Blog ROI: It’s About Value, Stupid!

Simple question: why would a hospital have a blog? Or use Twitter? Or maybe even FriendFeed? Simple answer: value.

A hospital aught to be one of the most valued kinds of facilities in our communities. Every effort aught to be encouraged for such organizations to optimally utilize those resources which can improve the delivery of care, expand an organization’s presence, and even generate positive returns from the investments in those resources.

But not every organization blogs. Not every one needs to. Why? Because the theme of returns and cost efficiency have been propounded so heavily into our heads that we overlook the obvious. We need to kick ourselves and say: It’s about value, stupid.

Hats off to ROI Harper and Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)

Before addressing the specifics of hosptial blogging we aught to dip into some accouting theory, finance and arithmetic.

Organizations benefit greatly anytime they can create interactive means for people to find, experience and share value. A company’s Return on Invesment (ROI) is a simple quantitative method to express the expected gain from a deployed asset. But often, analysts focus so much on the number that they forget the value that drives it from the start.

Investing in social media is an investment in an intangible asset. Intangible assets generate both tangible and intangible losses and/or returns. Tangible assets include hospital beds, ventilators, infusion pumps, buildings, operating rooms, etc. Accounting theory offers ingenious methods for quantifying these assets in order to provide valuable information to investors and other stakeholders to make the soundest decisions about their resources.

Intangible assets include competent nursing care, physician experience, goodwill, communication styles, etc. They also include blogs and other social media that are currently evolving. Accounting theory has yet to work out how to measure a blog’s asset valuation (it could use a market costing methodology perhaps).

But the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) hasn’t yet seemed to issue a promulgation on the matter. If you’re a CEO, CFO, CIO or CAO of a publicly traded company maybe you can get a conversation going with the SEC or FASB (who knows, you might be able to get some tax deduction rules going: hint, hint).

Until someone establishes a standard measure of Blog ROI, I think it’s helpful to focus our lens on a fundamental question:

What information is needed to decide whether a blog is worth its cost?

There’s probably a complicated anwer to that question, one which depends on the economics of your particular organization. In its place, I’d like to offer up three simple intution pumps:

  1. Value drives ROI
  2. Price is a function of Value
  3. Value-Multiplied is replacing Value-Added


Value Drives ROI

ROI is just a noun. A number. A goal. It’s important.

Value is a verb. A movement. An infection. It’s essential.

If you want to generate positive ROI, you will have to create the setting through which customers (who these days aught to be called citizens) feel the value they seek (consciously or unconsciously). You will not only have to be the creator of value, you will also have to provide the means through which citizens can express their passion for the value they perceive.

So if you’re not able to derive an equation that gets you to ROI, you’re still not in the dark. If you’re trying to decide about developing a blog for your organization, you can just follow one word: value. What value would your blog offer to the people who read or join? Could you list out the (hypothetical) values? I think you could: around a conference table or in your armchair.

Price is a Function of Value
If your service isn’t valued there is no price strategy that will keep your going concern, well, going on. Price is simply a numerical expression of value. It’s either determined by monopolistic Short Snouts, oligopolies, government regulation, or the Long Tail of perfectly competitive market forces.

Be the Genhis Kahn of social value.

Mongol Lego-Archer

Photo: Dunchaser’s Photostream

Your strike-price is a derivative of the value people perceive. So strike value right into the hearts of your target. Be the Genghis Kahn of social value. I say Genghis Kahn because his small horde of lithe soldiers wearing silk shirts conquered more land mass while ridding on tiny horses than any other force in history. His enemies wore thick, heavy, metallic armor and everything they did was big. Why did his strategy and tactics work? Because in silk, there’s value. (Lesson: you’re going to get wounded, so make it easy to pull out the arrows.)

Value-Multiplied is Replacing Value-Added
It’s no longer good enough to “add value”. You’re sinking down the Long Tail. You might be in denial about this, but it’s true. Technology will own you (sorry, we’ve passed the singularity). The value you create and which your customers/citizens perceive has to be multiplied, not simply “added”.

And that’s where intelligent applications of social media come into play. Can you think of a better way to multiply the shared values of your going concern? Word-of-Mouth (WOM) was always king. But know the kingdom of WOM has come. Know thy king. He’s a little different this time around. He’s wearing new clothing: a crown of truth, a cape of respect and a staff of democracy. In fact: he’s you!

You cannot lie in the New Kingdom of WOM without being cast out. This is good news: you can now multiply your value with nobility. You can now impress your citizens with your infectious passion.

Value-Multiplication. That’s the new math you need to learn. And learn well.


Family Values are Social Values

There is an endless list of things people value in general. Here are some activities that I think most people value greatly:

  1. Kvetching
  2. Praising
  3. Sharing
  4. Bragging
  5. Linking
  6. Being flattered
  7. Being Right
  8. Never Being Wrong or Hurt (unless it’s a Dominatrix service)
  9. Loving
  10. Being Loved
  11. Inputing
  12. Suggesting
  13. Being Listened to
  14. Commenting
  15. Creating
  16. Meeting Others
  17. Learning
  18. Getting Great Free Stuff
  19. Taking Action
  20. Being Offered Simple, Easy Choices
  21. Hearing “Thank You” (even when they mess up)

These are all ingredients to successful blogging. Successful relationships. Successful business. Succesfful Successful anything, really. You don’t need Excel for the formulaic recipe. But you can cook. Be creative, use your senses, surprise yourself and become a remarkable presence in the kitchen of your marketplace.

Remarkable Opportunity Ingenuity (ROI)

Let’s redefine ROI. Let’s give ourselves permission to take a few steps back from the professorial whiteboard, put down the calculators and take a look at where we are along the Long Tail. If you don’t know where you are or what value your blog will create, how will you ever hope to properly calculate the returns on your investment? Would it even matter?

“There are some things that count that can’t be counted. And some things that can be counted that don’t count.”

John C. Bogle’s paraphrase of an old proverb

You’ve read Seth’s blog (I hope!). So you already know what to do. You know the answer: be remarkable (don’t just feign it). Be remarkable in your decision about whether to blog or not. It’s not as easy as it looks. It’s hard. It’s costly. Which means it can be numerical and maybe calculable. But do the calculations AFTER you do the valuations. If you lay down the tracks for your customers’ value-train then ROI will come chugging along.

Some Rationales/Reasons for Hospital Blogging

Let’s return to hospital blogging, since it seems to be one of the most challenging. There are considerations in the healthcare industry that may not exist in others, including but not limited to:

  1. Patient Privacy
  2. Empolyee Privacy
  3. Safety
  4. Efficacy
  5. The Provision of Authoritative Content

There are of course other considerations. But they are manageble Dips. They’re not dead-ends (although I think many hosptial cultures automatically conclude that these are the dead-ends that deceptively justify the easy choice: not to blog at all).

So what are some of the rationales for crafting a remarkable hospital blog? Here are some suggestions (I use the word citizen in place of patient, family member and general public because it’s the only word that makes sense in a remarkable democracy):

  1. Citizen Complaints (These Should be Prominent!!!)
  2. Citizen feedback and praise
  3. Services updates (a new Operating Room or Surgical Procedure)
  4. Introduction of New Staff
  5. Nursing Notes (I Know a Bit Nightingalish)
  6. Up-to-Date Content on Disease Processes and Management
  7. Community News
  8. Pledge Drive Announcements
  9. Guest Posts from Prominent Doctors, Nurses & Other Healthcare Professionals
  10. Staff Recruitment (Show Off What a Remarkable Facility You Have – Be The Zappos of Healthcare!)

The same could be (partially) true for services like Twitter or FriendFeed. Here are some values to be shared through those media:

  1. Tweeting facilities about emergent crises
  2. Using Twitter for staffing needs
  3. Using FriendFeed to keep a stream of blog posts and other information about your facility for the whole world to see (also: if Google purchases FriendFeed, wouldn’t you want to be listed on their prime SERPs?)
  4. Using Twitter or FriendFeed as an educational tool for nursing and medical students (let them follow the best in the business)

Conclusion: Value Multiplied by Infectious Interaction Equals Gross Blog ROI

If all of this is new and bewildering to you, perhaps you aught to focus your investing efforts on a blog. For one, blogging develops the kinds of skills needed for effective social media marketing. Also, it offers a simple interface with your citizens.

Being passionate about your hospital and the services it provides is important. But: that passion must always be subordinated to something even more important. Be passionate about infusing your citizens with the infectious vectors of value that they can spread through the community.

A blog is one component of the passion-pump. Additional social media tools offer more options, which I will talk about soon (Twitter & FriendFeed). For now, you can follow me on Twitter or subscribe to my feed and we can continue the discussion. And feel free to (respectfully) obliterate my arguments here. Quality of life is at hand here.

Whatever your background, a blog is a good start to a healthier hospital. Then again, you could just let someone else do all the talking for you while you keep handing cash over to lawyers and PR wizards instead of your nurses and doctors and capital equipment. Who knows, with all of the ultra-portable devices around these days, you could just let your organization become a featured superstar on Youtube. Just what are you waiting for?


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For remarkable resources on blogging and social media, follow these links:

Darren Rowse Problogger (No Nonsense Mate from Down Under)

Chris Brogan (Knows his stuff and knows how to communicate it!)

Guy Kawasaki’s Alltop Blogging (A Great Collection for Beginners & Pros)

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8 Comments

  1. @ Nick
    Public utilities are in a very similar position.

    @ Ed
    Thanks for following. Don’t choke though!

    @Ken
    Those five challenges (and there are many more) all require serious consideration and planning. Blog administration, and monitoring in particular, is key to all of them. Here’s some:

    -Hospitals will have to set policies to comply with HIPAA
    -Employees will have to get involved (just like you)
    -Collaboration with other bloggers & consultation with others will help greatly
    -Balancing the risk of blog mistakes (and there will be those) with the opportunity cost of not having any say in the community. After all, it’s mistakes that build character and wisdom.
    -New bloggers (esp. in entities like hospitals) need to do their project thrashing before they begin.

    I’ll develop the responses to those challenges in future posts. Email me any thoughts or questions you have as you work with your facility. This is all pretty much frontier championing. Good luck!

  2. Thanks for the interesting (and timely for me) post. I am curious as to how you might suggest dealing with those five challenges you mentioned (privacy esp).

    I have been asked to look into producing a blog for my hospital whose management style is not very progressive. I know they have great concern with the way the public may view the content of such a blog, and this has prevented them from moving forward thus far. I told them that I thought they would be severely limiting its use and usefulness by restricting access to internal users, and I gather you’d agree.

  3. Phil. Excellent post. Lots to chew on for us corporate communicators trying to sell social media to the skeptical. Thanks to @chrisbrogan for the recommendation. You have a new follower.

  4. Wow is right. This post easily adapts to and is applicable to any industry imbued with a “public utility” aspect – like public utilities.

  5. […] and certainly not in knowledge businesses. Then along comes Phil Baumann, who points me to Blog ROI, it’s about value stupid. Phil used to be an accountant who saw the error of his ways and became a healthcare professional. […]

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