Tweeter Opens Up Kidney Transplants

Over at Business 2 Community, Felicia Savage wrote a compelling piece about Indiana University Health’s decision to live tweet a kidney transplant and what it taught her about marketing. Why would anyone do that? According the people at IU, it was fairly simple—they wanted to educate people about the process, thereby dispelling their fears, and get people to visit their kidney donation page and contribute money to research. It worked in a big way. Many organizations that I have been around, however, would never do this. There are two overriding reasons. First, though all are enamored of the results that IU got (off the charts), they often overlook is the work that goes on behind the scenes to make something like this happen. It wasn’t a spur of the moment decision, to be sure. Savage published the 23 pieces of red tape that had to be severed over a nine-day period to make the live tweeting show a reality. Needless to say, this was a dedicated effort on the part of an organization with a singular goal. As my colleague Paul Welty notes in his piece today on marketing automation tools, many marketing outfits get carried away with what’s possible without giving due consideration to how much of it can actually be accomplished. In an effort to step up results, they step up the technology in hopes that more will equal more—donations, sales, retweets, leads, etc. But this isn’t the case. In fact, more often equals less in marketing. But back to the folks at IU. These people are focused. Potentially, all of us are potential “clients.” The marketing team could have said, “let’s go and market to everyone in the state of Indiana,” an approach that we’ve all heard. But marketing to everyone doesn’t work. The Twitter event is focused—tech savvy people. The outcomes were clear—make the process transparent to alleviate people’s fears and raise their interests. Think what they could have done. A series of lectures for doctors saying it’s ok. Patient stories (which they use heavily) saying it’s ok. All good, all worthwhile. But ultimately, not enough to bring people in the door to be educated. IU decided to leverage mass media to open the doors. The second reason that organizations too wouldn’t do what IU did is that they are trying to control a medium that by its very nature wants to be untamed. Social media is ultimately about making life transparent. We saw this during the uprisings in Egypt when social media live-cast the revolution, and we are seeing it in Syria, where the only news getting out of that regime is coming from those affected via their social accounts. So why do we work so hard to control the message? IU made the decision to let social media inside its most sacred doors, the operating room. Yes—there are risks. The operation could have gone bad. There are no sure things in surgery. But IU trusted its professionals, who are well versed in what they are doing. They are not afraid to back up their talk about being a world-leader in their field. The question many marketers face is, is our organization ready to open itself to the world. There is nothing easy about marketing; it only looks easy when people do it well. And that’s the case with IU. It was done well. Others need to keep in mind why it worked.
  • It was well thought out and planned—the university didn’t try to do 100 different campaigns, they did one social media campaign extremely well.
  • It unleashed social media—rather than trying to control social media, IU unleashed its power by letting it do what it was meant to do. Take us inside to a place that most of us will never see.
  • It was prepared to show the world their experts, and trust them to do what they do well—not all companies are in that position, but if you are, it’s a powerful message to show the world.