For those of you who didn’t know, it’s Social Media Week. Granted, the week is almost over, but the panel that you all care about didn’t take place until yesterday afternoon here in NYC.
The panel’s mouthful of a name—“Navigating Social Media & New Technology in Healthcare & Pharmaceutical Industries”—is nevertheless an accurate description of the discussion. Perspectives ranged from physicians (one Jay Parkinson, who essentially started his practice with Google Calendar and an iPhone) to Big Pharma marketers (Ned Russell of Saatchi Wellness).
DJ Edgerton (pictured), CEO of digital creative firm Zemoga said pharma is really dragging its feet on the social media issue because of compliance and liability. “The number one driver of social media in pharma is adverse event reporting,” he said. “So they’re disabling their Facebook walls, not interacting with the community, because they’re afraid.” Which, he added, defeats the purpose of social media.
Of course, once the industry finally does go beyond just dipping a toe in this pool, the implications are revolutionary. Russell and Parkinson foresee the disappearance of the traditional “brand.” Instead, “campaigns” will focus on patient education, possibly directing consumers to the new KOLs—their peers.
Even now, pharma brands have little or no traction in the social media world. While consumer products like sneakers and Slim Jims thrive, as Parkinson pointed out: “No one wants to ‘friend’ Lipitor.” Those who follow companies or brands on Twitter are almost exclusively people in the industry or connected to it. In exchange for real online “patronage” (so to speak), companies need to offer some real value—most likely in the form of information.
Edgerton had some pretty powerful closing advice for the industry: “Be not afraid.” The biggest mistake a company can make right now is to ignore social media. Take the risk and reap the rewards.