Following last week’s blogs “Pharma Companies are Beginning to Twitter“ and “Building on Janet Johnson’s 5 Phases of Social Media“, it seems appropriate to raise some of the watch-outs Pharma and Healthcare constituents might want to consider if planning to play in the SM space [which is always difficult given the industry's conservatism and regulatory concerns regarding out of indication conversations and/or adverse event reporting], and/or you’re current program is not meeting expectations.
While the industry is a buzz about SM, it’s an understatement that brand teams and their partners everywhere continue to struggle with how to make sense of it and effectively move forward.
So here goes…my list of watch- outs for Pharma Social Media based upon my own experience, the many blogs I’ve read, and the many conversations with brand teams that I’ve been involved with over the last few years.
The Ten Pharma Social Media Watch-outs:
- Social Media should be considered holistically and not just a ‘one-off’. How does it fit with the brand’s objectives and strategies? How can it complement current marketing efforts? SM requires the same rigor and planning that would be done for any marketing effort. But while it calls for strategic thinking, it shouldn’t be confused for a strategy–in the end SM is still but one tactic or channel in a bigger marketing mix. And, sometimes it’s just as important to not wait for the ‘perfect’ strategy as it is to start getting some hands-on experience…
- Social Media is based on principles of engagement and dialog…if you’re not going to be able to partake this way, it may not be worth the effort-It’s all about E.V.E. or Expected Visitor Experience(Thank you Jonathan Richman for this great acronym ). And since SM is largely based on community and dialog with other humans, identifying the spokesperson for the brand or company SM effort takes careful consideration.
- Social Media by itself does not guarantee huge brand success, WOM or BUZZ…fresh, insightful content does. Again, it’s important to apply the same principles of understanding what your target customers care about and talk about. As Social Media gets more crowded, breaking out in SM will be as important as it is in traditional marketing and communications-Now more than ever, customers are looking for value, and not just repetition or more “push”/ sell communications. What is the plan to have a steady flow of interesting content and ideas? (Read Chris Brogan’s blog “Elements of Good Online Content” )
- “It’s not the media but the message”–This was confirmed by Dr Jean Ah Kang, special Assistant to Tom Abrams at DDMAC in charge of web 2.0 policy, in a recent interview with Mark Senak at Eye of FDA…and certainly given FDA’s 14 warning letters over paid search delivered April 3rd, it’s important to reflect on insuring that Risk and Benefits are balanced, immediately present, and not ‘one click away’… (You can also read The Changing Search Advertising Space for Pharma for a good summary and white paper regarding paid search implications)
- Social Media is not FREE–it takes considerable human and dollar resources…albeit far less than traditional DTC TV…it’s still not free. (BusinessWeed’s Dubunking Six Social Media Myths, CB’s It’s Just as Difficult as it Seems)
- SM requires openness, transparency and nimbleness…is your organization ready? Are there SM-friendly processes in place to enable fast turnaround and response? Are you ready if someone says something negative? It’s part of the SM ethos…is a ‘plan’ ready if needed? (For thought starters, read Janet Johnson’s What if Someone Says Something Bad)
- Start slow and build…every SM expert (of which I would not classify myself) recommends one way or another to ‘newbies': look, listen and learn before entering the social media space or a particular platform. For me personally, I found this to be invaluable advice.
- Just because SM is the sexy, cool, new fangled tactic, metrics and measurement should still be in place. Marketers need to be clear what they’re trying to accomplish, with whom and by when.
- Exercise caution when choosing partners…SM “experts” are crawling out of the woodwork (Two blogs: SM Monitoring and Pharma by Sally Church and Janet Johnson’s How to Tell Sherpas from Swarms) -Are you working with people that have ‘deep’ expertise in social media, your customer and pharma?
- If you’re not partaking in social media platforms yourself-it’s time to jump in-otherwise you may not be able to fully realize SM potential for your business–After all, there’s no substitute for firsthand experience–and often it’s better to get started than to forever stay on the sidelines…the faster you jump in, the faster you’ll find your own way and voice…
Please join me in adding to or modifying this list, either below or on Twitter.
And if you like this post, please consider joining me for more…