Posted in Cool Tool

Monday Morning Cool Tool: Adobe Spark

I love learning about new tools to make social media marketing more creative and effective, so I’ve decided to share some of my favourite tools with you at the start of each week. This week’s cool tool recommendation is Adobe Spark, a free suite of apps which allow both web and mobile users to create and share visual content – like posts for social media, graphics, web stories, and animated videos.


It comprises three separate design apps: Spark Post, Spark Page and Spark Video.

  1. Spark Post is aimed at letting you create professional graphics in minutes.
  2. Spark Page is focused on helping you craft web stories. That means you can use it for things like magazine-style travel stories, photo albums, online newsletters, reports, or anything else that you want to present on the web. It’s basically a simplified web editing platform, with tools that let you mix text and imagery in a highly visual way.
  3. Spark Video lets you create animated videos. Note, this isn’t a tool for filming content – instead, you combine text, images, icons and themes in a presentation, then speak your voice over the story in order to create the video.

Here’s how I used  Spark Post to create a quick and easy quote graphic for Instagram:

Adobe Spark.jpg

Top Design Tip!

Follow CoSchedule‘s best design practice to create even better graphics.



Posted in #HCSM

How Should You Handle Social Media Trolls?


One of the questions put most frequently to me when I speak to healthcare professionals is how to handle trolling on social media. It’s an important question. How do you decide when to ban someone from your social media accounts?

I covered the question of how to deal with trolls in a keynote presentation I gave this week. I drew on solid advice from Matthew Katz MD and his tutorial on dealing with Trolls, Malware and Spam.


Let’s define what we mean by trolling. Dr Katz begins with a reality check.

  • Trolls are not people who disagree with you.
  • Expect debate on Twitter.
  • Be open to being wrong.
  • When conversations get heated and emotional, show respect so you aren’t considered the troll

He goes on to define the different types of trolls we might encounter online.



And provides sensible advice for dealing with trolling behaviour.


As I was writing this post today, I came across an article on this same topic at Social Times. It cautions against blocking or banning negative comments too readily, which echoes Dr Katz’s reality check – don’t label everyone who disagrees or complains as a troll.

Comments on Facebook or Instagram should not be removed if they refer to genuine customer-service issues. While this advice is based on patience and understanding through communication and conversation, it does not apply to persistent trolls and those intent upon abusing you/ You do not have to show “tolerance” for this kind of discourse, and you are within your rights to remove inflammatory or profane content and ban or block those who perpetuate its spread. The article points to the need for organisations to have social media guidelines in place to discourage harassment and trolling, and then take action against those in violation of those guidelines.

Tip If you don’t already have a social media policy in place, create one right away which details the kind of comments you will allow (for example, no racist or abusive comments).  Post your policy in a visible place on your social channels or share a link to a blog post on the subject.

Not sure whether to ban or block trolls? Dr Katz has some pointers for you.



I’ve had my fair share of criticism online but thankfully I haven’t yet had to deal with any trolls. I am aware though of how nasty things can turn online and it pains me to see this darker side of social media.  The best piece of advice I’ve ever read is quite simply “Don’t Feed The Trolls”. Trolls want attention.  Simply ignoring a troll could be your best tactic  – according to the Pew Research Center, 60% of respondents opted to ignore online harassment.

Have you had to deal with social media trolls? How have you handled it? Please share your tips and thoughts in the comments below. 

Related Reading

Posted in #HCSM

Social Spotlight: Iris Thiele Isip Tan


This week it is my great pleasure to interview endocrinologist Iris Tan, MD, MSc, who teaches at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine.  A TedX speaker, Iris is one of the co-founders of the #HealthXPH tweet chat and annual healthcare and social media conference.

Hi Iris, I’ve been an admirer of your work since I first started following you three years ago on Twitter. In that time I’ve watched your social media presence evolve and grow year-on-year. Can you tell us how you use social media in a healthcare context. 

IT: I started a Facebook page in 2012 as an experiment to see if I could get photos with short captions about health to go viral. I’ve been trying ever since! One particular post on polycystic ovary syndrome which I shared last July 2015 is still active and according to Facebook, has been seen by over 4 million people. I am continuing this Facebook page as my contribution to uplifting health literacy in endocrine disorders. There are after all less than 300 endocrinologists in the Philippines which has a population of 100 million. If you’d like to know more about this, take a look at my TedXDiliman video at All my Facebook posts are written in Filipino and archived at

I co-founded the #HealthXPH tweet chat with Dr. Remo (@bonedoc), Dr. Gia Sison (@giasison) and Dr. Narciso Tapia (@cebumd) in 2014. Weekly, we discuss topics related to the practice of medicine and its intersection with technology and social media. Our format was inspired by the #HCLDR chat. In 2015, we held the first #HealthXPH healthcare and social media summit with the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development. Our plenary speaker was Pat Rich (@pat_health) who came all the way from Canada. This is now an anticipated yearly event attended by medical educators, health bloggers, patients and students from various health professions. 

I began incorporating social media as part of my teaching strategy in graduate school where I teach health informatics in 2012. I subsequently won a teaching award from my university, the University of the Philippines system Gawad Pangulo for Progressive Teaching and Learning in 2015.

You mentioned your first foray into social media was using Facebook as a tool for public health. Had you been familiar with Facebook or any other social media before you used it for this purpose?

IT: I joined Facebook in 2008 because I was organizing a reunion and trying to find my high school classmates. I started my Facebook page in 2012 after seeing grumpy cat. I joined Twitter in 2010 as an assignment in graduate school. I was studying health informatics but going to the US for a week to attend the Endocrine Society meeting. To make up for my absence, my professor asked me to live tweet the conference.

I love that you were an early adopter of live-tweeting medical conferences! Is Twitter one of your favorite platforms – or do you have others?

IT: I enjoy Twitter the most because of the serendipity of meeting like-minded people through retweets and chats. I’ve found mentors on Twitter who have helped me in my professional life. Hosting the #HealthXPH tweet chat is a stimulating intellectual exercise from thinking about the topic, to writing the pre-chat blog post and moderating the discussion.

I find that maintaining my Facebook page has helped me become a better communicator at my clinic. As I write my posts in Filipino and try to avoid medical terms, it is easier now to help my patients understand complex endocrine disorders.

So endocrinology is a topic which obviously interests you. Are there any other topics you are keen to follow through social media. 

IT: I’m interested in the use of social media and technology for healthcare because of my health informatics background. Aside from #HealthXPH, I try to join the #HCLDR chat where I’ve met many of the people I follow. I lurk in diabetes chats listening to persons with diabetes at #DCDE and #DSMA. As a professor in medical school, I’m also interested in medical education. I follow #MedEd, #TEDEdChat and #FOAMEd.

You are a very experienced and expert social media user – what advice would you give to any healthcare professional who is just starting to use social media?

IT: Don’t tweet or post anything that you wouldn’t say in person. Remain professional at all times. #HealthXPH has a manifesto on maintaining medical professionalism while on social media at

That’s a very useful guide – thanks for sharing it with us Iris. Finally, would you like to share a favourite quote with us?

Everything you want is on the other side of fear – Jack Canfield

Thanks Iris for taking the time to share with us your experience of using social media in your work. I’ve really enjoyed learning more about how you got started and I look forward to seeing how you and your colleagues will evolve healthcare social media in the Philippines. 

Posted in #HCSM

17 Tips for Social Media Marketing Success in 2017

Is your New Year’s resolution to build a stronger personal and business brand online in 2017?

The start of a new year is the perfect time to review your social media marketing to determine what’s working (or not) for you. If you’re on social media simply for the sake of being on social media, see this as an opportunity to step back and think about why you’re doing it.

I’ve put together a comprehensive list of 17 tips to take your social media marketing to new heights of success in 2017 – read my 17 Ways To Rock Your Social Media in 2017.

Here’s a more condensed version if you only have time for a shorter read.

Here’s to your social media marketing success! 

Posted in #HCSM

Social Spotlight: Kristi Bruno


This week I caught up with Kristi Bruno to find out how social media fits her role as Director of Communications, Media and Marketing, at the American College of Chest Physicians.

Hi Kristi, can you tell us how you are using social media in your work.

We use social media at the American College of Chest Physicians each day.  We have employed social tools to build a community, share the latest research and news in chest medicine with our membership, educate and inform the public and patients about health topics like COPD, lung cancer and asthma.

We are most proud lately of our work on Reddit. Our Reddit Ask Me Anything was designed to increase awareness of a non-pharmacological treatment of severe asthma called bronchial thermoplasty, to raise awareness of the American College of Chest Physicians, and to position the organization as a thought leader in pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine. We have a couple more AMAs planned this year and we’re thrilled to bring interesting researchers and ideas to this community.

I’m also really excited to continue exploring how our use of Facebook Live can help break down boundaries, bring information to those who might not otherwise get it due to geography or economics. We’ve already started dabbling in Facebook Live in our training center—it’s a great facility and we host courses often and the tool is helping us to tell that story.

Sounds like you are using social media in some creative and innovative ways Kristi. Can you remember back to when you first started using social media? What prompted you to get started with it?

KB: I began my career as a fundraiser and in partnership management for a non-profit. While working for the CHEST Foundation as a Development Manager, I fell into social media. We had a public-facing campaign and I was able to take a tiny budget and make a real impact in reach, engagement and mobilization in a New Year’s contest we were holding. I immediately fell in love and luckily work for an organization that allowed me to take on a new role in our Marketing Communications department so I could further explore my interests. My role continues to evolve at CHEST, but I absolutely have a real love for social and new media.

It’s wonderful that you are able to explore and nurture you passion for social media in your career. That’s awesome. So which platforms do you enjoy the most?

KB: It’s so hard to choose—like picking a favorite child (ha!), but I like them all for different reasons. Professionally, Twitter is amazing. I love that I’m able to connect with like-minded people working in the field, and follow clinicians working in chest medicine to see what they are most interested in—that part really informs my day-to-day work.

For reach—it’s a tool within a platform, but I’m loving the impact of Facebook Live. And, from a branding perspective, we have really enjoyed employing Spotify playlists as a tool for promoting the meeting location each year for our annual meeting. Our team has a great time curating these playlists. And, it’s a nice opportunity to show that our meeting isn’t all about the science! We’ve also used Storify as a tool to engage our subject matter experts in curating interesting content in a specific area. We syndicate these across our platforms. It’s an easy way to engage thought leaders and, again, gives us plenty of ideas as we develop our own content.

I love that idea of using Spotify! What a fun way to showcase your brand’s personality. Now I’m interested to learn more about which healthcare topics interest you. Do you take part in any particular twitter chats?

KB: CHEST holds quarterly Twitter chats with the hashtag #pulmCC. We’ve worked hard to engage different sub-specialties in the chats and we’ve talked about big data in the ICU, palliative care, sarcoidosis—it’s run the gamut. I’m also completely in awe of the lung cancer social media chat, #lcsm. The group behind the chat and Twitter handle are so passionate about what they do. I had the pleasure this year of meeting two of them at CHEST 2016—Deana Hendrickson and Tom Verghese (pictured below).


They are two really amazing people. Deana lost her mother to lung cancer, and Tom is a thoracic surgeon. I’m just moved beyond belief by them because they have created a real grassroots movement around a highly-stigmatized disease. I’ve learned a ton from this group and continue to learn!

I know both Deana and Tom through Twitter and I too am in awe of the work they are doing. Without social media, I know I would never have met such incredible people. It’s one of the reasons I love social media so much and recommend it to people who work in health care. For those who are just starting to use social media what advice would you give to them?  

KB: Have a plan! There are so many platforms, cool ideas and things you could do. But, be true to your brand, audience and really think things through and don’t get overwhelmed. Develop a strategy and stick to it—but be flexible because the landscape is constantly changing.

And, read. I was lucky enough to go to grad school at DePaul and get my MA in New Media Studies—but before formal education, I consumed as much information as I could about social media, healthcare, health communications, the patient experience, and what clinicians were talking about on social media. This reading and research benefits me almost every day of my life. Always be a student!

Thanks Kristi for taking the time to share with us your experience of using social media in your work. I’ve really enjoyed learning about the creative ways you are leveraging popular social platforms, and I’ve even picked up some new tips from you! 

About Kristi Bruno

Kristi Bruno is Director of Communications, Media and Marketing with the American College of Chest Physicians and a proud alum of DePaul University’s New Media Studies MA program. Kristi was named Folio: Top Women in Media Rising Star and was the 2016 New Media Studies Fellow at DePaul University. She has spoken at Social Media Week Chicago, and has published on the topic of healthcare social media in several notable journals and blogs. She can be found on Twitter (of course), @kristibruno and she blogs at

Posted in #HCSM

Google Is Shifting to a Mobile-First Index. Here’s what you need to know


We’re living in a mobile-first world and search engines are seeing the result of this trend: search queries on mobile have now surpassed desktop-based queries.

Google recently announced that its search results index is essentially being flipped and will prioritize mobile results first – so while your website may already be mobile-friendly, your content may not be optimized for the new realities of search.  With Google currently experimenting with this change, there’s a lot you need to know to ensure you’re prepared.

Hubspot has created a useful guide to help you prepare for the changes that are afoot. It explains in more detail what mobile first indexing is, and how you can start to prepare for it by ensuring your website is mobile friendly and you give priority to site speed, user experience and engagement.

Read Google Is Shifting to a Mobile-First Index: What Marketers Need to Know to Prepare


Posted in #HCSM

How To Rock Social Media

Yesterday I presented a webinar with tips on how to rock your social media. For those who couldn’t make the live event, here’s the slide-deck:

Click here for the show-notes with links to tips and tools mentioned during the broadcast. I’ll be adding new resources the notes below, so check back regularly.

Posted in #HCSM, Infographics

Internet Stats & Facts 2016 (Infographic)

I was sent an interesting infographic this week from the folks at Hosting Facts, and the sheer scale of global internet penetration blew me away.

  • There are 3.26 billion internet users; that’s over 40% of the world population.
  • Facebook now has 1.55 billion active users.
  • 2.9 billion Google searches are made every day.
  • 2.7 million blog posts are published every day.

internet stats.png

When it comes to website and domain stats, there are currently 966 million websites in the world today.

  • Google is the #1 most popular website, followed by Facebook and YouTube.
  • The most popular CMS is WordPress, powering 25.4% of all websites in the world and responsible for over 76.5 million blogs created since 2004.
  • There are currently 123.78 million registered .com domain names, making the .com TLD the top domain name extension.

domain names.png

There are more mobile internet users than desktop internet users; 52.7% of global internet users access the internet via mobile.

  • Search engines are the starting point for mobile research, with an estimated 48% of mobile internet users starting their search on search engines.
  • Google uses mobile compatibility as a factor when ranking websites.
  • 70% of mobile searches result in an online action within an hour of the search being conducted.
  • 50% of mobile users will abandon of web page if it takes more than 10 seconds to load, and 60% won’t return to the site.


Click here to access the full report. 

Related: AdAge Social Media Facts 2016

Posted in #HCSM

Healthcare Marketing in 2017: What to expect

I was delighted to be asked recently to contribute to a article at Austin Marketing on what to expect in healthcare marketing in 2017.

My prediction is that demand for live video will grow in 2017 as consumers want a more immediate and real connection to healthcare brands. Marketing will be less about pre-produced, scripted videos, and more about delivering an authentic experience that people can connect with and feel part of.

In 2016 we saw the rise of mobile video consumption on platforms such as Snapchat and Periscope. In addition, the main social media platforms all rolled out new features and products around live streaming.

With the launch of Facebook Live, Facebook, in particular, is putting greater attention on live video in its algorithm – a move marketers cannot afford to ignore. The ability to reach and engage consumers will increasingly be driven by video, and this, in turn, will expand to include better marketing and advertising options for healthcare brands in 2017.

Read more predictions

What do you predict will happen in the coming year?

Posted in #HCSM

How Google Search Has Changed in 2016

Google’s search engine is displaying fewer organic results on it first page this year than it was last year, and it’s increasingly presenting different experiences for desktop and smartphone users, according to recent research from Searchmetrics.

The report was based on 2016 data from 500,000 general, frequently searched keywords. The researchers examined the first Google search results page for each term and analyzed how 11 features (text results, product listing ads, images, news, maps, etc.) were integrated.

Whereas Google used to almost always display 10 standard, text-based organic results on its first page, the search engine now usually presents fewer results: 8.59 results are presented to desktop users, on average, and 8.5 are presented to smartphone users, on average.


A key reason for the decline in the number of traditional search results presented on the first page is that Google is integrating an increasing number of supplementary boxes/features. Some 34% of the desktop results for the keywords examined by the researchers included image results, 24% video results, and 20% Knowledge Graph results.

Consumers searching on desktop computers are more likely than smartphone searchers to receive Google results with images, product listing ads, and fact/answer boxes; smartphone searchers are more likely than desktop searchers to receive results with video, map, social, and mobile app integrations.


Source: Marketing Profs

Related Reading

Posted in #HCSM

Need a topic for your healthcare blog? Here are 16 ideas to get you going

Healthcare blogs vary in content and style; they range from commentary on a topical issue to patients sharing the lived experience of a disease and healthcare professionals educating patients on the management of an illness.

Blogs written by doctors, nurses, health researchers, patients, and healthcare and digital marketers and innovators add much to the richness and diversity of the online healthcare conversation. Creating a blog is relatively easy; the challenge lies in consistently updating the content. If you are struggling to come up with new ideas on a regular basis for your blog, then this list of 16 content ideas should help get you going again.


What kind of questions do your patients most frequently ask about a specific medical condition? Compile a list of these frequently asked questions and answer them on your blog.


Creating original content is time and resource intensive.  Curation helps you provide your audience with relevant, high quality information on a regular basis without sacrificing your time and resources. Don’t rely on curation alone; curated content is designed to complement your content creation plan—not replace it.


Are you rolling out a new program, product or service? Write a blog post to introduce it and highlight its features and benefits.


Healthcare is constantly changing and evolving. Can you predict or comment on the latest healthcare trend? Readers will enjoy learning about it through your blog, particularly if you share your own unique perspective. Set up Google Alerts to keep updated on emerging trends in your industry to provide the latest information for your readers.

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There are several online tools you can use to create a readers’ poll. If you have a site, then you’ve got Polldaddy polls already built in. You can create, manage, and see results for all of your polls directly in your dashboard. If you use a install on your self-hosted site, install the Polldaddy plugin. Use it to get a snapshot of readers’ attitudes to health topics like vaccination, screening, complementary therapy, mental health – the list is endless. Publish a follow-on post with your findings.


Write about a typical day in your working life as a healthcare professional. Be careful not to write about specific patients or to commit any breaches of privacy or confidentiality.


Use an editorial calendar to track seasonal, cultural and industry events and write a blog post which fits the theme, for example, “How To Eat Healthily During The Holiday Season”.  Check out Twitter’s #ownthemoment tool for inspiration.


Have you been to a conference recently where you learned about new medical research? Or read about the latest research in a medical journal?  Let your readers know about it through your blog. Make sure you provide full references and link to online publications.


A screencast is a video screen capture with audio narration. Create a screencast to demonstrate a how-to tutorial for your patients.


Whether you are running an event, speaking, or exhibiting at it, use your blog to build pre-event interest. Can you offer readers a special code for purchasing tickets at a reduced rate via your blog?


After a speaking event, embed a slidedeck of your presentation on your blog using SlideShare.

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Ask a colleague to write a guest blog on an area of their expertise.


Choose a respected healthcare professional and interview them for your blog. Alternatively, contact several experts in your field and have them answer a question: Take all the answers and turn them into one big blog post.


Provide your unique perspective on a trending topic. Find out what’s “hot right now” online by using Google Trends, and

twitter_8e7a678b95.jpgMix things up by recording a podcast relevant to your blog’s themes.


Gather the week’s healthcare news into a round-up post. Provide links, attribute sources and add your own commentary.

Over To You!

Have you any other suggestions you can add to this list?

Related Reading

Posted in #HCSM

4 Ways to Build Trust and Influence on LinkedIn

Do you want to grow your LinkedIn network? Interested in practical, scalable ways to establish your professional credibility?

A recent article from Social Media Examiner shares four great ways to build trust and grow your influence on LinkedIn.

#1: Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile

A strong professional LinkedIn profile creates opportunities for meaningful connections and interactions with other professionals. The article recommends securing your vanity URL, selecting a professional profile image, using industry keywords, avoiding jargon and buzzwords, and including recommendations.

#2: Proactively Grow Your LinkedIn Audience

If you want to grow your LinkedIn audience quickly, you can’t sit on the sidelines waiting for people to notice you.Make an effort to increase the quality and quantity of your connections by inviting your existing contacts on LinkedIn and finding potential contacts to connect with.

#3: Publish Content on LinkedIn

Sharing content on LinkedIn helps you stay top of mind with your core network. It positions you as an influencer who constantly delivers value with high-quality, engaging content. Consider too, publishing your own original content on LinkedIn Pulse  – a super way to showcase your expertise.

#4: Foster Your Community

Simply growing your network on LinkedIn isn’t enough. While more connections mean better social proof, gaining real trust requires an ongoing relationship-building effort. You can do this by commenting on people’s posts and updates, endorsing their skills, and participating in groups discussions.

LinkedIn is an excellent platform for establishing influence and thought leadership, but building influence doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and effort to expand your network. Many people give up before they achieve significant progress. Follow the advice in this article and you will soon start to see results.

Are we connected on LinkedIn? Send me a message and let’s reconnect if we are. Or if we are not yet connected, send me an invite and I’ll be pleased to connect with you.

Posted in #HCSM

Snapchat 101: What Brands Need to Know [Infographic]


What does the rise of Snapchat mean for brands? How big is Snapchat’s audience? Is it only for Millennials?

If you’ve been wondering what the answers to these questions are, and how you might use Snapchat in your marketing, then take a look at this new infographic created by MDG Advertising, which outlines some key usage data for Snapchat, along with notes on how brands are using the platform to best effect.

Let’s start by looking at the stats. 150 million people use Snapshat every day, with 400 million snaps sent daily. That’s a bigger daily active user base than Twitter!  Snapchat grew as much in one year as Twitter has in 4 years combined. The app is expected to add twice as many users as Twitter and Pinterest in the next year.


So what’s the audience demographic? Is it skewed towards Millennials? Right now Snapchat is used most by those aged 25 and under, but adoption by an older demographic is growing.


Have brands jumped on the Snapchat phenomenon? Interestingly not. The number of brands who say they are currently using the app as part of their marketing strategy is only 5%. This represents a unique opportunity for your brand to be an early adopter and lead the way on the platform.


Of those brands who have ventured onto the platform, how are they using it?


So finally, the big question. Is Snapchat right for your brand? If you want to connect with a younger audience, yes, you should probably be engaging on the platform. Otherwise, the advice is to wait and see. Keep an eye on what other brands are doing and start formulating a strategy for when you judge the time is right to jump on board.


Have you started using Snapchat for your marketing yet? What ways are you using it to engage with your audience?  Or what might be holding you back from establishing a presence there?

Related Reading:

Posted in #HCSM

What Does the Future Hold For Social Media?

I love these kinds of articles which predict the future of social media. As marketers we need to keep an eye on trends and be ready for future changes in the social media world.

This article from Marketing Land presents six high-level possibilities for social media’s next phase of evolution.

1. Monopolization – one platform coming to dominate the social media landscape – Facebook anyone?
2. Pay-only visibility – are we in the end times of social media’s free lunch?
3. Individualization – Already, social media platforms are recognizing the demands for customizability and personalization in their user bases.
4. Niche segmentation – niche specialists will provide more novel experiences than their massive, slow-moving counterparts – think Snapchat.
5. Virtual and augmented reality – futurists have been including VR and AR in their predictions for the future of social media for a while now – this one is definitely on the future cards.
6. Streamlining  – social media apps becoming one-stop shops for everything you’d want on the internet.

What do you think of these predictions? How do you see the future of social media evolving?

You might also like to read: What You’ll Need to Build the Agency of the Future

Posted in #HCSM

Increase Social Shares With “Click To Tweet”

Click to Tweet is a cool free tool which generates one-click tweet boxes or links that can be shared through your website, your blog, or via email. It’s a powerful way to increase social shares and highlight quotes, stats, and key takeaways for your content marketing.

Here’s a super example of how it looks on a blog.click2tweeteg.png

And here’s how to do it for your own blog or website.

Step One: Sign in with your Twitter account.


Step Two: Write the message that you want others to share in the box provided.



Step Three: Click the “Generate New Link” button to create a custom link.


Step Four: Share the link and track the activity of each link over time.


Whoever clicks on the link will have the message automatically added to their Twitter status box- they simply click to tweet.

Try it now and see for yourself!



Posted in #HCSM

The Other Side of the Firewall: Social Media Developments in Other Specialities #ESCP2016

Buongiorno from Milan this week where I’ve been attending #ESCP2016, the European Society of Coloproctology Annual Meeting. On Wednesday I was part of a social media panel – the only non-clinician (and female!) speaker on the panel.


The title of my talk The Other Side of the Firewall: Social Media Developments in Other Specialities concerned how patients are using new digital technologies to tear down the medical firewall to access health information.

We’ve now entered a new era of networked knowledge, meaning knowledge in the form of ideas, information, wisdom – has broken out of its traditional confines and now exists in a hyper-connected online state.

And this is also true of medicine.

In the new medical paradigm, Web technologies and applications are radically transforming established notions of what it means to be a patient. We’ve entered an era of self-empowerment and self-advocacy amongst patients facilitated by digital technology.

I spoke about the growing recognition of a particular subset of patients who have become specialists in managing their own health and are sharing their expertise not just with other patients, but with physicians and researchers too. Finally I shared some of my favourite examples of this from the ePatient world.

I really enjoying listening to the other panellists who spoke about how they engage online in surgical social media, and I’ve been impressed with their work in actively encouraging surgeons to embrace the digital era. And finally, it’s always fun to see how the numbers stack up thanks to Symplur’s analytics.



Catch up with a Storify curation of tweets from the conference.


Posted in #HCSM

Medical Marketing Matters: What’s New This Week In Social Media?

unnamed (1).jpgMy weekly healthcare marketing newsletter has just gone out to subscribers.

In this week’s issue:

  • How to create marketing content that patients find compelling
  • Tapping into trending news as a content strategy
  • Creating a plan for sharing good news on social media
  • 10 common social media marketing challenges – and how to solve them
  • Everything you need to know about Twitter’s latest update
  • How to change LinkedIn’s default settings

Click here to read and subscribe

Posted in #HCSM, Marketing

Medical Marketing: What Does Your Audience Value Online?


Alex Membrillo

By now, people know that it is imperative that you market your medical practice online. According to a 2013 Pew Research Center report, over three-quarters of consumers start their search for a new doctor online. By ensuring that you have the sort of marketing content that patients find compelling, you can increase your chances that you are the one that they choose.

A few of the best digital marketing assets to have:

1. Testimonials and reviews.

Search Engine Land found that 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust a personal recommendation. Ask happy patients to provide reviews that can help show your high level of care to new individuals. You can ask in person, include a link to your review page in emails or post on social media. You can include links to common review sites on your site or showcase a few of your best reviews directly on your website. By offering this sort of social proof, you can show potential patients how well your service is regarded by people already seeing your physicians.

2. Answers to common health questions.

About seven in ten individuals has searched online for answers to health questions in the past year. By providing information about common health issues that your patients may face, you can help them be more informed patients and live healthier lives. This sort of content can also make it easier for patients to know when symptoms indicate that they should make an appointment with their doctor. Not only will they be more likely to come in for a visit, they will also have more positive health outcomes by getting care more quickly.

3. A strong social media presence.

A study about social media in healthcare found that 41% of those questioned would choose a healthcare provider based on their social media reputation. By keeping up with what people are saying about your practice on social media and getting in touch with people who have had issues, you can manage your reputation online and keep your image positive and appealing.

Others in healthcare have had success publishing authority articles through platforms like LinkedIn. These sorts of articles establish your credibility and skill in your field and make people feel more comfortable trusting you with their health.

4. Easy to understand visual content.

Many individuals find that they have an easier time grasping health concepts that are learned through images and videos as well as text. By including diagrams, images and videos as part of your online marketing, you can empower patients with knowledge about their health and build a stronger and more comfortable relationship. You can even do live Q&A sessions using services like Facebook’s live streaming. This can help potential patients with some of their health questions and showcase your authority and expertise in your area of practice.

5. Practical content like checklists.

Content like printable checklists can make it easier for patients to do the right things for their health. For instance, a sheet on ways to protect yourself from the common cold can be a popular offering when it’s time for kids to head back to school. A summer break checklist can help your patients pack the right things in their travel first aid kit and keep themselves safe from sunburns and heat stroke.

Posting frequently and serving up a wide variety of medical marketing content can make your presence online helpful and informative to both current and prospective patients. By focusing on what materials will be most useful to them, you can begin building the trust that leads to strong relationships before they ever make their first appointment with your practice.

About the Author

Alex Membrillo is the CEO of Cardinal Web Solutions, an award winning healthcare marketing agency based in Atlanta, GA. His innovative approach to digital marketing has transformed the industry and delivered remarkable results to clients of all sizes and markets. Membrillo has extensive experience with healthcare and physician marketing.  Cardinal has been 3-time consecutively named on Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing privately-held US companies. Visit to find out more about Cardinal Web Solutions.  Follow him on Twitter @Alex_Membrillo


Posted in #HCSM, weekly round up of news

What Role Will Marketing Play in the Evolution of Healthcare?

My weekly marketing newsletter has just gone out to subscribers. In this week’s newsletter you can catch up on an interview with Ritesh Patel, Chief Digital Officer of Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide, who shares his views on the role marketing will play in the evolution of healthcare.

The modern healthcare marketer has to combine the knowledge and skills of marketing, brand building and customer experience, as well as work within a highly regulated environment and navigate the new media landscape that most other marketers in industries like consumer goods take for granted. – Ritesh Patel


There’s a round-up of wisdom and insights shared at last week’s gathering of marketers at Content Marketing World including quotes like this one:

Marketers should opt for sustainability over speed. — Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs

Plus an investigation into which marketing channels have the best ROI measurability, three social media marketing legal issues you should be aware of, the latest updates on Twitter’s new, longer tweets, and six key changes implemented this week by the leading social channels.

Catch up with this week’s newsletter here



Posted in #HCSM, Infographics, Twitter

12 Twitter Stats To Get More Conversions

Tweeting for the sake of tweeting won’t drive conversions for your brand.

You need a plan at the outset and you need to continually monitor, measure and evaluate your performance day-by-day. Backed up by some science in the form of statistics, this infographic offers twelve tips to help you drive your Twitter marketing forward.

twitter infographic



Posted in #HCSM, Infographics

Use These 5 Steps to See if Your Social Media is Profitable

What’s your business’s favourite social media platform? Maybe it’s Facebook; it’s popular for both personal and company use and has active participation in the billions. Perhaps you’ve set a goal of posting to your company’s Facebook page at least twice a week. That’s great—but it’s not enough specificity to your goal. Are those posts designed to drive people to a sale page or an email sign up page, or some other call to action?

That, in a nutshell, illustrates the thought journey that needs to happen in order for you to start measuring your social media’s return on investment. Of course there are traditional metrics—how much did efforts cost and how much did they bring in. But social media measurement also means setting up goals, tracking analytics, and analysing those against dollars, pounds, euros, and cents too. This detailed graphic can help you establish review processes to aid your business’s bottom line.

Use These 5 Steps to See if Your Social Media is Profitable

Posted in #HCSM, social spotlight

Social Spotlight: Dr Ollie Minton


This week I am shining my social spotlight on Macmillan consultant, and honorary senior lecturer in palliative medicine at St. George’s University of London, Dr Ollie Minton.

Hi Ollie, I’m eager to learn more about how you are using social media in your work?

OM: As the saying goes no one reads your work except the reviewers and editor so sharing my interests and publications has gone a long way. I also think sharing articles and other things of interest is the best use of social media and by that I mean Twitter. I think some gentle campaigning such as Dying Matters and You Only Die Once (#yodo) pays dividends.

The more you make the connections, the more it pays off

We were able to promote our team at work and the  trust to a huge audience – you can’t buy that publicity – and demystify what we do. The rest is simply serendipity, but the more you make the connections, the more it pays off – I think for instance more of my work has been read since I tweeted links in the last year than ever before. I have enjoyed following and being followed by a wide cross-section of medical types and interest groups.

When did you start using social media. What prompted you to get started?

OM: I started during my PhD in earnest – feeling like a fish out of water – a clinician in the lab and the time any experiment took. I have then seen the proliferation of open data and access and feel that work both old and new can be shared equally. I also wanted to broaden my reading beyond my speciality and medicine to a degree.

Which platform(s) do you enjoy using the most?

OM:  Really for me Twitter offers it all and links take me to wherever I need to go. There is some mythical ratio of professional to personal interactions of either 80:20 or 70:30; and for the most part I think I stick to that. The only recent addition I have made is to write a few blogs – prompted by Twitter friends and m’learned colleague and friend Dr Mark Taubert who is also the associate editor of the BMJ Supportive and Palliative Care blog, so there’s a natural outlet and obviously you can then tweet the link to what you’ve written.

Which topics interest you; do you take part in any particular twitter chats?

OM: I’d hope I took the early lesson from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and hide in plain sight, with my interests, both clinical and academic, made explicit. I am interested in supportive and palliative care very broadly, which can encompass all aspects of health. I would focus on cancer care in particular, and long term effects of successful treatment. I take part in the relevant Twitter chats as a result – palliative medicine and radiation oncology journal clubs when the time difference internationally allow, and I do enjoy the debates in the @WeDocs chats both formal and impromptu.

What advice would you give someone just starting out on social media?

OM: Don’t agonise too much – create a profile that allows a personality to come through – photo and bio obviously straight away and jump in.  As I said we docs are very community focused.

The only decent set of “rules” I ever read were by the UK civil service

It’s not rocket science – we must use common sense about everything we publish on digital and social media. Once something has been sent, it’s public. Following these guidelines correctly will ensure that your social media activity will enhance your job as a civil servant, while also retaining the highest levels of integrity.

Or the ASCO – no one is anonymous online and hide in plain sight.

Finally, would you like to share a favourite quote with us? 

OM: I’d cheat and recommend the 42 Douglas Adams quotes to live by from the recent radio 4 revival. But out of all of them, I’d choose:  ” All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great deal more robust, sophisticated and well supported in logic and argument than others. The secular update of In God We Trust all others must bring data” (attributed to W Edwards Deming).

I really enjoyed learning more about your work and philosophy Ollie. I look forward to learning more from you on Twitter.  Thanks! 

Follow Ollie on Twitter @drol007



Posted in #HCSM, social spotlight

Social Spotlight: Dr Liam Farrell

facebook_f1fb8088feThis week it’s my great pleasure to shine a spotlight on the work of Dr Liam Farrell, an award-winning writer and broadcaster, an irrepressible humourist, and talented musician, and the founder of #IrishMed – Ireland’s first healthcare tweet chat.

Congratulations Liam on the success of #IrishMed.  Can you tell us what led you to start the tweet chat?

LF: I started the #IrishMed tweetchat over two years ago. I’d been taking part in other tweet chats such as #hcldr and #hcsm, and co-hosted a few, for #hpm and #dwdchat. On one of these (won’t say which, there was only one regular responder, which made it a long sixty minutes, so thanks Kathy Kastner for not leaving me high and dry). I’d found them interesting and stimulating, and then reckoned that we needed a similar chat on this side of the world.

I really like how you’ve brought an international audience together for #IrishMed. Was this your original intention?

LF: Initially I’d expected only Irish tweeps would get involved, but it rapidly grew into a global network, with regular participants from North America, Africa + Asia (we go out at 6 am in the morning in the Philippines, so fair dues to my good friends over there). It goes to show that health issues are universal.  Connecting with people and making friends from all across the globe has been a wonderful experience, all generous with their time and their wisdom, all trying to make the world a better place. #IrishMed is also non-hierarchical; all perspectives are valuable, whether specialist, generalist, patient, advocate, carer or general public, and it all helps to in breaking down the artificial barriers between healthcare professional and patients; after all every HCP (health care professional) will be a patient one day. And the dialogue goes both ways; HCPs learn about patient frustrations, patients can more appreciate the difficulties and limitations of medical care.

When did you start using social media? Were you an early adopter of any one particular platform? 

LF: My son Jack was a volunteer in Ohio for President Obama in 2012, and twitter was a great way of staying in touch with the pulse of the campaign. There is always a danger of twitter becoming an echo chamber, so I deliberately followed tweeps from all sides of the political spectrum. I’m a socialist, but like to think I’m ready to accept a persuasive argument from  a different point of view.

Which platform(s) do you enjoy using the most?

LF: I use Facebook mainly to keep in touch with my family and friends. Facebook was also handy to archive my columns in one place, and I’ve started a wordpress blog recently, as many of my journal columns are subscriber only and I thought they needed the light of day.  Twitter is my favourite platform, it allows rapid exchange of ideas, and at it’s best the format demands thought. The 180 character limit really forces you to make your responses punchy and concise; excessive verbosity is impossible. 

Which topics do you like to follow on social media? Do you take part in any Twitter chats outside of #IrishMed?

LF: “Doctors are the natural attorneys of the poor,” said Virchow. The contribution of medical care to population health is relatively minor; much more important are the social determinants of health #SDoH, sanitation, food, education, housing. The main cause of ill-health is poverty and doctors that don’t take a political stance are reneging on their responsibilities.

I’m particularly interested in palliative care, as in my rural practice we looked after our own patients, and I was also a postgraduate tutor in palliative care. Two thirds of patients die expected deaths, and there is simply no way the palliative care speciality can look after them all. Palliative care must become a generalist skill; often it’s not complicated, and the precious skills of the specialists should be reserved for difficult cases and for education. On a wider scale, educating the general population about death and dying is also critical; it should be a subject taught in schools.

As I write late at night and in the early hours (“What hath night to do with sleep?” Milton), #hcldr and #hscm are always good timing for me. The topics are wide-ranging and the opinions diverse, and I regularly learn something new and have my prejudices challenged. #HeathXPH is on Saturday afternoon, which unfortunately conflicts with watching horse racing. #hcldr was one of the inspirations for #irishmed; the other was the advice of the irreplaceable Marie Ennis O’Connor.

Twitter is such an accessible medium for rapid exchange of information, it’s very under-utilised at the moment; so many other disciplines could get involved. Myself and my maniacally energetic friend Sharon Thompson (@sharontwriter) recently launched #WritersWise – a tweetchat for writers and aspiring writers

I recognise that SoMe is soft power; words are cheap, and as we screen-writers say, “action reveals character.” but you never know when a message will have an effect, and someone, somewhere will be helped because of it.

What advice would you give someone just starting out on social media?

LF: There is so much information out there, it can initially be bewildering. Follow the platforms that suit you best, and read Marie Ennis O’Connor’s blogs.

You’re too kind;-) Methinks the student has surpassed the master these days.

Finally, would you like to share a favourite quote to send us on our way today?

“I’m too busy to be brief;” Samuel Johnson

(One of my favourite quotes – though I think a tad ironic when it comes to Twitter! Ed)

It’s been terrific to learn more about how and why you use social media Liam and I look forward to seeing what new delights you have in store for your faithful following.  

  • Follow Liam on Twitter @drlfarrell
  • #IrishMed takes place every Wednesday at 10 pm Irish time. To learn more and view past transcripts visit



Posted in #HCSM

Social Spotlight: Debra Bassett

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This week I interview Debra Bassett, a PhD Candidate at the University of Warwick. Debra’s research explores the creation of digital memories on the Internet and how digital immortality may affect how people grieve.

Hi Debra, I am fascinated by the research you’ve undertaken. Could you tell us some more about it.

DB:  My PhD research is looking at whether digital immortality being offered by the Internet will affect the way people grieve.  As part of this research I am analysing thanablogs (blogs written by terminally ill people).  I am analysing tweets from terminally ill people, and “death bed tweets”.  Facebook is being used by many to create memorial sites and virtual graveyards for people to visit, these also are part of my research.

When did you start using social media. What prompted you to get started?

DB: I have avoided using social media personally for many reasons (I only have 1 Facebook friend as I refuse all requests from people).  However, to do research I have to have Facebook in order to access the Facebook pages of others.

Which platform(s) do you enjoy using the most?

DB: I love using Twitter which I only started using as part of my research.  You were the first person to contact me on Twitter and gently suggested I needed to fill my profile in! I love Twitter!  My research does not sit comfortably within the Sociology department at Warwick, so I am alone in my area of research.  Twitter introduced me to other thanatologists and allows me to discuss my research with others who understand.  It also helps with participant recruitment (I hope).  It also helps you to be extremely concise with your ideas and how you explain them.  The “elevator pitch” but even more concise.

Which topics interest you – eg do you take part in any particular twitter chats?

DB: I like following political conversations, although sometimes I think Twitter creates an echo chamber (e.g. Brexit)

What advice would you give someone just starting out on social media?

DB: Just dive in, others will help and advise at you go along.

Finally, would you like to share a favourite quote with us?

DB: “Tomorrow is another day” Gone with the Wind

If you would like to contribute to Debra’s research, please visit her website for details on how you can take part. 

Posted in #HCSM

Social Spotlight: Deirdre Munro


This week I turn the social spotlight on Deirdre Munro,  founder of The Global Village Networks, to find out more about how she uses social media in her work.

Logo created by my son Brian (aged 15)
Logo created by my son Brian (aged 15)

Can you tell us about the The Global Village Networks project you founded?

DM: I would love to share our Global Village of Midwives story with you. Our story began at the International Confederation of Midwifery (ICM) Prague June 2014. I travelled to Prague with a fellow midwife Naomi O’Donovan, kindly sponsored by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).  I shared lots of new research on twitter and started to use a hashtag  #Globalvillagemidwives and later due to demand created @GlobalVillageMW

This led to other global villages being born:
(This list comes under a Twitter Global Village Network)
  • The Global Village of Mental Health
  • Ability Global Village
  • The Global Village of Health Translation
  • Global Village of Nurses

And there are more in utero!

Which social networking platform(s) do you enjoy using the most?

DM: I am a proud member of many many fantastic platforms

    • The Global Village Network of course!
    • World Health Innovation Summit #WHIS
    • World Health Organisation
    • International Confederation Midwives
    • Maternity Experience #matexp
    • School for health Care Radicals #SHCR #EdgeClub
    • #TeamShiny
    • #wemidwives
    • England Centre for Practice Development International Fellows #ECPDF #mindfulofthegap
    • #whywedoresearch
    • @EhealthIreland
    • Council Clinical Information Officers (Ireland)  #CCIO

Too many conferences to mention! It’s a Twitter party out here so come on and join the fun!

Which topics interest you – eg do you take part in any particular twitter chats?

DM: I am passionate about midwifery, healthcare, research, sharing knowledge, designing research, reviewing methodology, innovation, improving health care and systems together, supporting each other and of course social media.

What advice would you give someone just starting out on social media?

DM:  Don’t be nervous. Just set up a Twitter account and start to follow people that inspire you. Find a twitterbuddy and nurture your confidence. Then start to join a conversation. It opened up a new GlobalVillage for me, the innovations and opportunities are endless.

Finally, would you like to share a favourite quote with us?

I am known as a Twitter induced wordsmith so here it goes;
‘Myometrium moment’ is that awe moment when your heart squeezes (and uterus if you’re female!) and hugs your very soul – #myomo
Innovation moment – I know moment #InoMo

That moment when you really need a hug and support … to increase the mood and love hormone oxytocin  #oxyhug

Thanks Deirdre for taking the time to share your passion and enthusiasm for social media with us.





Posted in #HCSM

Social Spotlight: James Legan MD


This week it’s my great pleasure to catch up with James Legan, MD, an Internal Medicine Physician, now in his 23rd year in Private Practice in Great Falls, Montana, USA.  James blogs regularly about patient care and technology, and was an early adopter of live video streaming platforms Periscope and Blab.  A talented painter, James is also one of the friendliest, kindest and most welcoming persons I have met online.

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Hi James, I know you have a passion for combining technology with patient care, could you begin by sharing an example of how you do this. 

JL:  My passion has been sharing my experience with #ProjectedEHR, an approach that I have been using for the past two and a half years at the point of care with my patients.  I use a wall mounted 24 inch screen in each exam room and as I walk in and greet the patient, hook the 14″ Acer Chromebook via HDMI cord to the large screen.  Instantaneously the patient and I can look at their own data/information contained in their electronic record.  I have had such a positive response with my own patients, I share this approach whenever I can get the chance.

When did you start using social media. What prompted you to get started?

JL:  About 2 years ago I started with Twitter, which has been the “nest” for my Social Media Platform with links to my Periscope, Blab and WordPress sites. Desiring to share #ProjectedEHR as a way to give back to the Profession, with the intention of hopefully helping others in the medical arena is what got me started.

Which platform(s) do you enjoy using the most?

JL:  I think all the platforms are a bit different and reach different followers, some merge, some separate.  I like to blog for disseminating things learned along the way. I like Periscope to share fun things primarily, mostly on the weekends.  Blab is a great way to brainstorm in small groups, and the next best thing to being together IRL (in real life) and better because of the connections world wide.  So I like all of the platforms and don’t have any particular favorite, just mix it up depending on how I want to connect and with whom.

Which topics interest you – eg do you take part in any particular twitter chats?

JL:  I particularly like topics regarding technology and patient engagement, and #HealthXPH, #HITsm #IrishMed and #HCLDR are twitter chats I have been most involved with

What advice would you give someone just starting out on social media?

JL:  Don’t share anything you would not if printed on the front of your local newspaper, and have fun.  Read Marie Ennis-O’Connor’s rules of social media, and don’t break them. 😉

Finally, would you like to share a favourite quote with us?

JL:  “Listen to your patient, he is telling you the diagnosis,” from Sir William Osler.

Thanks James for taking the time to share with us your experience of using social media in your work. Your commitment to patient care shines through in everything you do. 

Follow James on Twitter @jimmie_vanagon


Posted in #HCSM, Infographics

How To Handle Different Types Of Comments On Social Media [Infographic]

I really like this Infographic from Salesforce on how to handle different types of comments on social media. I’ve highlighted some key takeways at the end.

Click To Enlarge

How to Handle Every Type of Comment on Social Media

Via Salesforce

Key Takeaways

Respond in Your Brand’s Voice

It’s important to be consistent with your voice on social media: It should match what you convey through customer service, your website, and any other advertising or channels where a customer may be exposed to the brand.

Respect Their Emotions

When people are upset, they often just want to feel validated; even when you don’t understand where people are coming from, it’s important to respect how they feel.

Create an Answer Library

Take comments from your social media users and turn them into content, and think of how you can provide content that’s a valuable service and invites your customers and fans to be part of your brand’s story.

Personalize Your Replies

Personalizing your answer and making it interactive through gifs, hashtags, and @mentions makes a difference.

Posted in #HCSM

Four Fundamentals of Inbound Marketing for Health Care


According to Hubspot inbound marketing is about using marketing to bring potential customers to you, rather than having your marketing efforts fight for their attention. By creating content specifically designed to appeal to your dream customers, inbound attracts qualified prospects to your business and keeps them coming back for more.

Why is inbound marketing so valuable for health care-related industries?

It’s simple, says the Inbound Marketing Blog –  your customer base is one that is seeking answers from a trustworthy source. It is through that thought leadership and valuable content that you can attract and impress qualified leads—the cornerstone of inbound marketing. The blog outlines four fundamentals to guide your inbound marketing including:

  1. Develop detailed buyer personas
  2. Create targeted content
  3. Generate leads
  4. Nurture leads

Read: 4 Fundamentals of Inbound Marketing for Health Care

You might also like:

Posted in #HCSM

Social Spotlight: Vanessa Carter


This week it is my very great pleasure to interview Vanessa Carter. Vanessa is an internationally recognised South African Facial Difference and MRSA ePatient speaker. She is also the founder of hcsmSA which is an acronym for Health Care Social Media South Africa.


Hi Vanessa, can you tell us a little about the work you do.

VC: I am an ePatient advocate (Empowered Patient) from South Africa and I speak internationally at various events about facial differences, antibiotic resistance (MRSA) and web 2.0 from a patient perspective.  I am an ambassador and advisory board member for Doctors 2.0 and You, Paris which is associated with the Stanford Medicine X conference. I am the founder of #hcsmSA which is a South African eHealth TweetChat and I am also in the process of developing it into a course locally. I am a panel advisor to EyeforPharma, an international event focusing on the future of digital pharmaceuticals, as well as an ePatient advisor to Docola, a virtual platform for patient engagement. I am a member of the Walking Gallery (an ePatient movement that focuses on participatory medicine and eHealth) and a member of The Society for Participatory Medicine.

Your work is impressive Vanessa. When did you start using social media. What prompted you to get started?

VC: I first used social media in 2008. I owned an advertising business for 18 years in Johannesburg which specialised in brand development for small businesses as well as search engine optimisation (SEO), online marketing and website design. I always believed in the value of networking in business and therefore was a member of several chambers of commerce. In some ways, I view social media as a virtual version of that.

Concurrent to my business, in 2004 I was involved in a severe car accident which caused many injuries. The most significant was a facial difference (disfigurement). I spent close to 10 years using the web to research the varying specialists as well as to understand the sequence of surgeries. The reconstruction required certain steps for it to be successful. During the course of these years, I experienced a scarcity of resources online which included doctor’s websites, patient education and patient stories which I could compare myself to. I suffered multiple complications and after my 7th year, a 3D printed implant became infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria (MRSA) which had to be removed, my progress was forced back by several years. I then committed my time to compiling my 600 page medical history into a 4 page summary and I emailed it around the world to leading facial surgeons.

One day, a light of hope shined on me, I received a reply and I was able to have a Skype consultation with a world-leading face transplant surgeon in the US who dealt with cases like mine daily. The direction that he gave me, empowered me to find the right specialist in South Africa. Ironically, the professor who performed the bone surgery was several kilometres away to where I lived, but I couldn’t find him because he didn’t have a website. Within 8 months, 3 surgeries and 5 doctors, my disfigurement had been restored to an acceptable state.

The game changer was having that direction so that I was able to understand my injuries and make confident and informed decisions going forward. This experience prompted me to diversify my advertising business and I shifted my focus to health care. I established a division which offered medical websites and social media to encourage online participation and improve access to patients in terms of finding local resources. I formed partnerships with companies like Nucleus Medical Media in the USA so that we could offer the integration of visual media like animated videos. Instant access to patient education on a physician’s site could reduce the need to search online and reduce disorganisation between doctor and patient, among other things. In 2013, I was nominated in the top 25 entrepreneurs in South Africa at the NSBC awards in recognition of the innovative achievement.

In 2013 I also created the FaceSA Project, which was a Facebook page to promote awareness for facial differences in South Africa. My objective was to promote acceptance for patients who were unable to receive corrective surgery, as there is limited support. Programs such as the Johannesburg Craniofacial Unit operate from private hospitals because there is limited funding to establish a multi-disciplinary team in the public sector, this inflates the costs excessively. Many people associate facial differences to cleft lip and palate, which is correct, but some more severe cases can be caused by rare disease, Cancer, congenital abnormalities, burns, trauma and more. Legal Acts also don’t state clearly when a facial difference is a disability and often patients lose their rights because they themselves are unsure. Another reason I created the Facebook page was to promote medical technology, where we lagged behind. I found a large gap between what I had researched online and what my physicians knew. I believed it was important to create awareness about that.

After reaching out to several Universities to curate articles for the page, I connected with an emerging technologies librarian called Patricia Anderson, she was wonderful to spend some time mentoring me and one day popped the big question “Have you tried Twitter?” I was a little edgy at first, because I perceived Twitter as a platform for celebrity gossip. I gave it a try and within several weeks had hundreds of followers. I was also invited to attend the #hcldr TweetChat which I woke up weekly for at 2.30am SAST out of genuine dedication to learn. I then connected with Symplur‘s, Tom Lee, one of the co-founders who spent time mentoring me about analytics and The Health Hashtag Project which I now use daily.


After several months of using social media to build awareness, I submitted the #FacialDifference hashtag  to Symplur and started to build that patient community. I also submitted #hcsmSA (Health Care Social Media South Africa) so that I could diversify the work I was doing on a broader scale. This year #hcsmSA launched as the first South African TweetChat for eHealth. I have also started writing a series of eBooks in order to develop a course locally to train physicians and health workers how to use the web and social media correctly. I believe the slow adoption to participate is partly due to education and this could help towards accelerating that. As an example, I am providing a skills development workshop in October to a group of women in Johannesburg, at the Women Advancement Forum; these women want to grow their community projects in rural areas, the right web skills could make a major impact to their projects if someone takes the time to show them how.

Which platform(s) do you enjoy using the most?

VC:  It’s difficult to choose a favourite, I like Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter for varying reasons. They each have their own unique set of tools and target different demographics. While one might be superior on a marketing level, another may be on a technical level. In terms of innovation, education and network building for eHealth, Twitter would be my first choice.

Twitter offers a range of tools which are useful:

  1. Record transcripts, find influencers and access analytics in real-time; easily – thanks to Symplur
  2. Follow any thought-leader as opposed to other networks which need their permission
  3. Simplicity
  4. Hashtag indexing makes it a powerful social search engine. Old conversations remain, unlike other social sites and conventional search engines
  5.  It offers a superior capability to make public announcements go viral faster (e.g. Retweets)
  6. It offers excellent networking capabilities, you not only have suggested contacts matched up according to your demographic data, but also the ability to connect to conversations (using hashtags) and grow your global network
  7. It offers useful tools like “lists” so that you can customise your newsfeed or manage your web research more effectively There are endless reasons, these are only a few which set it apart as the preferred platform for global eHealth.

Which topics interest you? Apart from #hcsmSA, do you take part in any other twitter chats?

VC:  I have numerous interests; I am definitely a “tech-junkie” and some of my favourite experts for that are Eric Topol, Bertalan Mesko and James Canton. I also following genomics very closely, I spent some time this year in Edinburgh attending various lectures about genomics. Precision medicine is another area of interest, because I believe with all of the digital tools we have available now, if it were re-organised and re-designed right, we have a good chance of accomplishing that. In terms of TweetChats, I have taken part in the past in #healthXPH (Phillipines), Pharmaphorum which has a wonderful webinar series, #hcldr (Health Care Leader – Global), #PatientChat and #doctors20. Some of the chats have been difficult time zones, but I have made a point to listen to the on-demand recordings or downloaded the transcript from Symplur. I have recently launched the #hcsmSA TweetChat which I moderate and it is based on the same model as my neighbouring geographic communities (e.g. #hcsm, #hcsmCA, #hcsmANZ), of course focusing on South African health.

What advice would you give someone just starting out on social media?

VC: Be persistent to learn because the world is changing and we are moving towards a digital revolution, don’t get left behind in whatever area of medicine you are now in. Try new platforms for the sake of experience. Don’t be reluctant because of fear. For example, if you decide to give Twitter a try, you don’t have to tweet immediately, you can simply listen in by following hashtags and other users. Not everyone is built for networking. The value that social media holds goes beyond that, the most important value of understanding health 2.0 lies in the knowledge you gain, and it is much easier to access that wisdom on social media than it is when you are Googling away, choose one platform, learn to use the tools and expand from there. Don’t let time be the issue, if you Google and search in web 1.0, next time try web 2.0.

Finally, would you like to share a favourite quote with us?

“The most effective way to do it, is to do it” – Amelia Earhart

“The only way to learn it to try, to fail, and to try again, but we have to be bold enough to take the first step. The world isn’t waiting for us”

What a wonderful note to end our interview on Vanessa. Keep up the wonderful and important work you are doing and thank you for taking the time to share your experience with us today. 

Follow Vanessa on Twitter @_FaceSA



Posted in #HCSM

How to Care for the Millennial Patient

millenial patient

2012 study from ZocDoc and Harris Interactive found that millennials believe seeing a doctor is too much of a “pain.” Their frustration with the healthcare system has resulted in over half of respondents delaying seeking medical attention. Perhaps even more troubling was the fact 79% of those millennials surveyed believe it is easier to evaluate a new tech gadget than a doctor, and 76% feel it’s easier to find information about a hotel than a medical provider.

If you are wondering how you can attract and care for millennial patients, this CuredMD guide provides some answers – not surprisingly understanding the Millennials’ love of technology and embracing social media top the list.  And this MNI article recommends a millennial marketing strategy should feature more conversation and real people telling meaningful stories so that your brand can resonate with millennial values.

Finally, some research from  the University of Southern California’s online master of science in applied psychology found  that the younger demographic values authenticity and their peers’ opinions. 84 percent of millennials say that user generated content influences what they buy and 82 percent are comfortable enough with brands to interact directly with them.

Psychology of Successfully Marketing to Millennials Infographic

Posted in #HCSM

Social Spotlight: Dr Richard Brady


This week I caught up with Dr Richard Brady, advanced intestinal failure / abdominal wall reconstruction Fellow and owner of website and app development company Research Active, to find out more about the role social media plays in his work.


Hi Richard, I’m a keen follower of you on Twitter and I’m curious to know when did you start using social media?

RB: Strangely, although never really actually meaning to be, I’ve always found myself an early adopter and a “techie”. For me, social media is an obvious, rapid means to engage in global communication, keep up with events and developments within my interests and help to level the traditionally conservative hierarchical and cultural barriers to open and free information.

Very early on, I found that social media was remarkably absent of such barriers. There was a general willingness to learn, engage, support, grow and communicate by everyone, from medical student to professor. I was also really interested in the dynamics of this game-changing technology on the interactions and behaviours of surgical communities.

Since then, I have been performing research in the field, managing a range of social media accounts for medical businesses, giving advice and consultancy, and speaking regularly at conferences. It has certainly opened up a world of interest, fascination and opportunity for me.

I agree with you that social media breaks down traditional barriers. It’s one of the things that I have found most empowering about social media. Can you think back to what initially prompted your interest in social media?

RB: Twitter has opened so many personal opportunities for me, from job offers, to research, to consultancy, to invitations to speak at conferences and many, many more. I guess I’m keen, given so very many good things are happening out there, that other trainees and surgeons can experience the world of opportunity. I also think that the medium is a massive leveler; with open, free communication, no pay-walls, transparency, making distance an irrelevance and providing unedited, immediate and concise information. It transcends economics, background and borders, and with instant translators, language is no longer a barrier. It has the potential to connect surgery, speed up adoption of new techniques and disseminate good practice, like no other technology in history. The next 10 years will be an exciting time in surgical education.

Your enthusiasm for the future is infectious Richard! I’m curious to know of any projects you are currently involved with that leverage social media?

RB: I initially experimented with a LinkedIn group amongst surgical trainees. This was generally well supported but it was an eye-opener, resulting in a diversity of social media behaviours within a very focused user group of trainee surgeons, all of similar age and grade. From those who avidly shared far too much, to the deafening and inhibitory presence of silent lurkers, to the ultra-conservatives who refused to even join, warning others the sky would fall in! It was a good and early experience, but in retrospect, it was perhaps slightly ahead of its time and the cultural curve which existed then but it served as a useful experience.

Since then, as more medics have become comfortable with social media, Twitter has become an amazing medium for highlighting and sharing high quality information quickly and efficiently. Those who have engaged with this platform have gained access to the immediate and intimate opinions of experts, news and developments from the best centres, societies and associations, and I have been struck by the frequency by which these interactions have forged friendships, projects and collaborations in the real world.

I’ve also undertaken and written a number of studies in which we have investigated contemporary social media usage in specific specialties, including colorectal, vascular, and hernia surgery, and others which are due to be published. Recently, social media has been the link within a number of projects I am involved in, where Twitter is used as the medium of choice between massive numbers of collaborators.

Just 12 weeks ago, a number of colorectal surgeons formed an informal campaign to assist those with an interest in finding information relevant to the specialty, by using the hashtag “#colorectalsurgery” in Twitter posts related to this subject. After lots of word of mouth and following a collaborative multimedia video campaign to encourage more understanding, we have gathered more than 20 million impressions/views on over 6000 tweets, involving nearly 1000 different people on the #colorectalsurgery hashtag.

Whilst acknowledging that social media is clearly not for anyone, the next stage is to encourage those who are “offline” and haven’t quite realised its potential, with an education campaign through traditional means and surgical associations. Indeed, many associations have shown interest in getting involved.

It’s really interesting to hear about how you are using Twitter as a collaboration tool. Of all the many social platforms out there, which do you enjoy using the most?

RB: Undoubtedly Twitter – conversation is focused (in its 140 character limits) and by its nature is less formal, easy to understand and highly collaborative. It also has its own particular brand of humour and culture – some of which takes a little getting used to.

Twitter is my favourite too. I see it as THE place for  healthcare conversations. Which topics particularly interest you?  Do you take part in any specific twitter chats?

RB: I have a keen interest in medical technology and mobile apps and have spoken widely on regulation and potential dangers within this field. There are often mobile health chats that are very interesting to engage with. In colorectal surgery there are a series of professional “Twitter chats” planned in the coming year and I look forward to either being involved or watching their progress. The key will be to provide a supportive atmosphere and encourage a diverse and enthusiastic engagement and conversation.

I know you are keen to get more healthcare professionals involved in social media. What advice would you give someone just starting out on social media?

Don’t expect results immediately, and have patience – it takes time to learn the language and culture of social media and build strong connections. I also really like the 12 words of advice from Farris Timimi MD, the medical director for the Mayo Clinic Center For Social Media, “Don’t lie, don’t pry, don’t cheat, can’t delete, don’t steal, don’t reveal”. Stay true to this and you will rarely go wrong.

Finally, would you like to share a favourite quote with us?

A favourite and one I think is relevant here, attributed to Grace Murray Hopper is

The most dangerous phrase in the language is “we’ve always done it this way!”

I think this applies equally to surgery, the NHS, and innovators everywhere.

Thanks Richard for taking the time to share so generously with us your thoughts on using social media in your work. It’s been illuminating and inspiring. 

Follow Richard on Twitter @researchactive



Posted in #HCSM

When Is The Best Time to Post on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram?


Check out this HootSuite article which shares some resources that can serve as a guide to help you find the optimal posting times for your social media updates.

These resources provide helpful insight into social timing, but It’s not a hard science; ultimately you need to figure out the best times for your own particular audience.

As with so much in social marketing, keep on experimenting and keep on testing until you find your sweet spot.

Related Reading: Why There’s No Perfect Time to Post on Facebook 

Posted in #HCSM

Social Spotlight: Gareth Presch


This week I interview Gareth Presch, founder of World Health Innovation Summit, a new innovative way of bringing all stakeholders together, providing a platform to openly share ideas and discover solutions for a better healthcare system.

Can you tell us some more about the World Innovation Summit. How did it start?

GP: It started with a tweet! That’s how the World Health Innovation Summit started. One tweet to see if people where interested in coming to Cumbria to share knowledge to improve healthcare. Now we’ve reached over 100 countries and during our first event we reached 23.7 million twitter impressions over 2 days #WHISCumbria @HIC2016. Health touches us all and the WHIS provides the platform for everyone and every sector to come together and share information so we all benefit and social media is the perfect way for us to share that knowledge. WHIS is a social enterprise that supports communities in many ways. We run community Summits (Cumbria, Greece, Thailand, London, Sao Paulo etc) and have our WHISKids, WHISatwork and wellness activities all set up via social media to support our communities.


When did you start using social media professionally?  

GP: I’ve used social media for many years. I’ve advised businesses in the past on social media strategies and done workshops with NHS Trusts, Charities etc. Social Media is an excellent way to share knowledge. Twitter is excellent for professionals to connect however the real magic for me is Facebook and it’s untapped in terms of it’s potential. 1.3 billion people use Facebook (And it’s growing) – just think of the opportunity to share public health information on a broad scale to improve outcomes for people around the World. I recently spoke at a workshop around SoMe and used the example of groups in healthcare and how we can learn so much from these groups to improve. It’s an excellent way to engage and establish relationships based on the partnership of trust.

Which platform(s) do you enjoy using the most?

GP:  I love using Twitter but my favourite is Facebook – last year I had about 300 friends and today I’ve just under 5,000 with over 500 people following me. I love how you can connect with people and get to know them. Instant chat via facebook messenger etc. Another platform that I enjoy using is Blab – we’ve hosted Blab chats and it’s great how we can connect around the World. We have plans to develop these chat’s further. Watch this space!

Which topics interest you? Do you take part in any particular twitter chats?

GP:  I’m interested in just about anything that helps people improve their quality of life. From Education, Medicine to sports. My favourite twitter chat would be IrishMed hosted by Liam Farrell – it’s great as it has a diverse audience and a wide global audience. The topics are always interesting (From ehealth to chronic illness).

What advice would you give someone just starting out on social media?

GP: Advice for social media is to give it go and just be yourself. Think before you post and or tweet. Think how you would react to the post before posting and always insure that when you post a message or comment that you are factually correct in what you are posting.

Finally, would you like to share a favourite quote with us?

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”

Thanks Gareth for taking the time to share with us your experience of using social media in your work. I expect we will see great things in the future with the World Health Innovation Summit!

Follow  Gareth on Twitter @GarethPresch



Posted in #HCSM

What Makes The Ideal Social Media Marketer?


I’ve sat on several interview boards over the past few months to hire a social media manager for client companies. Identifying the ideal candidate goes beyond technical skills. It’s about also having the right mindset. I look for passionate, enthusiastic communicators when I am interviewing candidates. I also want to see that they have done their research into the company and the unique challenges it faces in the healthcare industry.

If you are interviewing candidates for a social media or digital marketing position, or if you are a candidate looking for your ideal job, you’ll find value in this article, in which social media marketers at top companies outline the attributes the right candidate should have.

What do you think are some of the key attributes a social media marketer should have?

Related Reading: How To Ask The Right Questions When Selecting A Digital Marketer

Posted in Infographics

How To Use Instagram To Promote Your Medical Practice

I recently published an article on the key trends to watch in social media and their relevance to healthcare marketing in 2015. The continuing growth of visual platforms, such as Pinterest and Instagram, confirm that incorporating visual content into your social media strategy is a must (Instagram post engagement is up 416% over the last two years).

With 300 million active users, Instagram is worth integrating into your healthcare social marketing strategy. Use it to share photos of your conferences and events, host photo contests (for example ask people to post their pictures of healthy eating).  Check out for an example of a healthcare brand on Instagram. For more tips see this infographic below.


Posted in Infographics

Social Media Flowchart: Where To Post On Line

Not all social media platforms are created equal. It’s something I teach all the time in my workshops. Each has their own audience, tone, and language. When you create a piece of content, knowing how to pitch it just right for each platform is a skill that comes with time. Today I came across this infographic on where to share different types of content. While it’s tongue-in-cheek, it’s certainly worth a look.


Posted in #HCSM, Infographics

Let’s Get Visual With Social Media

I recently published an article on the key trends to watch in social media and their relevance to healthcare marketing in 2015.  The continuing growth in highly visual platforms, such as Pinterest and Instagram confirm how incorporating visual content into your social media strategy is a must. Not only do these platforms drive more traffic and shares, research has shown that tweets and Facebook posts with images encourage more engagement.

So how do you create images that will engage your followers? Here’s a useful infographic from Hubspot which shows you how and where to focus your efforts when it comes to a visual social media strategy.



Posted in Ehealth, Video

The Future Is eHealth

eHealth is a relatively new term used to define healthcare practices that take place with the help of electronic processes and communications.   Electronic medical services of all kinds have fed into a growing need for efficient information gathering, and many people make use of health apps and websites on a daily basis. On smartphones there are apps that help with fitness and food tracking, apps that provide information about health concerns or conditions, apps that guide the user through difficult subjects and a host of other useful services; and in tech too, there are various gadgets that regularly assist users in maintaining active and healthy lifestyles. Smartwatches now track stats and update with phones to provide up to date information, websites give advice on how to deal with conditions effectively without visiting the hospital or doctor, and every month new technology is created to track and interact with our bodies.

This short video by Health Express demonstrates how the Internet of Things (IOT) is likely to play a major role in revolutionising healthcare.

Posted in #HCSM, SlideShare

2015 Worldwide Internet, Mobile and Social Media Trends Report


Looking for internet and social media statistics in one easy to reference place?  

Then look no further. We Are Social have produced a comprehensive new report which covers internet, social media and mobile usage statistics from all over the world. It contains more than 350 infographics, including global snapshots, regional overviews, and in-depth profiles of 30 of the world’s largest economies.

Report Highlights

  • The number of global internet users passed 3 billion while worldwide social media users exceeded 2 billion in 2014
  • Mobile’s share of global web traffic leapt 39% since the same time last year, with one-third of all web pages now served to mobile phones. India’s web traffic is dominated by mobile devices, with phones alone accounting for 72% of all web pages served in the world’s second most populous nation
  • Almost 42% of the world’s population has access to the internet in January 2015, representing a significant jump in reported numbers since last year’s report, when the same figure was just 35%
  • The average internet user spends around 4 hours and 25 minutes using the net each day
  • The average social media user spends 2 hours and 25 minutes per day using social networks
  • Facebook continues to dominate the global social media landscape, claiming 1.366 billion active users in January 2015.

If you’d like to explore individual country data in more detail, you can download the complete report for free by clicking here.




Posted in mHealth, Video

mHealth Can Streamline Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are crucial to validating interventions for health care treatments. A major stumbling block to organizing trials is recruitment and retention of enrollees.  Remote monitoring tools may overcome this obstacle. By providing study volunteers with mHealth devices, including smartphones and wearable technology, trials can access real-time availability of results.

Related Reading

Two Ways mHealth Could Boost Clinical Trials


Posted in #HCSM

A Step By Step Guide To Digital Storytelling With Storify


Storify is a platform that allows you to tell stories using elements from the social web such as tweets, Flickr photos and YouTube videos.  There are so many ways to use the Storify app; one of my favourite ways is to capture tweets from a live event and turn them into a visually compelling story.

If you are new to the Storify app, follow my easy step-by-step guide to help you create your first story.

1. Log-in using Twitter or Facebook.


2. Click on Create New Story which will open a blank platform for you to create your story


3. On the top right hand corner you will find media sources to curate the elements of your story. You can search Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and Google for elements to include.


4.  Start by adding a headline for your story and a brief description so people will know what your story is about.

storify social media tips

5. You can search for elements to add to your story from your chosen media sources.Once you find something you want to add drag it over to your story. This drag-and-drop method is what makes Storify such a great platform to work with as it keeps all of the original links and functionality of the original source and embeds them into your story.


6. Now add your commentary – this step is optional but it is a great way to personalise a story and add your own unique voice. For instructions on how to add a cover image, click here.


7. It is easy to make changes to your story. To delete an element hit the X in the right corner; to reorder elements in a story simply drag and drop.


8. When you are happy with your story, hit publish.


9. You can then notify people who have been quoted in your story, helping make it go viral.


10. You can also share your story on social networks and embed it on your website or blog.


At first glance Storify may seem like a complicated platform to master, but my Storify tutorial shows you it is really quite easy and fun to tell a story online.

If you would like to see some examples check out my profile at:

Happy Storytelling!

Note: Storify have released some new features. Read about them here and here.

Posted in Cool Tool

Monday Morning Cool Tool: Text Readability Consensus Calculator

I love learning about new tools to make social media marketing more creative and effective, so I’ve decided to share some of my favourite tools with you at the start of each week.

This week’s cool tool recommendation is the Text Readability Consensus Calculator. It takes a sample of your writing and calculates the number of sentences, words, syllables, and characters. It then takes the output of these numbers and plugs them into 7 popular readability formulas to help you find out the reading level and grade level of your materials and help you to determine if your audience can read what you have written.

Here’s what happened when I plugged the above paragraph into the tool.


And the result


So I come out with a difficult to read score – ironic given that I took much of the text from the description of the tool pasted on the website! That aside, it’s a good reminder to us to write more clear, accessible, and understandable copy when we write for a general audience.

Posted in Infographics

How To Handle Comments On Social Media [Infographic]

Salesforce do super infographics – here’s one on handling different types of comments on social media. 

First up, a flow-chart for dealing with positive, negative or neutral comments.

download (1).png

Source: Jeff Bullas

Positive and neutral comments are easily dealt with, but negative comments require a considered approach. If it’s a genuine complaint, acknowledge the complaint, but move it to private communication as quickly as possible.

Trolls are more challenging.  Received wisdom is don’t feed the trolls. Ignore them, but do not attract their attention further by deleting their comment – this only fuels their fire. However, it’s perfectly ok to remove offensive or spam comments, and comments with legal or criminal implications  should be reported to  the relevant authorities.

Finally, some general advice. You should  always personalise your interactions online. Reach out to and engage with your followers regularly.

download (2).png


 5 Ways to use Direct Messages for Better Customer Service and Engagement on Twitter