1. Butcher, Lola

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The social media team at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute includes a social media analyst, a social media producer-and dozens who communicate on behalf of Dana-Farber through various channels. Some do it as part of their official job; others-including oncologists who live-tweet conferences and support patients via social media-do it to be part of important conversations.


The Dana-Farber social media engagement officer oversees the program.


"The social media engagement officer pulls it all together and does a lot of the Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Vine, Instagram, and so forth," Caren Cummings, Dana-Farber's Director of Interactive Communications, explained in an interview.


The use of social media has grown steadily as Dana-Farber uses it to build brand awareness and position itself as a leader in oncology conversations.

CAREN CUMMINGS. CARE... - Click to enlarge in new windowCAREN CUMMINGS. CAREN CUMMINGS, Dana-Farber's Director of Interactive Communications

"The direction of the world is to get information via social, so we just have to be there," she said. "We want to be engaged, and we want to get the right information out to the right people, so we find it really important to put staffing behind this."


Cummings' goal is to stay on top of emerging platforms that give Dana-Farber a new way to engage with individuals.


"Every week something new is coming out. I'm doing an internal lunch-and-learn every time we hear about a new social tool so we can find out what it is and what it does. We have done a few Meerkat video webcasts and we are about to try Periscope to see which we like better."


Why do you use so many social media channels? How do you decide what is worth your time and effort?

Caren Cummings: "We've spent a lot of time trying to figure where the audience matches the toolset. For example, we find that many of our physicians are moving toward Twitter, so to be a voice in the Twitter oncology arena is very important for us. We have an initiative to train physicians in using Twitter and encourage them to tweet at conferences and participate in Twitter chats.


"Physicians are not on Facebook so much in a professional way, but most of our patients and families are on Facebook as well as the more visual arenas like Instagram. And Google+ is a connection to the Google empire, period. If you have a Google+ account, they give you a larger branding area in the Google organic searches, and they bring up your + page, so we have a little more control over our presence in Google when we maintain our + page."


How does a cancer center use Pinterest and Instagram?

"We have a lot of boards on Pinterest, and one that is really popular is Healthy Foods and Recipes. We have an engaged nutritional service that helps people through the cancer journey and we have a free nutrition app that lets you ask the nutritionist a question. You can search by symptom so you can see what foods are best for symptom management. We also have a lot of recipes on our board, which are a big hit on Pinterest, because its demographic is mostly women.


"We use Instagram to show what's going on at Dana-Farber. If there's a concert in the lobby, we'll Instagram it. We also have a photo of the week. We have a great photographer on staff who takes a photo of something unique here, and we put the best one of the week on Instagram. When Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies was shown on PBS, we promoted it by putting up a picture of our founder, Sidney Farber, with one of the first patients he treated. Instagram reaches a broader audience-lots of young people-and it's an engaged group."


With so many Dana-Farber social media voices, how do you control what is being said?

"When we first started out in social media, like all hospitals we worried about the messaging and who was controlling it, so we created guidelines-which say that if you're representing Dana-Farber in any way, what you say is a reflection of us. Then we slowly moved into a space where we feel much more comfortable training people to be our voice-and are more comfortable with what they say in social.


"For example, we have our Young Adult Program (@DanaFarberYAP), which provides emotional support services to people under 40 who are going through cancer. Members connect through a Facebook community ( and we trust that they know what they should and shouldn't be doing. We have a point person on our staff who helps them, but they manage their own community.


"There is also a Dana-Farber physician who works with young adults who is also very engaged in that community. They know how they should speak. So we feel that our brand can be spread in a much more positive way if we lighten up and let our voice be spread by people who really appreciate us and know what Dana-Farber is all about."


What are you doing with Meerkat and Periscope?

"Meerkat is livestreaming video. You just hold your phone up and video whatever is going on. It doesn't save the video to post on YouTube, though, so you can't re-watch. You just tweet out to your followers that you are livestreaming something, and they click on the link and then they see whatever you are seeing in real-time. We used it at a Young Adult conference recently and when a Patriots football player was speaking to the group, we livestreamed him.


"Meerkat initially was attached to Twitter, but Twitter has now developed its own platform via Periscope. So we are trying them both out to see what we like best. It's an interesting technology and we are trying to figure out how best to use it."


The social world is so crowded. How do you attract followers to your various channels?

"One of the cool things that we are doing now with Twitter chats and webcasts and Google+ hangouts is partnering with advocacy groups. For example, if we are doing something on lymphoma, we partner with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. This is good for promotion because the partner organization tells all of its members.


"For our Google+ hangouts, we recruit patients-about five patients who are really engaged-and a physician specialist who serves as moderator. Everybody has a camera at their desktop, so they engage in a conversation with our specialist. The moderator asks questions, and you can see the patients who respond. And people who are watching can type in a question for anybody in the group."


Continuing Series

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