Pharma is Ready to be ‘Human’ in Social Media – and how I got blocked by Twitter!

Report on Pharma Social Media Conference 2018

It would be an exaggeration to say we are already surrounded by brilliant examples of pharma using social media to meet patients’ needs. But at the international Pharma Social Media Conference last week in London, I could see that on the horizon.

I also learned the hard way how many times you can tweet in a day before Twitter thinks you are a bot and blocks you! – It’s around 100. (Bots are identified via various indicators, of course. My tweet behaviour probably also pushed the ‘regularity’ button – I was tweeting at a consistent rate.)

This year’s PSM conference had a hungry buzz about it, with our colleagues in pharma really wanting to grapple with the question of ‘how’ to engage with patients, rather than just, ‘Should we?’. Much like at eyeforpharma, the mix was filled with crucial ‘newer’ partners such as biotech and medical device firms. Collaboration, the key to pharma’s future, is now a given.

Co-creation with patients is the norm at Kanga. When I shared some examples in my talk (such as the MyFeelPlus app for prostate cancer patients), it sparked some great discussions – rather than merely the fear of regulatory walls.

Pharma exec delegates told us that they want to meet patients and doctors on their own terms. They are ready to get down to the ‘nitty gritty’ of governance issues. As Serli Çubukçu of Sanofi pointed out, we are all ‘prosumers’ now. We understand from our own experience the irrelevance of firms absent from social media. ‘No-one has 30 seconds for interruption, but we all have 30 minutes for stuff we like!’

Real, Relevant, Respect, Respond: the four Rs of social media that I outlined in my talk. Speakers gave solid presentations that touched on all of these. In a helpful case study, Sarah Holiday of Pfizer shared their strategy for congress reporting for HCPs. Each team runs their own congress through the central @pfizercongress account. This makes the account a hub for SM-active doctors, while the reporting is still done by teams with the most relevant knowledge.

Alex Saunders provided insight into GSK’s social media approach, noting that ‘the content has to be brilliant or we’re wasting our time’. He explained their aim of combining journalistic editorial leadership with a culture of creativity and an ‘outside-in’ mentality.

His presentation recognised that the most crucial information must be gleaned from those we are trying to engage with. The training that Kanga provides on digital best practice is designed to help effect this shift in thinking throughout an organisation. It’s refreshing to hear a presentation like this. It signals the sea-change in big pharma that can help patients the most – and, in turn, ensure the industry’s successful evolution.

There was much discussion of the potential of LinkedIn, with an insightful talk from Cyril Mandry from MSD. He outlined the business opportunities of the channel for pharma:

FireShot Screen Capture #087 - 'Kay Wesley on Twitter_ _#pharmaconf Uses of LinkedIn by pharma… _' - twitter_com_KayWesley_status_1011967835478863872

Of course, LinkedIn does not allow promotion, including to HCPs. Engagement must take a different form and signpost to other assets. LinkedIn is an increasingly versatile channel. Its scope for connecting pharma with HCPs is great.

I noted in my presentation that when Ipsen’s Living with Nets (developed by Kanga, co-created with patients) won the eyeforpharma award this year, Ipsen’s share price saw a notable increase. Delegates told me afterwards that this fact had helped to confirm what they already knew: that the winners in our industry are winning because of their close attention to patients’ needs.

The key theme that emerged from the conference? Being human, treating people properly, is where business value lies.

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Managing Director and Principal Consultant at Kanga, a digital transformation agency. I help global companies with their digital strategy and projects. Most of my clients are pharmaceutical companies.

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by Kay Wesley of Kanga Health Ltd

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