You, too, can be a social media star

Annie Mitchell didn't plan on becoming social media director for a nonprofit. But in 2007, after her daughter was diagnosed with juvenile dermatomyositis, a rare and debilitating disease affecting the muscles and skin, Mitchell began to share her family's medical journey on Facebook. That act, she says, helped her move "from powerlessness to advocacy," and connecting with others helped her family "through a terrifying and lonely time."

SocialMediaResidency760Eventually, Mitchell's online exploration also led her to the Cure JM Foundation. And her experiences led her to suggest that the foundation create a Facebook page for patients with juvenile myositis and their families. She must have been pretty convincing, because the organization turned around and asked her if she'd be willing to help them do just that. And more. Soon, Mitchell was the organization's (volunteer) social media director. Even though she was a novice, by engaging others through social media, she helped the organization win two grant contests that brought in $300,000 for research and advocacy.

Still, Mitchell knew she could do more. So when she learned about the Patient/Caregiver Scholarship Contest that would allow her to participate in the Social Media Residency and other Social Media Week activities last October through the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, she knew just what to do. In entering the scholarship contest, Mitchell wrote that, "Facebook is a verb in my daily language. I tweet; I Instagram that photo; I pin. I connect on LinkedIn. I do all with a three-fold purpose – to help educate others about juvenile myositis (JM), to raise JM research funds, and to empower JM patients/caregivers through community connections and helpful resources." But, she admits, she was primarily self-taught.

"I was looking for how to maximize each platform," Mitchell says. "I was also interested in best-practice insights from experts who could help me 'work smarter, not harder.'" The Social Media Residency answered that call. "Each session was packed full of learning opportunities," she says. "The case studies gave real-world examples from which to learn." And she got a better understanding of how to measure and communicate the value of social media to her organization's board members.

So, was she able to put her new knowledge to work? "Almost immediately!" Mitchell says. From Nov. 18 to Jan. 9, Cure JM competed against more than 700 other nonprofits in the Crowdrise/Huffington Post Holiday Challenge. She applied the lessons she'd learned to better communicate Cure JM's story, and in doing so, helped her organization raise the most funds during the contest, which earned it an additional $114,000 for juvenile myositis research. "I cannot thank Mayo Clinic enough for this training that I would not have received without the Patient/Caregiver Scholarship but has made such an incredible difference already!" she says.

Mayo Clinic's Center for Social Media conducts its residency program – an intense one-day training program packed with information and hands-on learning opportunities – several times a year at each Mayo Clinic campus and beyond. Learn more on the Social Media Health Network website, but first make a few connections of your own and by sharing a comment below.