5 Questions with Mitch Joel

Digital marketing visionary Mitch Joel is the author of Six Pixels of Separation and president of Twist Image, an award-winning digital marketing and communications agency. On Sunday evening, Joel shared his insights on digital marketing and personal branding to thousands of Cerner Health Conference attendees during his keynote address. Below, Joel discusses how digital marketing is changing the landscape—even the healthcare landscape—and how it can work for you.

CHC Daily: How do you think your message translates to healthcare organizations?

Joel: Fundamentally, the message is universal. We live in a very strange, beautiful, new and different world where people are using all forms of information to connect and learn more. When it comes to healthcare, we are seeing staggering things. On Sept. 30, there was a report in Marketing Charts that said 360 U.S. hospitals use social media. People use social media in very different ways—YouTube channels, Facebook, Twitter accounts and blogs.

In healthcare, there’s been tremendous power and push from patients looking to social media channels for answers and research. Health and healthcare is everyone’s No. 1 concern in life—anyone who has ever been sick knows that. People are no longer going to their doctors for answers. They are empowering themselves through online social networks and databases to be informed so that when they go to the doctor they are armed with recommended medication and prescription regimens. That message translates to healthcare professionals—the idea of transparency and opening up to consumer feedback and the digitization of information. When you look at the digitization of the industry, the implications of the Internet and technology, healthcare becomes ground zero—the perfect place to get more efficient, be more open and help people get better faster.

CHC Daily: If I was new to the world of Web 2.0, what are the first three things I should do to get up to speed?

Joel: Use listening tools. Hop on to Google News Alerts and sign up for yourself, brands you represent, competitors you deal with, the industry you serve, select some key words and start listening. You will see all sorts of news and information about what is going on in your space that you may have never been aware of. It also gives you a temperament where you understand the voice of the consumer, of what works and what gets traffic.

Aggregate. I use Google Reader, where I can bring in any blog or anything that has an RSS feed into it, including CNN. It’s amazing that I can take all these divergent digital platforms—whether it’s Delicious, Technorati or Twitter—and centralize them in one place. I no longer have a world where I get up in the morning and fire open a browser to go through my bookmarks and see what’s new on sites. Google Reader pulls it all in and notifies me when it’s been updated. People ask me, how do you have time for everything, but it’s pretty easy because I have it centralized, and I can zip through things really fast and efficiently.

Listen in on Twitter and use search.twitter.com or TweetDeck to follow the key words you used in (Google) News Alerts and in Twitter. When it comes to health, people are looking to Twitter and social networks to see what other people are saying. The best thing you can do to learn and get engaged is to hear and feel conversations that are happening when they are taking place.

CHC Daily: How do I know whom to follow on Twitter?

Joel: You don’t know whom to follow on Twitter. You have to start out following a lot of different people and see who works best for you. Basically, you develop a relationship. You have to meet people, connect, put yourself into different scenarios and see if it’s a good fit. As you do it more and more, it’s easier to discern a good fit. One of the first things to do is to get on a search engine, like Google, Bing or Yahoo, type in healthcare Twitter, and see what it recommends. It should provide recommendations on the top 10 or top 50 healthcare blog posts.

CHC Daily: What if I don’t have anything interesting to say?

Joel: Listen and find your voice. You can’t be shy. At first, you might contribute a small item, then a longer thought piece, a commentary on a news item or a link you find interesting. While you think you don’t have anything interesting to say, you might be surprised. It’s important to be authentic and real and put on information that you yourself find interesting. People will find you, and you will find more people, more like-minded people, and that’s the beauty of this.

CHC Daily: What is the best way for someone to get involved?

Joel: The best way to get involved is to become a leader. Look at Unconferences or even blogs, but you don’t have to start your own blog. There are many successful, highly trafficked healthcare blogs. Become active in the comment section of one of these successful blogs. Add your voice, add your thoughts. Or, become a leader in the Unconference movement. Run one in your community. Gather people together in your community and discuss a book you found interesting in this new space. Remember, it’s not just about connecting online. You can take it out into the real world and bring your online connections to life with Meetups and Tweetups.

Mitch’s book, Six Pixels of Separation: Everyone is Connected. Connect Your Business to Everyone is available now.

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