About a year ago, I had the pleasure of “e-meeting” fellow blogger Lee Aase, author of Social Media University Global (SMUG). You may have noticed that I frequently link to Lee and for good reason – there’s a wealth of social media knowledge residing at SMUG. A fierce winter storm prevented our in-person meeting last year but Lee recently informed me that he’ll be part of the upcoming BlogWell conference in Chicago next month that I’m hoping to attend.
I apologize for this post breaking the rules on the “Snippets” aspect of this blog, but I promise there’s some great insight below as part of my People You Should Know series.
*NOTE: I’m taking a break for the holidays this week and will return to posting on Dec. 29. Have safe and happy holidays everyone!
You’re the Chancellor of an online university called SMUG. For someone new to your site, give us the elevator pitch on what SMUG is all about.
LA: SMUG is a free online institution of higher learning for lifelong learners. Even if you know nothing about social media, SMUG gives you a step-by-step approach to gaining hands-on familiarity with the tools.
Most of all, SMUG is light-hearted and fun. We’re completely pretentious, in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way. We even have a Latin motto: Suus Non Ut Difficile, which translated is: “It’s not that hard.” And by getting hands-on experience, you’ll see how you can apply these tools to your work. They won’t be mysterious anymore.
What’s your advice for someone that asks, “Lee, I’ve heard a lot about social media. How do I get started?”
LA: Just dive in and get some hands-on experience. Become a SMUGgle, which is what we call members of our student body. That name was suggested by Jim Streed (a SMUGgle from Green Bay), with apologies to J.K. Rowling. But as I thought about it, it’s entirely appropriate. In the Harry Potter books, “muggles” are ordinary mortals who possess no magical powers. A SMUGgle also is an ordinary mortal, but one who wants to learn how to do magical things through social media tools.
Lots of people are understandably nervous about recommending social media programs for their companies or clients, particularly if they haven’t had first-hand experience with the tools. That’s why it’s so important to experiment on a personal level, getting a Facebook profile, setting up your own blog, learning how to do your own podcast, and uploading some videos to your own personal YouTube channel. Then you’ll have complete confidence to recommend social media strategies for your company or clients, and you’ll know how to get them implemented quickly.
You’re also the Manager for Syndications and Social Media at Mayo Clinic. Which social media tool have you made the most use of in 2008 with your work at Mayo and how has it impacted the organization?
LA: The tools we’ve used the most have been blogs. We have a podcast blog and a news blog, as well as some others, and an exciting one we plan to launch in January. The news blog lets us share pre-embargo information (including audio and video files) through a password-protected post, and then when the embargo lifts we make those same resources available to the general public, to patients and their families. And of course you know I love the Flip video camera, which is what we use to capture the video for our blogs and our Mayo Clinic YouTube channel.
Our physicians and researchers like the idea that we can post extended video and audio files (I coined the term “sound meals” as opposed to “sound bites”) in which they discuss their studies and stories in greater detail than they can in the mainstream media. For people who don’t want to have their research taken out of context, the News Blog lets them share that context with the world. For journalists, these resources can be incorporated into their online stories, and we’ve even had audio make the national radio networks. At minimum, they enable journalists to be more informed before they conduct their interviews (and in some cases they don’t even need to do an interview.)
For patients and their families, these in-depth resources are a treasure. Because we don’t have to reach a mass audience, and because the Flip enables us to produce content economically, we can even cover relatively obscure conditions, like intraneural ganglion cysts. If you had one of those cysts, wouldn’t you want to hear Dr. Spinner discuss them for eight minutes?
In what ways do you anticipate the Social Web changing in ’09?
LA: I’m less of a crystal-ball guy, and more of a down-to-earth user of technologies. My niche is to understand what the tools can do, and then to see how they can be practically applied to meet business objectives.
I expect we will see more ways of connecting and sharing information across various social platforms. I’m not sure whether that will be through Facebook Connect or OpenID or services like FriendFeed, but I see the trend moving in that direction, toward each person having a single, unified online presence.
Mainly, I’d recommend that communication and marketing professionals focus on innovative ways to use the platforms that are achieving critical mass, and going where the people already are: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and probably LinkedIn. You also should figure out how blog software (I love WordPress) can be used to publish your own site. You don’t need to be the first person to adopt the coolest new tool someone develops in ’09. Because of the nature of the Social Web and network effects, if you’re among the earliest adopters of a new platform you won’t get much leverage from your efforts. The real benefits come when platforms have lots of users.
If you need to get people to join a new service, and then your page or group within that service, it’s a lot more complicated. But if they already have a Facebook profile or a YouTube channel, they can become your friends with a single click. That’s why I would recommend focus on the sites that have traction (as well as your own blogs), while just keeping an eye on the others.
But you may want to set up accounts for your company or clients on the new sites, just to prevent others from brand-jacking you.
Twitter – Overly hyped or a highly recommended addition to anyone’s social media toolbox?
LA: I live in Austin, Minn., the home of Hormel, and we’re just a few blocks from the SPAM museum (the canned meat, not the email version.) On I-90 there just outside of town there is a billboard advertising the museum that says: “Believe the Hype.”
I’d say the same about Twitter. It’s a solid tool. I discover lots of interesting information each day from the tweets of people I follow. I’m way behind on my RSS feeds, but the value of a tweet is that someone who has similar interests (the reason I follow) has pointed out a link that might be worth checking.
Our Twitter curriculum at SMUG is our least developed category. That’s going to be changing over the next month or so. Twitter is for real.