Comparing b2b communities from the medical imaging industry

RSNA 2009It’s interesting to see the comparative growth of rival online communities in the multi-billion dollar medical imaging industry. Especially in the run up to RSNA 2009, when the use of  so-called social media tools like Twitter is much more in evidence than a couple of years ago. This is backed up by analysis through online traffic tools, which shows both Twitter and Facebook among the top referral and destination sites for these radiology communities. Indeed tweets tagged #rsna appear automatically on the RSNA official site, and many companies like Barco now have their own Twitter profiles and custom lists you can follow.

The players in chronological order

The established player is AuntMinnie, originally set up by started by Dr. Phillip Berman, CEO of Lumisys, in 1999 and for a time owned by Eastman Kodak (Kodak having invested in the plethora of social media tools, using Facebook to good effect in reaching out to ‘consumers’ for example). Currently owned by IMV with a popular old style forum, it’s a tried and tested model which is obviously successful with the following key fact:

29604 Registered users have made 223898 posts in 13 forums. There are currently 27278 topics.

Then in 2006 came along MedicExchange backed by Medicsight (which itself IPO’d in 2007 for around £30m).Originally launched with a similar old style forum it’s improved its community offering, and reached out to the wider community with a presence in the three staple social media tools of Twitter, Facebook , and LinkedIn.

Then in 2007 from the medical imaging community itself came the  radRounds community, founded by Dr Steven Chan, based on the ning-based software platform.

I was fortunate to link up with Dr Sumer Sethi, a long time radiology blogger, who’s himself written a nice roundup of the social networking sites for radiologists on Medscape blogs (note: you’ll have to register to read this post).

Along with the three I’m focusing on he also draws attention, and more recently the impressive looking Radiolopolis site created by Dr Roland Talanow which launched in early 2009 which is the fourth site I’m going to focus on.

Social networks or communities Assessing the value of social networking to medical professionalsof practice?

Clearly I’m not alone in realising the potential of social networks as this online presentation slide from Len Starnes at Bayer Schering Pharma makes clear. So as the former content manager at where I evangelised about the value of social media for medial imaging professionals, and which is now billed as a “social network for healthcare professionals to exchange knowledge”, what lessons can I glean from these rival developments?

Especially now that I’ve been working in the community management sphere for a couple of years, settting up an award-winning b2b community at the UK chartered accountants ICAEW, and currently in a consultant-type role at SiftGroups? My approach is to score the sites on their effectiveness as online communities, and in reaching connecting with their wider audience using the likes of Twitter and Facebook.

A point before I get started though, that we are really talking about here are really online communities, not social networks. Communities are specific to common interests, while social network sites are more about developing personal communities around the profile and connections of an individual. You can find micro-communities within social networks, such as the radRounds fan page within Facebook, and you can have social networking type directories within communities. Basically communities are about a place where like-minded people gather to share experiences and knowledge. Indeed, within that definition there are four basic different types of online communities set up to meet different needs; these four from medical imaging belong to communities of practice’.

Congratulations to RSNA

Before I get to that task however, now that RSNA (the Radiological Society of North America Scientific Assembly & Annual Meeting) is over as the best point to judge how much the online communities fared in response, it’s worth noting how the organisers of RSNA have embraced the likes of Twitter. Indeed a great case in point for anyone studying the use of online and offline social media at an event.

RSNA's Twitter wall

I wanted to quote Jim Donovan’s events blog ‘Show Insights’ and borrow his picture to explain what I mean:

I follow a lot of medical meetings and tradeshows, but most of them are still figuring out how to use Twitter before and during their events.  But RSNA clearly had a plan going into their meeting and they have done an incredible job of engaging their members, attendees, and exhibitors.  Since I did not attend the meeting, they have also effectively reached non-attendees too!

What impressed me about their tweets is that they really conveyed a sense of enthusiasm and excitement from the show.  They really made you wish you were there.

There were all kinds of fun programs, contests, and communications each day.  Here are a few that I observed:

* A “Hide and Tweet” contest where clues were tweeted and the first person to find the “Twitter Team” won a prize.   The Twitter Team even wore fun T-shirts further promoting the
* Ongoing contests in which the first person visit a certain booth or location won a gift card.
* Helpful tips on things to see and do at the meeting.
* Updates and program changes were effectively communicated.
* And lot’s of great Twit Pics of attendees having a great time.

Another thing that I liked about this effort is that the promotion was not limited to just the 960+ people who were following RSNA on Twitter.  For example:

* RSNA also printed the “five best tweets of the day” in the convention Daily Bulletin.
* They built this huge video wall at the convention which had the twitter feed, important RSNA messages, and some advertising.
* You can view the the
Twitter Feed on their website.

Congratulations to the RSNA TWITTER TEAM  on a  program well executed!

One way Twittering at RSNA 2009?

A different take on how effective the use of Twitter was at RSNA is provided by Dr Guy Shechter, who analysed the degree to which the social media tool of choice was used for simply broadcasting messages as opposed to engaging people in conversation [underlining added by me]:

“A lexical analysis showed that 141/857 (16%) of the #RSNA09 tweets were re-tweets, indicating that one person thought it worthy to repeat what another person had said. An additional 80/857 (11%) of the #RSNA09 tweets were directed at, or explicitly mentioned, another Twitterer. Using the re-tweets and referential/conversational tweets as a measure of social interaction among conference attendees and vendors, this analysis shows that there was only a moderate amount of Twitter-mediated social interaction at RSNA 2009 (27% of all tweets).”

Apart from noticing that I made the Twitter RSNA rankings myself (though not physically present) was struck me about this analysis is that it’s not unexpected. For one thing most people will be readers of tweets, rather than re-tweeters. Secondly, it takes time and effort to understand how to use Twitter for conversation and get RPI from that, as opposed to using it as a new broadcast platform.

It would certainly be interesting to hear from the likes of Carestream Health who feature in the analysis as to what their RSNA social media metrics, both qualitative and quantative, told them about the effectiveness of their campaign over the period.

It would also be useful to see how the medical imaging communities such as AuntMinnie found from their referral stats the extent to which Twitter delivered visitors to their site, which for them is no doubt the aim rather than engaging in conversation?

11 thoughts on “Comparing b2b communities from the medical imaging industry

  1. Stuart, thank you for mentioning
    Indeed and although it’s the “youngest” in the radiology community “family”, a lot of efforts were made to make it truly unique. We implemented many previously awarded educational, research and practical tools (some even awarded at the last RSNA meeting). This and the true interactivity and interconnectivity (real time chats, on-the-fly consultations, case sharing, quizzes, mock boards etc.) is a reason, why we encounter a logarithmic increase of new members – that’s what they want! We launched the site end of February 2009 with 1-2 new members each day, in June about 5 new members a day to now having between 15-20 new registrations. Just this fact is really awarding and motivating to us to add more of these features into this free radiology community.
    If anybody has suggestions please contact

  2. Hi Roland, that’s great to hear. Sounds like you are experiencing some impressive rates of community growth by offering members the kind of facilities they want.

    PS: I saw a tweet from RSNA to say your party was really rocking too!

    Best wishes,


  3. Thank you very much Stuart. I think one of the reasons of the popularity is that Radiolopolis implements tools developed BY radiologists and technologists FOR radiologists and technologists. (Not by webdesigners without medical background who usually don’t understand the “practical” needs of this specific audience.)

    In example, we just implemented several new programs (right after the RSNA meeting): an online (on-the-fly) DICOM converter, an automatic differential diagnosis program for thoracic imaging and several additional modules for accurate cancer staging.
    More to come…
    If you want, I’ll keep you updated. (Otherwise I don’t want to make the impression to spam your blog)

  4. Thanks Roland, looking forward to your updates. For my part apologies, I’ve been delayed in finishing this blog with the key comparison part with my contract with SiftGroups coming to an end on the one hand, and winning an innovation award for our community metrics part on the other! So to the comparison analysis. I’ve login protected them for now – the password is community. Hope they are of use to you:

    1. AuntMinnie analysis post.

  5. Hi Stuart: Thanks for picking up my analysis. I agree with you that we intuitively expect that the majority are readers. Nonetheless, the question remains: how ready is a given community (say, radiologists) for social technologies? I attended the KMWorld 2009 meeting a few weeks before RSNA, and, when comparing the two meetings, I had a gut feeling that the social interaction was much more pronounced at KMWorld09 than at RSNA09. That’s what inspired me to try to quantify my observation, only to find that the KMWorld09 tweets had already disappeared from the Twitter feed. And so, we’re left with the RSNA09 analysis, which I hope to benchmark against additional conferences going forward.

  6. Great write up, thank you. We integrated ARSt, a Radiology Teaching Facility (, @arsteach ) for real-time new case release to twitter as they are published, it was fun seeing the traffic that came back by referral after we added the RSNA hashtag to the publishing method. Though the move was guilty of a “One way Twitter”, we saw very good results on referrals, and felt the subject matter was non-commercial and purely academic, which may have attributed to its success. This was a fun integration and was happy to see it in lights, and glad to see the participation.

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