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This Thursday marks the inaugural Social Health 2010 event, the day before the infamous South-By-Southwest Interactive conference.

Organizers of the event, Shwen Gwee and Dana Lewis, have done a great job bringing together the best of the best to discuss social media in the healthcare industry. The keynote address will be presented by Doug Ulman, CEO of Livestrong. Other confirmed speakers of SXSH include Johnson & Johnson’s Marc Monseau, MD Anderson’s Jenn Texada, Better Health’s Val Jones, Ignite’s Fabio Gratton, David Hale and none other than WCG’s own Bob Pearson and Paul Dyer.

According to their site, SXSH will be a day-long international social health un-conference encompassing all aspects of healthcare. The event will have structured, previously announced presentations in the style of a TED conference, as well as an “un-conference” portion — similar to PodCamp or HealthCamp — where topics are decided by the participants. If you’d like to attend, registration is required and can be found here. A TPS application developed by Humana’s Greg Matthews and team is a great tool to track SXSH buzz prior to the conference and can be found here. There is sure to be plenty of conversation to follow on Twitter via the hashtag, #SXSH along with the conference Twitter handle, @SXSH.

Social Health 2010 will be a great introduction to conference week of South-By-Southwest. Since its addition to the SXSW Music Festival in 1994, the Interactive piece is now bringing approximately 12,000 techiest of the tech nerds into Austin, a town welcoming these entrepreneurs and companies with open arms.

Some must attend panels and events at SXSW Interactive include:
Opening Remarks: Privacy & Publicity with Dana Boyd
The Tweet House
Windows Phone TechSet Party
• Microsoft BizSpark and Volusion present TECH cocktail SXSW: Johnny Cash Blackout Sunday
PBS and Friends with ReadWriteWeb
Mashable: Mashbash 2010
Evan Williams Keynote
Rackspace Revolution
SXSW Interactive Closing Party / Hosted By Media Temple

While you are in Austin for the conference festivities, be sure and get the full Austin flavor by visiting the local sites. If the weather permits, be sure and spend an afternoon at Zilker Park or take a walk around Town Lake. Check out the The University of Texas and you’ll see why it continues to be a tourist attraction. Start by taking a stroll down Guadalupe and check out what Austinites refer to as “the drag” and stop by the UT Co-op to get some burnt orange apparel and Texas-themed souvenirs. When you get hungry, BBQ is the way to go – The Saltlick if you have time for a drive through the Texas hill country, or Iron Works and Stubb’s are both located downtown close to the convention center. Antone’s, the first club on 6th street, helped launch the careers of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Bob Schneider. During SXSWi, they will have performances by Jimmie Vaughan, Gary Clark, Jr. and Pinetop Perkins. And last but not least, a visit to Allen’s Boots on South Congress is a must!

Social Media is fairly well established as the headliner of the online world.  Even its predecessor, the search engine, has ceded to social media by positioning sites like YouTube, Wikipedia, Flickr, blogs and user forums at the top of search results, and building in preferential treatment for websites that are updated often.

A quick look at the list of Alexa’s top websites in the U.S (full list below) confirms that 11 of the top 20 websites are hardcore social media sites.  Click through the rest and you will find social media functionality on all of them.

This realization, coupled with the announcement earlier this year that if Facebook was a country, it would be fourth largest country in the world, and similar stats from other top social media sites (the average online video viewer watches over 6 hours of online video per month), confirms that social media is indeed the mothership of your customer’s online experience.

So why do companies insist on giving the social media team their own lunch table?  We’re nice people – really.  In fact, our shining personalities are critical success factors in representing your brand in social media.  So why can’t we play with others?  Your .com team, e-commerce folks, CRM manager, search and digital agencies, there are plenty of people who would find our jokes funny.

And why stop there?  Successful social media campaigns do not exist in a vacuum.  They are integrated to the Nth degree.  They are cross-linked from your homepage, integrated into the email design of your loyalty program, noted in the boiler plate on your press releases, displayed as hyperlinks on your TV spots, painted on the side of your trucks, incorporated into your executives’ speeches, printed on your print collateral or packaging, and more.  Social media is now the most ubiquitous and most volatile element of your brand.

In social media, your customers are shaping what your brand means every single day.  Often times, you can help shape that conversation by giving them assets and direction.  So why is your social media team playing with their own set of blocks while the rest of your organization marches to the same beat?  In few other places is consistency and coordination so important.

Below are the three reasons why most companies keep their social media team in a vacuum and what you should do about them:

1. We don’t understand social media so we don’t think it’s related to anything else we do.

a.    Get educated. Lean on your social media team to teach the rest of your organization and make the learning hands-on and mandatory.

2. Social media is the wild west and our social media team is a bunch of renegade cowboys.

a.    Fire them.  Social media is an important and serious marketing discipline.  If you wouldn’t hire the professionals managing your social media as Communications professionals, don’t hire them for social media.

3. Social media is too hot right now. Everyone wants a piece of the pie and I don’t want to step on any toes.

a.    Man up.  It’s time to decide who is going to be in charge of social media. Is it PR? Marketing? Digital agency?  E-Commerce?  A Social Media Expert? (please don’t).  Decide who is running the show and then force all the other players into the same room and make the decision clear.  Now we can all move forward with less jockeying for dollars and more discussions about how to make things a success.

Social media is too important to your brand and your customers to allow it to be derailed by any of these things.  Your social media work needs to be integrated into everything else you do.  Just as brand guidelines penetrate every level of your organization, so too should social media.  Inconsistency here is often worse than not showing up at all.

Paul Dyer

Alexa.com Top 20 Sites in the U.S.

  1. Google
  2. Yahoo!
  3. Facebook
  4. YouTube
  5. Myspace
  6. Wikipedia
  7. Windows Live
  8. Blogger.com
  9. Craigslist.org
  10. eBay
  11. Microsoft Network (MSN)
  12. Amazon.com
  13. Twitter
  14. AOL
  15. Go
  16. ESPN Sportszone
  17. CNN – Cable News Network
  18. Bing
  19. WordPress.com
  20. Flickr

Of all of the dustups that the great Health Reform Debate 2009 has precipitated, none is as significant — or as under-appreciated — as the war of words between the American Medical Association and Sermo, the physician-only social network. Wherever the policy debates on the specifics of a health reform bill fall out, we’ll still have much the same system that we have now, assuming the bill passes. Yes, more people may be insured. Yes, we may have an additional government plan. And yes, there will be changes around the edges. But we won’t see the $2.4 trillion-a-year health care business reshaped beyond recognition.
What we will see, however, is a sea change in how doctors are organizing. And this is likely to lead to profound changes in everything from how doctors practice medicine to how physicians operate as public policy advocates.

Let me back up. Earlier this summer, the AMA and Sermo ended a two-year partnership intended to allow the AMA to plug into Sermo’s logged-in physicians. Then the broadsides began: Sermo’s founder, in early July, posted a blog entry that called the AMA “The Biggest Risk to US Physicians.” Over the next three weeks, the social social network put out three separate releases that said that an overwhelming number of Sermo physicians rejected the AMA’s stance on health reform and opposed the current versions of the bills under consideration, noting that three of four Sermo members were not members of the AMA and that nine in 10 didn’t think that the AMA reflected their opinion of medicine.

It is likely true that the AMA’s membership is larger than Sermo’s, and there is no question that the AMA remains the official (and powerful) voice of the physician lobby. But Sermo’s explosive growth and the site’s demographic — younger, Internet-savvy docs — means that the tables will soon be turned and that what the community on Sermo thinks may represent the collective stance of the nation’s doctors. And we probably won’t have to wait long for this to happen.

Of course, having an influential group of wired doctors, unmoored from any formal bureaucracy is only the first step. It won’t be long before online patient communities, too, become more powerful than the old-school advocacy groups that have long spoken for patients. Just take patientslikeme.com, where the future has already arrived in the form of hundreds of highly involved patients swapping detailed information about their disease and treatment.

These new groups don’t mean that traditional patient- or professional-centered associations will cease to exist. But, increasingly, they will have to co-exist with raucous, minimally organized groups of incredible informed individuals. And in a new world in which connections are king and every opinion can be broadcast, this is excellent news. The more voices we can hear, the better.