Jobling, Social Media Manager, Columbia University Department of Surgery, Office of External Affairs, and a fellow graduate from Columbia Business School.

I recently caught up with Brad by phone and in person to learn more about his role and how the Columbia Department of Surgery has embraced social media.

CB: Brad, tell me about how you became involved with social media.

Brad: I graduated from Columbia Business School in 1995 and have worked within the Columbia web group for the past 4-5 years. I've always loved the community aspect of the Internet, but didn't have much to do with it professionally. However, I got involved interacting via social networks as a result of genealogy work I was doing. I started tracking my family name "Jobling" and following people from different parts of England. In the process, I began to get a feel for cultural differences between different parts of England and between the US and England.  It's not that serious a project, but I've learned a lot from the experience.

CB: How does the Columbia Department of Surgery fit in?

Brad: About a year ago I took on the role of social media manager for Columbia University's Department of Surgery. The department was looking to experiment and explore with social media and brought me onboard.

My boss' boss is Dr. Mehmet Oz who thought that getting involved in social media would be good for the department of surgery.  He's translating what he's learning in show biz to help communicate what we do. We got started with a Facebook Fan Page - see Columbia University Department of Surgery.

Now, Columbia is interesting.  Unlike the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland - both of which have just one webpage or Facebook profile for their organizations - Columbia has many.  It's just a more decentralized organization.

CB: How does the Columbia Department of Surgery use social media?

Brad: We use Facebook and Twitter for events and for CMEs [Continuing Medical Education].

The first event I got involved in was the Purple Stride Walk for the Pancreas Center of New York Presbyterian and Columbia University. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network had a similar inaugural walk with another hospital in Long Island and raised only $10k.  Columbia held their first walk during which I tweeted and retweeted about it and the event ended up raising $315K. Pretty impressive!

Another project was the Women of Color Breast Cancer Awareness event that's held to help educate and support women who have, or who care for someone, with breast cancer.  Simply by promoting the event via social networks, taking the information brochures and tweeting or adding Facebook updates based on the brochure, we increased awareness. In between informational and educational updates, I would add a "btw, come to the event" message. Very effective.

At first we simply focused on getting the word out sending information out to a daily schedule ramping up to events. Now, we're analyzing how to do it better and actually connect with communities. We've definitely noticed an increase in website traffic.

Four people in the Columbia University Department of Surgery Office of External Affairs do events. Another four of us work in roles to support the events team, provide marketing services and interact with the our patient community.

As far as content goes, we used to distribute a paper newsletter.  I have found those to be a goldmine for valuable content that I redistribute via social channels which I consider a distribution mechanism with nuances.

I've recently created a blog for the Columbia Department of Surgery to hold our content, be a repository for the the stories we tell on Facebook and Twitter.

CB: How important or relevant do you consider tools like Twitter and Facebook to the medical community?

Brad: I consider Twitter to be the ultimate executive summary. It's a really convenient way to see what's happening.

I'm finding, too, that we are actually reaching doctors with Twitter. After the CBSAC/NY social media event, I met with Lawrence Sherman and we discussed the matter. He confirmed that tech-savvy and younger doctors are beginning to read and educate themselves via Twitter.  This could be a growing trend.

At the same time, I'm still figuring out where the doctor communities are. There are plenty of patient support websites and communities developing to help patients better understand what is happening to them and makes sense of clinical trials. These communities generally take a do-it-yourself attitude given the various liability and fear factors encountered.

I'm working closely with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.  They are watching what we are doing to see what works in social media for healthcare. There's a great deal of innovation and experimentation taking place and we're looking at this collaboratively. At the same time, we have to figure out how all of this affects referrals. That's the ultimate question.

CB: You mentioned that you spoke at a health care conference. Tell me more.

Brad: Yes.The Strategic Social Media for Healthcare conference. It took place July 26 through 28, 2010. I participated in two sessions: a formal presentation titled "Beyond Ad Hoc. Creating a Crystal Clear, Well-Structured Engagement Strategy: What Works. What Doesn't."  I also took part in an ESPN-style, "Pardon The Interruption" session on Headlines and Hot Topics in social media in health care.

CB:  I bet they were both extremely successful! Congratulations and thanks for discussing Social Media and the Columbia Department of Surgery with us. It's really exciting to witness the kind of engagement you are generating as you help people better understand their health.


To reach Brad Jobling by email: bjobling@gsb.columbia.edu
Follow him on Twitter: @bradjobling
Read his blog Curiously Social
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