In the Mix Blog

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The 3 “e”s to Supercharging Your WoMO – Part 1

While WoMO is difficult to cultivate, investing time in a deliberate and consistent approach to what I call the 3 “e”s can supercharge your efforts. That is to say that empathy, engagement and empowerment are essential in attracting an online following. We will explore this in three parts. In the first one, let’s double-click on empathy to better appreciate what it is and what it is not.

Previously, I defined empathy as:

Having the ability to relate to others and perceive their feelings from their perspective instead of your own, commonly thought of as “walking in their shoes.” In order to empathize with your audience, you have to get to know them. Really know who are the real people who make up your online audience by actively listening to their stories and reflecting heavily on those stories.

There are several calls to action in there, but I’ll rephrase the first one as a question because it’s easy to miss: Do you have the ability to relate to others? Well aside from a formal psychiatric diagnosis, here are a few cautionary signs to look for:

  • You have a mandate to increase followers or friends on Facebook or Twitter or some other popular social network
  • You are conducting a lot of market research to better understand your target audience’s wants, needs and behavior
  • Your mission is short-term and success will be measured by short-term financial or commercial goals

These are all reasonable objectives but sometimes hyper focus on increasing them can actually subtract from empathy, the opposite of what you need to grow WoMO. Typically, on social networks, followers are attracted to great content that speaks to them and relates to them. Just be your authentic self in these forums and the right audience will find you instead of the other way around. That’s also why you should have to conduct very little research about your audience. In this case, build it and they will come makes sense, assuming you also develop effective mechanisms to share your content, which we will get to in part 3 of this series. It comes back to your mission…is it well-defined in terms that your audience understands? Even better, did you let your audience define your mission? Trying to build WoMO as a means of financial gain in and of itself will lead you to disappointing results. Your audience will spot a veiled self-interested campaign from many digital miles away, but if you listen to their signals and simply adopt their objectives as your mission, right away you would be relating to them.


Once you pass the litmus test of relate-ability, the next call to action is to “Really know who are the real people who make up your online audience.” Emphasis on real people. How else can you know “real people” unless you follow them? Where do they party? Where do they study? How do they eat? Who do they spend time with? What do they talk about and where do they talk about it? You might think this sounds a little stalker-paparazzi-like…because it is! Just don’t do anything illegal. Ideally, you already know some real people who you relate to and now you just want to blow that up from an N of a few to an N of large numbers of people, so you can interview those you know. Still, if you really don’t know for sure, then take a field trip. Grab a pen and paper (digital or physical, your choice), then go outside. Go anywhere there are people. Observe. Take notes. It helps to start with a hypothesis like “Our audience lives their days at Starbucks and their nights at art galleries…” Go to those places, listen to those around you and see if you’re right! Iterate.

Core to the idea that you empathize with your audience is one, having the ability to relate to them and two, getting to know real people who you believe are part of your audience and listen to their stories. If their stories sound like your’s, or your mission could have been copy/pasted from what you hear, then you’re on your way to cultivating empathy. You’ll find that your WoMO will take on a new life of its own too.

Healthcake Mobile Apps

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Healthcake Completes Beta with Release of Mobile Apps

We have just completed the beta of Healthcake, the online personal assistant that helps you discover cures and manage wellness across different websites so you can make faster, better health decisions. We learned so much from our users and thank them for their commitment to making Healthcake an even better experience for everyone.

We also went live today with brand new mobile apps for iPhone, Android and Windows Phone. Now our users can find the help they need on the go and connect with resources in their local area. Isn’t it better when you find an answer to a health question AND you can take immediate action on what you learned? A no-brainer.

You can download the new apps here:

Healthcake on Apple App Store

Healthcake on Apple App Store

Healthcake on Google Play Store

Healthcake on Google Play Store

Healthcake on Windows Phone Store

Healthcake on Windows Phone Store

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Four Types of People Living at the Healthcare Tipping Point

My eyes were glued on a series of research reports published by the Pew Research Center in 2013 and 2014. Since then, the Pew Internet: Health fact sheet has been published and I find myself equally intrigued like a feline attracted to catnip. A quick glance at the flurry of stats sprinkled throughout the page reveals a piping hot trend: healthcare is at a tipping point.

Sure Obamacare (a.k.a. Affordable Care Act) is nudging moms and pops to join insurance exchanges and there are seismic technological shifts giving rise to wearable tracking devices, often moonlighting as your smartphone. Yet, the tipping point I refer to in healthcare is one where we see the “30% barrier” being broken:

  • Fewer than 30% of Americans have yet to search for health information online. Conversely, over 70% already have.
  • Over 30% of adults who are age 50+ or living with multiple chronic diseases have used the Internet to search for health information.
  • 30% of people who had a serious health issue turned to non-medical sources for help.
  • Over 30% of U.S. adults say that at one time or another they have gone online specifically to try to figure out what medical condition they or someone else might have.
  • Over 30% of those who are tracking their health indicators are also sharing their records or notes with another person or group.

More than ever before, most Americans are one of four types of people – either e-Patient, e-Survivor, e-Caregiver or e-Supporter – increasingly using the Internet to search for health information online. Many are relying on non-medical sources and the knowledge shared by others to try to figure out a diagnosis before they go to a doctor. Healthcake is an online personal health assistant that brings health stories together from different sites based on a person’s health interests, making it less time-consuming to find quality content, ratings and reviews.

What type of e-person are you?

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Data Visualization of Texas Women’s Health Online – National Women’s Health Week

To cap off National Women’s Health Week, Healthcake is releasing the results of a recent online study it conducted of women’s health concerns and the sources of insight they rely on for answers.

The research targeted a sample of 400 women between ages 18 and 54 who live in Texas. It revealed that 43% of women represented in the target sample are conducting health searches online at least once per month. They are hunting for explanations of symptoms, conditions and treatments in 57%, 38% and 24% of cases, respectively. This insight points to how a sudden symptom or a recent diagnosis is a familiar trigger of health inquiries online. Not surprisingly, doctors were the preferred source of information among 67% of respondents. Perhaps it’s more interesting to note that when asked about their preferred sources of information, 30% of women in the survey also responded “People like me” while 27% said nurses and 27% chose survivors. Among the topics respondents are interested in, some of the more commons ones were weight, pain, cancer, diabetes, depression and mental health.

Figure 1: Texas Women’s Health Online Data Visualization

TexasWomenHealthOnline2Source: TexasWomenHealthOnline-Visualization

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Do you have WoMO?

You’re talking to a friend, a coworker or a relative and they mention the “new” health concern they are experiencing, a place they’ve been to, a lover they have fallen for or a thing they bought — a gadget, an outfit, a car, a meal, etc. If you remember the last time you found yourself in this situation listening to a beloved or not so beloved newbie go on and on, maybe you can recall how you felt. Were you intrigued or excited? Was it a happy feeling or did you feel sad? Maybe a little jealous?

WoMO is Word of Mouth Online. Word of mouth has been a predominant way to spread ideas for ages and 90% of it happens offline. At the core, it’s about storytelling, creating a narrative that educates, entertains or informs, invoking strong feelings in an audience. Creating word of mouth online, particularly for health related topics, depends on the sharing of really powerful stories from person to person and spreading to larger and larger audiences or multiple different types of audiences on the Internet. No wonder it’s challenging and near the top of any business’ communications spending list.

Now let’s not confuse WoMO with WOMM or Word of Mouth Marketing. While WoMO happens naturally without any intentional incentive, WOMM is a deliberate effort by marketers to create word of mouth both online and offline.

So, do you have WoMO? There are a number of variables to consider when answering this question, but you can summarize them into what I call the Three E’s: 1. Empathy, 2. Engagement and 3. Empowerment.

Empathy is having the ability to relate to others and perceive their feelings from their perspective instead of your own, commonly thought as “walking in their shoes.” In order to empathize with your audience, you have to get to know them. Really know who are the real people who make up your online audience by actively listening to their stories and reflecting heavily on those stories. The next step, engagement, requires you to become a partner to select members of your online audience to help them tell their story. This can take the form of recorded videos, photos and written word and live video streams or pod casts. These can be generated by you or by users themselves. Lastly, you focus on empowerment. This phase of building WoMO takes those stories and gives your online audience an easy way to consume, distribute and discuss them. Often, social media is a preferred vehicle but it doesn’t have to be. Email and texting are still very potent forms of communication that appeal to almost everyone.

It is essential to progress through deliberate, repeated phases of empathy, engagement and empowerment to build and maintain WoMO. In a series of upcoming posts, we’ll dive deeper into the Three E’s and how to measure your effectiveness in each one of them.

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“Set My People Free” : Did slavery drive African Americans crazy?

Reflecting on Martin Luther King Day, I think about the great progress that black people have achieved in a country where slavery has been abolished. Slavery in America began when the first African slaves were brought to the North American colony of Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619, to aid in the production of such lucrative crops as tobacco without pay. Are black Americans still feeling the effects of slavery 396 years later?

I’d say yes and that’s why we wanted to launch a New Selma Party. The idea of the New Selma Party is to spotlight the new front in the fight for civil rights: health disparities among blacks.

According to the United States Census Bureau, black Americans have the lowest average household median income at $33,321 a year. This is behind Hispanics at $39K, Non-Hispanic Whites at $57K, and Asians at $68K. According to the National Poverty Center, poverty rates for blacks greatly exceed the national average. And poverty rates are highest for families headed by single women, particularly if they are black or Hispanic. Studies show about 72 percent of black mothers are single compared to 29 percent for non-Hispanic whites, 53 percent for Hispanics, 66 percent for American Indian/Alaska native and 17 percent for Asian/Pacific Islander.

The link between poverty and mental health is well-known. Those with low incomes are more likely to suffer from poor mental health. Both individual and neighborhood economic deprivation increase the risk of poor general and mental health. In addition, those with mental health problems are more likely to experience poverty: once incapacitated, an individual’s socio-economic status is likely to fall further (‘selective social drift’). Complicating matters, mental health is often stigmatized in the black community. For example, research findings show that blacks, particularly black women, experience major depression at higher rates than whites, but seek treatment less often. A lack of adequate health care and ability to cover the costs can significantly contribute to low rates of the treatment of depression. Around 20 percent of black Americans  are uninsured compared to less than 12 percent of whites.

There seems to be a direct link between slavery and poverty among black Americans. There is also a link between poverty and mental health. Let’s use the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King to celebrate progress and start a new conversation about health disparities in America.

We call it the New Selma. Join the party and share your story.

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Fact or Fiction: Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome?

As the community manager at Healthcake, I’m always inspired by the personal and cultural stories of our members. In honor of Martin Luther King Day, we kicked off a New Selma Party to spur a new dialog about slavery, civil rights and health disparities among black immigrant populations in America.

It’s a low point in American history how a nation that claims to believe in “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all men” help lead an act as dehumanizing as the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, which lasted for nearly four centuries. Some argue (including myself) that America is largely founded upon 300+ years of free labor that it received from its former black slaves. Sadly, young children were separated from their mothers, wives were separated from their husbands, and ultimately entire black family structures were dismantled. Ever since the Emancipation Proclamation which was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863, blacks (or the more PC term African Americans) in America have been struggling to overcome the long-lasting effects of slavery.

As we look at today’s mainstream media — reality shows, modern rap music, entertainment websites and urban films — it is evident that many blacks are still suffering from what Dr. Joy DeGruy Leary calls “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome.” I think there is something to this. If African slavery was only physical, it’s imaginable that black people would have been able to skip the plethora of social-economic issues plaguing African people within one generation. Surely slavery, and other institutionalized forms of targeted race-based oppression have contributed to long-term mental health issues, which then are self-reinforced in each generation. It’s as if some people are on autopilot. Until the mental health issues that are now deeply embedded within our collective consciousness are brought to the surface and addressed, progress will be hard to come by.

Together, we must work diligently to reverse the effects of slavery and set up robust platform for coming generations to excel. It’s the moral responsibility of politicians, clergy, educators, and professionals to make the issue of full recovery from the horrific experience of slavery a top priority.

That’s why we need a New Selma. Join the party.


The New Selma: Are Health Disparities Among African Americans Proof of a Dream Unfulfilled?

Each year on Martin Luther King day, we reflect and participate in parades to honor his game changing role in the civil rights movement. Wikipedia describes King as “the chief spokesman for nonviolent activism in the civil rights movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.” And the release of the Hollywood film Selma spotlights the movement on the big screen like never before, gaining 4 to 5 star ratings from movie critics and fans alike.

However, I question if there might be a “New Selma” required? I’d vote ‘Yes’, but not because of racial injustices per se…instead there are real stubborn health disparities, that to some extent, have been precipitated by those injustices.

Make a cake for New Selma.

It doesn’t matter who you are, we’ve all heard the stats on African American health: more deaths from heart disease, more likely to have diabetes, higher prevalence of hypertension and obesity, almost one of every 5 people age 65 and under are uninsured, almost half of the total population who get HIV and AIDS, and the list goes on.

Today on Healthcake, I’m starting Black History Month early with a New Selma Party. I’ve made a cake to provoke some conversation and “outside the box” ideas to uncover lasting solutions to African American health disparities.

Contribute your own story to the New Selma Party.