Back in June of this year, IU Health made the daring decision to live-Tweet a kidney transplant. While the transplant wasn’t recorded shot for shot, each step of the transplant process was meticulously chronicled in real-time via Twitter. I just so happened to observe that live-Tweet session and, needless to say, I found it fascinating. Following the surgical process was cool, but it was the execution of the event that was even more impressive.

On September 19th, Indianapolis Social Media held a breakfast event that allowed IU Health’s Kristofer Karol (@KristoferKarol) & Gene Ford (@callmegeno) to showcase how they orchestrated such an overwhelming task. More importantly, we learned why they did it – which is something that resonated with me the remainder of the day.

So, why did they do it?

While one of IU Health’s goals was to appear “cutting-edge,” another goal was to educate the general public about organ transplants. By revealing the process and allowing viewers to ask questions, it had the potential to alleviate many patients’ concerns and eliminates misconceptions associated with organ transplants. The ultimate goal was to get those now-educated followers to visit their living kidney donation page, and to encourage further research—maybe enough to get involved in transplant awareness via social media.

Sure enough, Kristofer and Gene’s reasoning got me thinking: “Why do we do what we do? Why do we write? Why do we tweet?” As the presentation continued, I began to notice how similar IU Health’s goals were to Slingshot SEO’s goals. IU Health wants to attract visitors to their website and Slingshot SEO wants to attract visitors to our client’s sites. Why, it’s all about the ROI!

23 Tasks in 9 Days? Ptff. No, wait . . . you’re serious?

One of the most compelling takeaways from the IU Health event was discovering the amount of work that went into putting this project together. When you’re coordinating an event or creating content for a client, it’s imperative that you uphold their reputation; that means it’s your job to create and shape that reputation so the organization’s mission and vision are viewed favorably.

Nine days before the transplant, both Kristofer and Gene had a total of 23 different tasks – or, if you want to be blunt about it, 23 pieces of “red tape”— to tear through before the live-Tweet could commence. Straight from the horse’s mouth, here were those tasks:

  • Talk to legal, risk management teams
  • Secure buy-in from health system’s Chief Medical Officer, other physicians, nursing staff and surgeons
  • Talk to patients to find out more about their stories and secure signed media consent forms
  • Develop a memorable and catchy hashtag (#calebskidney), get hashtag traction on social media
  • Shoot, edit, post promotional videos
  • Devise back-up communications plan in case surgery goes awry
  • Secure space at hospital for news conferences
  • Draft anticipated questions and responses
  • Prepare and schedule factoid tweets
  • Draft, approve, issue press releases
  • Pitch to media
  • Promote on social media channels
  • Organize, hold news conference with docs, patients
  • Coordinate day-of-video crew from TrendyMinds
  • Coordinate with eHealth team to handle crises/monitor online traffic
  • Redesign IU Health Transplant’s living kidney donation website, customize w/ Twittercast content
  • Develop e-card program for patients involved with Twittercast
  • Reach out to kidney and organ donation organizations (local and national)
  • Design promotional materials (i.e. postcards)
  • Assign day-of roles for team members involved in the Twittercast
  • Observe a living kidney donation and transplantation surgery one week prior to the Twittercast (“practice run”)
  • Test wireless signal, equipment in hospital, operating rooms

Aside obtaining permission from all parties, communication was crucial to the success of the Twittercast. So long as every person involved knew their roles and what was going on (and they did), the actual Twittercast would go smoothly. This was especially true for those who Tweeted facts, answers to questions and images of the surgery. Given the extremely sensitive nature of this Twittercast, each “host” had to be cautious of what they posted and each participant had to be accessible and transparent.

Tweet from IU Health

It’s pretty unlikely that you’ll find Slingshot SEO hosting a live Twittercast of a kidney transplant anytime soon (unless the founders suddenly changed their vision from Inbound Marketing to Medicine). Still, we could learn a lot from the folks at IU Health. Just like them, our projects can be given a social push if the material is both interesting and useful. But if you’re dealing with a narrow audience, it’s best to focus your content so it serves a purpose to that specific audience.

Live-TweetingDid it work?

Yes, yes AND YES! Underestimating their probable results, IU Health assumed that they’d secure 500 new followers, 50 mentions/RT’s and 25 earned media placements. Instead, IU Health secured 1,363 followers, 1,754 mentions/RT’s and grabbed the attention of 100 earned media sources. More importantly, IU Health’s living kidney donation page (the one they were promoting) got 1,400 hits during the entire week leading up to the surgery. The day of the surgery, they got 1,700 views. While no conversion metrics (like donation Inquiries or surgery scheduling) were mentioned during the presentation, the page views indicate an increase in brand awareness. In my mind, this is just as good.

Before the IU Health presentation, I hadn’t realized how much time and effort was put into June’s Twittercast. I didn’t think about all the documents that had to be signed, all the lawyers that had to be present and all the staff members required to be involved. IU Health took a risk when they coordinated this event and it paid off. In fact, despite the tons and tons of “red tape,” it almost makes sense to take more risks: by communicating and getting permission from all the required authoritative parties, you’re able to negotiate what can and can’t be done. I feel like many of us don’t follow through with certain projects because we assume the client won’t like it. The way I see it, you won’t know what a client likes until you ask. Skepticism plays a huge role in most projects, but if more people worked together like Kristofer, Gene and the rest of IU Health, I’m certain we’d see some pretty darn impressive stuff.

So: do you think you could take more risks? And if so, when will you start?