Pharma Social Media & eMarketing Forum take-aways

Last week (6-7 June) was GLC’s Social Media and eMarketing in Pharma Forum in Frankfurt. It brought together 60 pharma industry professionals for an engaging and interactive session. Here are my own personal take-aways:

Medicine is a majority digital-native community

creative destructionEmma D’Arcy (@darcyemma) chairing, pointed out early in the proceedings that 2013 is the first year when the majority of doctors are digital natives – i.e. they grew up and qualified in medicine in a post-digital world.

5 million HCPs are now on LinkedIn, taking part in more than 8000 groups on that platform.  95% of US Medical Schools have their own Facebook account.  Emma asserted that SM is driving the ‘creative destruction of medicine’ as we know it…

Yves Lavail from BMS pointed out that SM is the new ‘water cooler’ around which doctors chat.  89% of EU doctors use physician portals for professional information and 53% use social media.  A good percentage – 41% – accept that portals influence prescribing – more than the number that admit the same about sales reps (32%) (Manhattan TTP EU 2012).

We discussed the 90-9-1 rule: that 90% of  HCP SM community members are ‘lurkers’ – reading not participating, 9% are joining in and 1% are initiating discussions.  As in life, perhaps?

“We can smell the cooking but we are not yet eating the meal”

Yet in spite of our customers’ behaviour, our industry is still talking about digital and SM as ‘new’.  Rahul Agrawal of Bayer coined this sub-heading in his session entitled – Pharma and SM – Friends or Foes?  He pointed out that SM channels can be useful for reporting adverse events and getting insight into sentiment about our products.  But our industry is still dragging its feet and asking too many questions about compliance, data privacy and promotion issues, rather than looking at ways to provide services.

Rahul drew comparisions to IBM – 15 years ago the company sold computers, now it is a full service company. We must do this too.  For example patients over 60 with diabetes are taking 25 pills a day – what are we doing using digital channels to support them?

Alex Simidchiev of GSK challenged us to see SM as a way to help build the industry’s reputation – it provides the possibility for open, transparent engagement with stakeholders.  It could also be dangerous and the audience enjoyed the metaphor – “social media is the tell-tale blue dye for the pharma industry”.

Burak Ergenoglu of Sanofi Aventis highlighted the fact that new models are needed in the fastest growing markets – for example Turkey is second only to China in growth rate and has a young highly digital-savvy population.  Perhaps markets like this can leapfrog the 20th century business models and create a digital healthcare economy from the start?

Alexandra Fulford (@pharmaguapa) observed that many companies now have a presence but are not always engaging in interaction with the public – for example you can add a post on Boehringer‘s Facebook page, but not on Novartis’s.  There are shining examples of best practice such as GE’s global #GetFit campaign, but they are few and far between.  Alex‘s advice was simple – get leaders on board, have processes, work collaboratively across geographies. This can’t be isolated tactical projects – have a strategy!

“The only thing interactive about your program is its name”

I can’t remember who made this comment but it certainly reflects a lot of projects that we call ‘interactive’ when what we mean is ‘online’.  We had quite a discussion about what is ‘social media’ versus ‘digital’.

The problem is that ‘digital’ has become a bit of a ‘last year’ label in pharma – astonishing since we are certainly not expert in it yet! – and leaders are often saying ‘digital is just a channel’ (I don’t agree and will write on this soon). Therefore we are now calling our innovative programs ‘social media’ even if they have no ‘social’ (conversational) aspect at all.  But many programs that are essentially static can still have ‘social web’ elements like comments, ratings and so forth.

emailing evolufarma

As Jacopo Murzi of Janssen pointed out, it is important to understand the entire digital landscape, which might include websites, apps, emails as well as social media.  This should be a precursor to every brand’s multichannel planning session.

Indeed as Luis Arimany (@evolufarma) made very clear, email is the single most important channel in terms of return on investment (see picture).

Content is still king – and it is our  responsibility

Every speaker emphasised that it is still all about the content – medicines and content are pharma’s offering to healthcare after all.  I showed some examples in my own session (The 5 Cs of successful social engagement).  The HCP communities discussed attract their membership primarily for the valuable content they offer.

back in play

I suggested thinking about content differently, not as a promotional tool but a core service.  If you want to be seen as a leader you should be providing excellent content in that therapy area.

And why not produce something that can be viral and social, such as Pfizer’s Back In Play social game to drive awareness of ankylosing spondylitis?

Bought versus owned?

There was a good deal of discussion of the ‘buy versus build’ debate with respect to engaging HCPs in communities.  In my own session I warned of the dangers of launching a social media platform then abandoning it (the ‘commitment’ C) and a Tom Renneberg of Esanum gave a good indication of the impressive HCP membership of that highly credible community.  Yves Lavail showed the preference of  HCPs for private physician-only portals versus open social networks or pharma websites.

Aleksander Stojanovic of Razorfish paid us a flying visit to ask whether we should be investing in ‘bought’ or ‘owned’  media.  In other words should we promote on 3rd party sties – bought media, a ‘cost’ item, or should we invest in our own properties – owned media, an ‘asset’.

This is a good point but I believe in healthcare the terminology should be different – the debate is, do we want to ‘hire’ relationships – temporarily engage a community of HCPs that is owned by a 3rd party provider – or ‘own’ them – build our own community and permission list so we can interact in an ongoing way.   I wrote a recent article on this and concluded that we should do either or both, dependent on strategy, but it is vital to ensure that if we do establish a relationship, we are committed over the long term.

All in all a good event with lots of challenge and debate (in spite of a couple of no-show speakers – shame on you!).   I’ll post my own session – the 5 Cs of social media engagement – shortly.

Congleton Town Councillor for the Women's Equality Party. CEO of Kanga Health Ltd - practical digital transformation of healthcare.

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Posted in Marketing, pharma, Social Media

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by Kay Wesley of Kanga Health Ltd

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