“Let’s do a massive flash mob!”


It all started with a crazy idea.

In May of 2014, we had been working on building a culture of health and wellness at Kaiser Permanente. My department, Healthy Workforce, Kaiser’s internal wellness program, had launched national initiatives earlier that year to bring Kaiser Permanente’s “thrive” campaign to its workforce. It all changed in an instant when someone said, “let’s do a massive flash mob!”

The idea was to coordinate a week-long flash mob across 7 geographical regions of Kaiser Permanente (Georgia, Mid Atlantic States, Northwest, Hawaii, Colorado, and Northern/Southern California) outreaching to over 150,000 Kaiser employees.

As we began planning the event, things began to come together. We would use a program called “Instant Recess”, created by Dr. Toni Yancey from UCLA, that our employees were already familiar with. Instant Recess launched in 2012 at Kaiser Permanente and consists of 5-10 minutes of physical activity, usually set to music. It can be anything from dance moves, to sports moves, to “old school” recess activities like hop scotch or jump rope. The whole idea was just to get people moving.

We had 3 objectives:

  1. Encourage employees to be more active and “thrive”
  2. Unify employees across all regions in a single initiative
  3. Further build the Kaiser brand externally

While our department has always been great at the health promotion piece, objectives 2 and 3 were a little outside of our comfort zone as far as how to even approach it. Then we thought of Twitter.

Twitter opened the doors to unifying our employees in a week-long flash mob, no matter where they were, and would further build our Kaiser Permanente brand.

As mentioned in Here Comes Everybody, “Twitter allows a combination of real-time and group coordination that helps tip the balance of action” (Shirky, 2008) Twitter reduced our “transaction costs” of coordinating and highlighting this initiative. It also allowed our employees to be the “owners” of the initiative.

So what happened?

During the week of August 4-8, 2014, thousands of employees participated in Instant Recess week and the results were inspiring.

Over 400 Tweets and 1,000 Retweets/Mentions reached over 300,000 Twitter accounts. Everyone seemed to be tweeting: employees, the Instant Recess organization, unions, and partner organizations about the mega flash mob happening across Kaiser Permanente. It was Tweeting pandemonium!

Here is a gallery of some of my favorite tweets from our Instant Recess week:

What I learned

  • Even the wildest ideas are possible, especially with social media.
  • Twitter gave us the perfect platform to “inspire action and reaction.” (Mansfield, 2012)
  • Twitter cost nothing, but gave so much in return.

This all worked because we tried something new. Twitter proved to be the best microblogging platform that would share real-time collective action to movement and “thriving”.

With that said, we are now well into 2015. So keep your eyes and ears open for another flash mob week at Kaiser Permanente coming soon…



Mansfield, H. (2012) A How-To Guide for Nonprofits: Social Media for Social Good, McGraw Hill, New York, NY.

Shirky, C. (2008) Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organization, Penguin Press, New York, NY.


5 thoughts on ““Let’s do a massive flash mob!”

  1. Thanks for providing an excellent example of healthcare campaign and sharing what made it successful. We are looking into launching a hand hygiene awareness campaign in our healthcare system and I found your experience with using social media platform very innovative and practical! This campaign was a showcase of effective and thoughtful planning: first, define your goals and what do you want to accomplish; second, make it visually interesting, engaging, highly participatory and fun; and third – it was innovative, using modern digital interface with your employees plus numerous staff physical recess activities and promotions. Twitter was a good fit for your program – something that you have tried first time and it did work. Pictures slideshow looks really cool and inspiring. As you have mentioned, the campaign also promoted healthcare institution brand in community and further as campaign gets momentum and sharing with tweetosphere. Keep us posted about next talented employee wellness campaigns!

  2. Your title inspires curiosity! I don’t know what a “flash mob” is and I’m not sure that I know now, but I got a sense of what this was from your blog. You relate the content of your blog to the readings and concepts and give an example of a personal use of twitter to promote physical and emotional health in an organization. In the blog you summarize the objectives why KP wanted to do this in the first place. Having worked in big Pharma with all the array of personalities that you encounter, I’m sure there was more participation in some groups and a few surprises along the way! As with many organizations, these types of activities like “instant recess” are motivated by brand promotion and PR. It would be interesting to here how KP plans to sustain this program and use it as a focal point to help manifest healthy behaviors among their employees. Great use of pictures!

  3. Interesting! I have seen some things on ways to use the flash mob idea to bring awareness to an issue, but incorporating the social media aspect to spread the word is inspiring! I have so many ideas now.

  4. This is fantastic. I felt the inspiration emanating from this post. The bold lettering and the numerous photos were certainly eye catchers. I also picked up some tips on photo arrangement ;). The only thing I wonder about is: how did you know/find out the tweets reached 300,000 twitter accounts? I think a reader of this health communications blog would like to know more about how you uncovered this information

    • Thanks! We used Tweetreach (I think its called) so that we could get all the data on our Twitter campaign. They produced reports for us that included how many Tweets, re-Tweets, and also included who re-Tweeted posts that have in the Twitter world “high authority” meaning they have a lot of followers.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s