It is a couple of weeks since our last set of online community examples, with trips to the Marketing 2.0 Conference in Paris and Web Mission 09 in San Francisco taking up much of our time and space on the blog. But we’re returning today with a great set of examples from the healthcare industry.
Online communities in healthcare
On one level, healthcare would seem to be an ideal area where online communities can add real value to professionals, patients, families and carers, friends and others. We’ve written before about how user-generated medical content can add value to people’s lives, and why this online space is a great place for people to be sharing their experiences and stories and also finding and connecting with others in a similar situation to them. Online communities for healthcare can provide real insight and real support as the examples below show.
Mayo Clinic Blogs and Podcasts
There are a number of examples of healthcare providers making good use of social media and online communities, and Mayo Clinic are one of the most notable of these. They describe themselves as the largest not-for-profit practice in the world and treat about half a million people in the US each year. Their use of social media is a great case study of how you can use a number of simple tools to engage your stakeholders and how providing a range of ways to engage you can reach different people. At FreshNetworks we believe that sometimes the best online communities can be quite simple, but effective, and this is the case with Mayo.
There are three main parts of the Mayo Clinic strategy and together they are starting to build an online community of people with a shared interest in the organisation, and in the topics they cover. On their own website they host a blog and a series of video and audio podcasts. Together, these serve both as a way of them communicating internal developments and changes but also their opinion and expertise. Alongside this they run a YouTube channel where you can see expert videos and also videos that give you a real insight into the organisation, their clinics and the people who work for them.
The best online communities are often simple, providing a way to engage people around themes, topics and content that is relevant to them and you. For somebody like Mayo Clinic, this engagement is around their knowledge and expertise as healthcare providers. They also, through their blogs, videos and podcasts open their organisation to outsiders – showing you inside their buildings, putting forward their own experts and putting a human face and interaction on a large organisation. For healthcare organisation this kind of interaction makes all the difference – they’re about social interactions and real stories, online communities help them to show this.
AIDSPortal is a knowledge-sharing online community sponsored primarily by the UK’s Department for International Development and aimed at people who are working as part of the response to the global AIDS epidemic. The site provides professional and peer-to-peer networking and an online community where they can share experiences, knowledge and support each other with answers to questions and problems. Part of its purpose is, undoubtedly, to open up policy making and the UK governement sponsorship is a sign of this, but as a service to those working in this area it is a powerful tool.
Whilst the Mayo Clinic case study was about engaging around their expertise and knowledge, AIDSPortal is about 4,500 professionals with knowledge, experience and expertise connecting with each other. They can share knowledge and articles, experiences, blog posts and answers to questions. But one of the strongest elements of this site is how it is organised.
Any online community is only as useful as the way that users can find and AIDSPortal is particularly strong in the way it organises this, allowing you to view data by region and country or by topic area. You let people dive into the content in a way that makes sense for them and organise their own content so that it fits with this. This is a large part of the battle of getting an online community launched and is an important aspect to work out during the pre-launch strategy stage.
CFVoice is an online community for people with Cystic Fibrosis, built and managed by Novartis, a pharmaceutical company. Launched in March 2008, the site has a clear focus on children, teens and young adults and on their families and carers. The site is indeed split into separate areas for each of these user-types, with a different mix of content, activities and games that each of them can do.
This online community is a great example of engaging different people in different ways – using interactive games as a way of younger audiences sharing their information, videos and personal stories for teens and the younger adults and discussion boards and forums for parents and carers. A different way for different members to use and gain benefit from the online community.
And for these members, the benefits are clear. They get to meet and share experiences and stories with people like them, people facing the same challenges and issues and people with similar concerns. And they can do this even if they don’t know anybody in that situation or aren’t able to reach them locally. For Novartis the benefits are also clear. Through the stories, questions, discussions and contributions they are able to get a real granularity of insight into the lives of people with Cystic Fibrosis, and the lives of their carers. This kind of insight has traditionally been difficult for them to obtain and is an area they would probably not have had the same level of understanding about. So benefits on both sides and a clear example of how to use an online community to engage different member-types.
See all our Online Community Examples
Some more reading
- Mayo Clinic launches new culture blog (tissuepathology.typepad.com)
- Social media experience at Mayo Clinic (fastforwardblog.com)
- Engaging Healthcare Consumers using Social Media Tools (thielst.typepad.com)
- Sharing Mayo Clinic Goes to Facebook and other Social Networks (ducknetweb.blogspot.com)