What takes longer, teaching a doctor to tweet or sticking a microphone in their face and asking a question? I have been thinking a lot about efficiency in the way we interact with media. Techy types often have the same thoughts about data storage - compression and decompression. What is the most efficient way to record a file to a disk and then read it back? It is not a stretch to think about our relationship with media in the same way. As an experiment, what is the first thing that comes to mind when you see this image?

600px-Blank_stop_sign_octagon.svg

How long does it take to register "STOP" in your mind? Probably longer even than it takes to put your foot on the brake. Call it Pavlovian, but the truth is that our brains are wired to process visual stimulus very quickly. The "decompression" of the meaning of a red octagon is highly efficient.It takes very little effort for us to decode the message behind the sign.

Now examine a sonnet from Shakespeare:

46pageThere are two challenges to texts as ethereally magical as those from Shakespeare. The first is the creation of the written words. To take a simple phrase - 'I cannot figure out if it's my heart or eyes that love you more' and transform it into:

Mine eye and heart are at a mortal war
How to divide the conquest of thy sight

requires a substantial amount of intellect. The effort required to "compress" the emotional sentiment associated with the text is staggering. It is probably our appreciation for that effort that causes us to always conjure mental images of poets gazing into the distance, quill in hand, always thinking more than writing. It is not just poets that have the challenge. Writing is simply hard work. Ask any good editor . To take an idea and translate it into text that, hopefully, the majority of your audience can understand is not a simple thing. Your audience, in turn, has the job of decompressing what you have written and recompiling it into a cohesive thought. Its a lot more complicated that drawing a stop sign to write about something as complex as love.

Video has emerged as pretty comfortable middle ground in the compression/decompression challenge. From a decompression standpoint, videos require fairly low "processing power". That explains why so many of us are glued to the TV every night. The entertainment value is high compared to the effort we have to put into it decoding it. Practically speaking, the "how two" video has a lot of advantages over a text book. Julia Child understood this very well. Showing someone how to truss a chicken is easier on both parties than writing about about it. To truss a chicken you first tuck the wing tips into and under the wings themselves. Then you have a complicated procedure of wrapping one long string around the bird in a way that both closes it up and forms the perfect roasting shape. On second though, let the folks at HowCast show you how...

Video, as it turns out, is pretty efficient in both compression and decompression as a means of interacting with media. It is worth noting that audio, as in the spoken word, also fits nicely into this niche. Both require less effort than text to create and less effort for an audience to decode.

In a healthcare setting, one of the biggest challenges to the adoption of social media is time. It is fairly easy to convince people they have something worthwhile to talk about. It is another thing to get them to take the time to do it. Doctors, executives, department heads, etc all have the same excuse "who has time to blog or tweet?" I wonder if what they mean is 'I don't want to have to write a term paper every week!'. But what about 30 second audio blip, or 2 minute video? How hard is it to stop a doctor in a hallway, stick a camera in their face and ask for three health tips? OK, maybe it feels funny to do it, but the effort required to capture that moment is pretty low. From an audience standpoint, no one has to read a bombastic (ahh humm, you are still right this, right?) post about health tips; you get the "how to" video and nothing else.

With that in mind, I present a Phil Baumann styled list of 10 things you can try for easily compressed and decompressed social media posts (in no particular order)

  1. Sign up for AudioBoo - AudioBoo is a site that allows you to record (via computer or smartphone) an audio clip and instantly post to many social media sites.
  2. "Three Words" campaign - every day, stop someone in the hall and record them giving their name, job and 3 words that, to them, represent the organization. Do themes, like heart month, and nursing week... Use audiboo, an iphone, a flip camera...
  3. Doc on the spot - stop a doctor, record a 30 second health tip. Make sure the doctor mentions their specialty and how to follow up for more info. "Hi, I'm Doctor Jones with a quick tip for sleeping better.... want to know more, tweet us your questions..."
  4. Roving reporters - Distribute inexpensive flip video cameras everywhere. They are inexpensive. Send them around the hospital and ask people to be "roving reporters" - every week, send out a theme or question and ask for people to interview co-workers. Compile the videos and post online
  5. Physician updates - Imagine a family member in surgery. Have the doctor record updates as audio clips that can be shared with family members who are not in the waiting room.
  6. CEO minute - a daily update from the CEO on the most important things on his desk that day. It is a glimpse into his world (and ultimately what is important for the organization). It does not take the CEO more than a minute to record, and the staff more than a minute to view. He or she can even produce it from his phone on the way to work.
  7. Show the way - record a time-compressed video of how to drive from major intersections to medical practices.
  8. Share the health - allow interested patients to record doctor advice during appointments including advantages and disadvantages of treatment options. Remember that your patients have a network too, help them help their friends (and it doesn't hurt your image either)
  9. Employee recognitions - record spontaneous employee recognitions. Have someone to recognize? Take a video camera, bundle of balloons and their boss along to that person's work area. Record the recognition and share it - tag them on appropriate networks so their friends and family see how important they are to their employer.
  10. Photo of the day - ask employees and fans/friends to contribute to a flickr pool. Re-broadcast one photo a day. Again, remember themes and important weeks.

Have some more suggestions? Post them in the comments!