Pharma social media – what’s changed

Today there was another #hcsmeu tweetchat on the topic of what has changed over the last 10 years, and what will be different in 10 years time.  I was really excited to be able to participate in the chat, especially as #hcsmeu tweetchats are what really got me into Twitter and introduced me to a fantastic group of like minded people, many of whom I have become good friends with.

I think we have seen a great deal of change over the last 10 years.  Today most pharma companies are on social media, whereas 10 years ago it was still seen as this big scary monster by many of them.  Now as to whether they are doing social well that is another question.  I think what we have seen is more join, and more engagement, but I think also that some of the pioneers have stalled, and I would say many are just joining a status quo rather than trying to push and pioneer new ways of engagement to benefit patients and other stakeholders.  I should not grumble as 10 years ago I dreamt that so many would be active!

However what I would like to see now is more involvement by and for relevant stakeholders.  Social media in pharma is still the stronghold of Corporate PR.  I question though that given how mainstream social media has become,  but also the value it brings to stakeholder engagement, should we not be seeing more medics and patient advocates (working for pharma companies) involved and active?  Surely patients want to hear from other patients, and medics want to engage with other medics?

Also talking of engagement, there are still far too many pharma companies which do not really engage, but just use social as a push or PR channel.  Novartis’s Facebook is a case in point – they have not enabled commenting to their wall, presumably because they do not want that two way engagement with stakeholders in this channel.  Is that wise though in this day and age?  What does that say about a company that still does not want to engage with stakeholders via social media?

The other big change over the last 10 years has also been the change in technology.  Today most of us access our social channels via mobile phone – and we really are able to engage from wherever we are at whatever time we want.  We are no longer shackled to our laptop or PCs.  This is particularly useful around congress, and is why we now see more “participation” at congress happening online that at the actual physical event, whilst at the same that participation is being driven by people at the event on their mobiles.  Patients now also have access 24/7 from wherever they are to social media support – this could also potentially be truly life saving for some.

So what will change in 10 years time?  Technology of course!  I think we will see greater use of AI (thanks @Lenstarnes for flagging this one) for starters.  I think we will also see a far greater blending across technology, for example the blend of VR with social media (and not just for gaming).  I think we will start to see VR social media patient communities – bringing people together in a new virtual world, whether for support or education.

I think, and hope, the way organisations are structured to deal with social media will change.  I would love to see patient advocacy teams grow within pharma and see them being much more involved in driving social media (not just participating) as well as social media engagement becoming part of medical’s daily job.

Finally I hope that in 10 years time we are still having great #hcsmeu tweet chats and that that awesome community of people are still there, engaging and chatting.  Perhaps though with some new blood to drive new discussions.  Will those chats still be happening on Twitter?  Who knows but I look forward to being part of the discussion wherever it is!

 

The importance of cat videos

As I sit here checking out my Facebook page and the BBC news it is hard to get away from the whole Donald Trump thing and the doom and gloom that surrounds his inauguration.  As a staunch supporter of the environment I find myself terrified at the implications of a climate change denier running one of the world’s largest polluters, especially as he has filled his cabinet with fossil fuel executives and fellow deniers.

As more and more countries join the battle to try to stop climate change, including China and India, both traditionally countries with very bad records in terms of environmental damage and pollution, it felt like there was some hope and we might be able to turn the tide of environmental destruction and climate change.  Much of Trump’s rhetoric has felt very protectionist and isolationist, suggesting an America that can just go it alone without any concern for the rest of the world.  Whilst this may be fine for some things, when it comes to the environment and climate we are all interconnected and each country impacts the rest of the world.  What Trump does in his Ivory Tower (or indeed any other world leader) has an impact on the death of our oceans and our global biodiversity.

So … this is all frightening and depressing.  There also seems to be no way of getting away from all this doom and gloom as everywhere we look the world is talking about Trump.  But wait … there is hope!  There are people out there battling against the doom and gloom and offering a glimmer of a smile.  There are people still sharing funny cat and dog videos!  As I watch these I am able to take my mind off the potential disaster that looms.  I also find that I do not have to log off the internet and become a digital hermit for the next days to years – there is more out there! In fact here are a couple of my favourite funny cat and dog videos to help in this fight against the doom and gloom:

 

 

Laughter aside the above does raise a really important point – how pervasive the internet has become and how global it has made us all.  Whilst US presidential elections or large national disasters have always made the headlines, in the past we could just ignore or walk away by not watching TV or reading newspapers.  The internet has now made that just that bit harder and it has also turned very national news stories into global stories.  Whilst we are all watching the US presidential inauguration there are other national stories that are making global news, such as the Italian earthquake or the IS destruction of Palmyra.  The internet has made our world that bit smaller and has made us aware of the impact of some national news has on the world as a whole.  Frankly it can be overwhelming and depressing.  All the more important therefore that we also share the happy and funny stories.  Laughter is critical for our health and we need to balance the bad news with the good, the sad with the happy, and make sure that our internet activity also offers this balance.  So go ahead and share that funny video!  Bring some balance back into our internet viewing and make sure we continue to smile despite all the world’s woes.  But remember … animals can be jerks too!

 

Final words from hell

This week, like thousands other around the world, I have been deeply moved by all the final messages that have been coming out of Aleppo thanks to Twitter.  It really has moved me to tears reading these tweets that have been sent from what must surely feel like hell.  It is heartbreaking to read these tweets that these desperate men, women and children are sending, detailing the horrors of Aleppo and in many cases saying their final farewells.  Through social media we are able to hear their messages, we are able to follow and stay informed about life in this war zone from the civilians trapped inside.

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On the one hand this is truly remarkable – especially given the besieged state of the city and the lack of western journalists in the city.  Through social media we are able to hear first hand about what is happening – not through the words of professional journalists but by normal civilians trapped in the city.  Local self-taught journalists have also been sending out reports, including drone footage of the devastation on the ground.  Social media truly is placing the power of reporting news into the hands of ordinary people.

However there are also downsides.  How totally demoralising and distressing it must to know that people are reading your tweets, your desperate pleas for help, and to know that you are able to tell people about the hell you are experiencing but to receive no help.  To feel so powerless that you resort to sending final farewells out to a big wide world that does not seem to care – that appears to only read but not act.

Similarly as one of those people reading these tweets it is also distressing.  I can only read the tweets but I am totally powerless to do much.  I can sign petitions or contact my MP and demand action but I know that for many of those tweeting from Aleppo any help will come to late.  I also realise that mass global outrage, as seen also through social media, appears to do very little and has not resulted in governments stepping in to stop this slaughter.

I only hope that those sending those tweets find some comfort in knowing that we out here in the world know of their suffering and that we hear their plight, even if we are powerless to do anything.  I also really pray that those who send those final goodbyes will live to share their stories from safety and will be able to share their stories on social media post war, as they rebuild a country totally ripped apart by a brutal, senseless and disgraceful war.

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Finally, being the animal lover that I am I also have to offer a prayer for the “cat man of Aleppo” and all the stray cats he cares for.  Again thanks to social media we have been able to follow the amazing work this ambulance driver has been doing.  With so much human suffering going on we often forget the animals that are also caught in this hell.  They have no voice and no way of sharing their anguish and terror with the wider world.  One very brave man though is there to be their voice and to care for them.  When many fled he stayed to care for all the abandoned and stray cats showing the most incredible bravery.  The pictures that he shares over Twitter also break my heart but there are also some heart-warming ones such as the little girl playing with a kitten that she adopted from him.  What will happen to Alaa and his cats?  I have no idea but I will continue to follow him on Twitter and hope that their story has a happy ending at the end of all this horror.

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Social media & breaking down health stigma

This week I saw a really powerful video called “I had a black dog, his name was depression” which was developed by the WHO to talk about depression.  Despite this video being a bit “long” at just over 4 minutes I watched it through to the very end.  As someone who has had my own issues with the black dog over the years the video really resonated with me.

I have certainly had to make compromises in my life as a result of depression.  Whilst people at work have never really seen the impact of my depression, my friends have.  This is because when you suffer from depression you work really hard to hide it and to carry on and invariable you have to prioritise your energy.  For me work has always won that prioritisation but that means that at the end of the day I had no energy left to meet with friends.  In hindsight this may have exacerbated things as I had no one to talk to and just fought my battle on my own.

Today however things are different.  Firstly I found out that my depression was actually a symptom not a stand-alone disease (it was in fact a result of my Hashimoto’s, for which I am now getting treatment).    Secondly I decided that as someone who works in the healthcare industry I have a duty to stand up and be a voice for patients, to help break down the social stigma and the silence that goes with this, and many other diseases.  I stopped making excuses to my friends (I’m busy, I have a cold, etc.) but become open and if I could not go out because of depression I told them. I was amazed at just how many of my friends then also came out and told me they too had had their own battles with depression.  We started talking and it often really helped.

The other big change though that I have seen since my first bout of depression in my early twenties is the impact of social media.  When I once posted on Facebook about it I had friends PM me to tell me how brave I was but also how it helped them to hear that they were not the only one having these battles.  I did not think I was brave – I think I was just being passionate about the my obligations as a patient who works in the healthcare industry.

Social media also provides people with a forum where they can talk to others, anomalously if they want, and get support when they need it.  I myself have written in the past about my involvement in talking a Facebook friend down from suicide via a Facebook group.  The lady in particular had set up a closed group called “Goodbye” where she shared that she had had enough and had decided to end it.  Members of the group included people from the US, Europe and Australia, so we really were able to provide her with 24 hour support.  We were there for her and provided her with the friends and support she did not have offline, without which I am sure she would no longer be here today.  Social media really did save a life.

The other benefit that I believe social media is bringing is to help break down the stigma and enabling people to talk openly, and show their support.  By moving depression out of the dark and into the public domain it can help patients, and give them the confidence to talk to people and seek help.  Knowing you are not alone can in itself be incredibly impactful.

Finally another thing to remember about depression is that it is not just a developed world problem.  Not surprisingly depression is a huge issue in war torn countries or where people do not have a balanced diet (as is the case in areas of extreme poverty). In these countries however the stigma is still very big around depression and talking about health problems, and here having access to an online resource where you can be anonymous can really have a huge impact.  Slowly as more people in these countries get access to the internet we may hopefully start to see technology starting to help improve the lives of patients in these countries.

We still have a long way to go to break down the stigma surrounding  depression and mental health but social media is helping.  The positive results should be seen not only in terms of patients quality of life but also economically as people get the support they need to be able to function and be productive at work.  I personally never took a sick day because of my depression but I know many people who have.  Reducing those sick days would be another great ROI for social media!

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#Tinder … is it social?

This week I was giving a lesson on the basics of social media and I noticed that Tinder was included in Fred Cavazza’s awesome social media inforgraphic.  I have to admit that this surprised me – I’ve been using Tinder for years but I never thought of it as a social platform.  For me Tinder fits into the online dating category, not social media.

However this image made me think – what is social media but platforms were people can engage and interact … just like online dating.  The more I pondered this the more I began to see the sense of Tinder appearing on this image, especially with the new functionalities that Tinder has brought in recently.

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With this new thinking I logged back into Tinder, and with my partner in crime and a few glasses of bubbly, we decided to test out the new Tinder Social.  This functionality is Tinder’s attempt to take the dating app into the more “social” realm. It allows people to form groups with friends of theirs who are also on Tinder and then swipe other groups to chat with and potentially meet up with.  You can only engage with these groups if you yourself are in a group – so a single profile can’t engage up with a group profile. There’s been quite a few comments about what this functionality is really for, especially given what many single people use Tinder for, and I have to admit that I was therefore not overly surprised to see a few male female groups, where it was clearly a couple looking for fun.

Anyway so there is me and my partner in crime, let’s call her Miss.B., playing with Tinder social.  It was Miss B. that set up our little group and this is where I stumbled upon my first issue with Tinder social – she could add me to a group without my permission or even notifying me.  I find this quite concerning – any of my friends on Tinder could use my profile and there is nothing I can do about it.  I pondered how I could use one of my friends in Australia’s profiles to form my own group – knowing she would be fast asleep I could in theory have fun with groups without having to worry about her quitting my group (well not until the early hours when she woke up).  I could image her waking up perplexed to find her Tinder inbox full of these group chats – how angry do you think she would be?  I know I would be pretty peeved! Mark one against Tinder.

I then came across our next stumbling block with Tinder’s attempt to get more social … control.  While Miss B. was happily swipping away on other groups I discovered that as she set up the group (on her iPhone) she had all the control – I was unable to swipe groups on my side (with my Android phone).  This meant she could connect with whoever she wanted, using my profile, but I had no say in the matter, and again the result was a stream of discussions in my Tinder inbox that I may not have wanted to participate in.  Mark two against Tinder.

My final thought around Tinder and social is how the app now pulls in information from your other social networks.  To sign up to Tinder you can use your Facebook account – and Tinder now shows you common connections as you browse people’s profiles.  I have to admit that I do not always like this.  I am not sure that I want to know that someone I might hook up with on Tinder is also friends with my ex, for example.  I have also discovered another potential issue here too as I have started getting friend and message requests through Facebook (& Instagram) from guys who have seen my profile on Tinder and rather than use the Tinder app to contact me go straight to one of these other social media networks.   I’m not sure if I actually find this a bit intrusive – if I was interested in you I’d swipe right – but at the same time I’m always quick to move Tinder chats off Tinder  anyway (it drains battery like there’s no tomorrow) so maybe it’s not that bad.  But still a potential mark three against Tinder.

Having now played around with Tinder’s new social functionality and having looked at it from this new perspective I think I could agree to having Tinder appear in this social media image.  The question for me though is whether Tinder is on the right path with these new “social” features?  I have been a huge fun of Tinder for years and have been very successful with it’s basic functionality, but I am starting to feel it may be getting a bit intrusive, as it leaches into my other social platforms. Maybe it is time to find a more anonymous dating app?  Especially given the potential intrusion of Tinder Social where I have no control over whether someone uses my profile or not.  Or maybe I’m just being a bit bah humbug because Miss B. got to enjoy all the fun of Tinder Social while I just watched helpless as she swiped some dodgy looking guys, and then found my phone constantly vibrating with these said groups trying to chat with me.  Either way whilst Tinder could be considered a social media app they also need to tread carefully as they are walking a fine line between being social and being intrusive.  What do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

What should good look like?

Over the years I have often been asked what good looks like when it comes to digital in pharma.  I have been asked for benchmarks and examples from other pharma.  Who does digital best is another popular question.  My answer to this is there is no single answer. There is no single pharma company that stands out across the board in digital.  There are some that have done great apps but have terrible websites, or have done great apps but failed on social media.

So when I am asked what good looks like I tend to reply – what do you think?  As a pharma company whether you are targeting HCPs or patients it is important to remember that these stakeholders are people – just like you and me.  Sometimes the way I see pharma talking about HCPs it is as if they are a separate species, a species that does not use Amazon or Tripadvisor, or any other online services.  Our stakeholders are however people like you are me, and like you and me they use online services for everything from shopping to banking.

That is why when I am asked what good looks like I ask my clients to think about their own use of digital.  What is that they like about Amazon?  What do they hate?  What are their own online behaviours?  Whilst where we shop and go for news online varies country to country basic behaviours and expectations are very similar.  No one likes pop up ads or pages that take forever to load.  No one enjoys clicking multiple times trying to find basic information.  In this day and age we all have certain expectations when it comes to digital, and we expect to be able to access information quickly and easily.  Why should we not expect the same basics from pharma?  Why should we are users have to battle to get to the information we are looking for?  Will we keep trying or just go somewhere else?

I don’t know about you but I know if a website, or other digital tool, does not give me what I want, and quickly, I will go elsewhere.  I am fairly certain the same rings true for pharma customers too.  Therefore when someone asks what good looks like – the answer is already there in our own day to day behaviours and expectations.  Don’t you think?

To SXSW or not that is the question

The time is rapidly approaching when tickets for SXSW 2017 go on sale.  This means the time is rapidly approaching that I need to make the decision – do I go again next year, for my third time, or not.

I went to SXSW for the first time in 2015 (you can read my posts about this trip here) and it was one of the most amazing experiences.  In fact it had such a great impact on me that I quit my job to go back to focusing on digital and social media strategy.  It was therefore natural that the minute tickets for SXSW 2016 went on sale I bought one and booked my hotel. I had to go back for more!

As is often the case though that first, amazing, experience was not replicated the second time round.  I think this was in part as it did not have that first-time “wow” – this time I knew what to expect and that first year I saw some truly inspirational things.   That is not to say I did not enjoy SXSW this year but I am not sure it was worth what I ended up paying for it (I left buying flights until the last minute which was a costly mistake and I opted to stay in a very nice expensive hotel).  Then again I did come back with my Galaxy Gear VR headset which is totally cool!

So let’s see.  I still have a few days to ponder on this.

 

 

#WheresDon?

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The fabulous Hope for Romanian Strays guest blogger Don has vanished!  Can you find help him?  He decided to take a Face-cation (a vacation from Facebook) but we now need him back to help with the charity birthday celebrations!  We need your help to keep an eye out for him and share your photos of Don if you “spot” him – perhaps during your own vacation somewhere – being sure to include #WheresDon and the Hope for Romanian Strays logo in your photo too (#wheresdon).

H2SThis fun little campaign actually has a more serious side to it – we want to raise awareness of the Hope for Romanian Strays brand as the first part of an awareness campaign for our charity.  Hope for Romanian Strays is a small, volunteer run, charity that rescues stray dogs in Romania.  The campaign will be rolled out in a couple of stages, with #WheresDon as the first stage.  This will be just one of the many initiatives we are launching for our 4th birthday, and was in fact inspired but a few complaints from some very active offline supporters who believe very strongly that the use of gamification and humour are totally inappropriate in the serious world of animal rescue.  The fact that many large charity use these techniques successfully appears to be invalid.  They do the most amazing work offline I might add and whilst they do not respect the work I do online I certainly respect the work they do offline.

So do you want to help us find Don and get him back in time to help with our birthday celebrations?  I hope so!  All you have to do is use a tool such as Pizap to photoshop Don  into one of your own photos, such as a holiday snap, also add our logo (very important!) and the text #WheresDon. Once you are happy please share away tagging or mentioning the charity.  If you like you can also use other relevant hashtags like #animalrescue etc.

Or perhaps if you “can’t find Don” you would prefer to photoshop in one of your own Romanian rescues?  That’s fine too as long you include our logo and #WheresDon in the photo!

So please get busy and join the hunt for Don!  Let’s see if we can find him and raise some awareness for Hope for Romanian Strays and at the same show that there is room for other ways of raising awareness and funds and that gamification and humour can in fact have a positive impact for a charity.  Of course if you would rather just donate money to the charity instead that’s great too – the charity paypal is hopeforstrays.paypal@gmail.com!  Just mention #WheresDon when you do so we know that this worked 🙂

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The boundaries of privacy

privateI had a rather unpleasant surprise today when I found out that one of my “friends” had shared some of my personal Facebook posts with my current boss.  Given the privacy settings of my posts I presume this was done by the said person physically showing their screen.  I was absolutely mortified to discover this infringement on my privacy but was also very angry and upset by this blatant abuse of my trust.

I am very picky around who I friend on my personal Facebook account (including never accepting friend requests from work colleagues) and that is precisely so that I do not have to feel like I have to censor what I write.  My friends know that I share very personal information, whether it be around my health or my love life, and to find that one of them thought it would be appropriate to share this insight into my private life with my employer is disgusting.  In fact I actually even have a “disclaimer” on my Facebook page to flag the personal and private nature of my posts.  Needless to say said “friend” is no longer a friend in my book … if I ever find out who it was.

Now there is plenty of debate around privacy, and expectations for privacy, in social media, and some would question whether it was stupid of me to post personal things to my Facebook page if I am concerned about other people reading these posts.  I push back on this though as I believe the right to privacy exists just as much online as it does offline.  Platforms like Facebook provide the option of restricting who I share my posts with and I trust my friends to respect that.  The fact that a friend has abused that trust says more about that person than social media.

Despite my beliefs on the right to privacy I would still be cautious about posting anything that could get me into trouble – but this is not my point here.  The content that was shared was not in anyway related to work but related to my personal life and related to information that I like to share to with my friends, and which my friends like to hear about.  If it were public content or content I was happy to share with a wider audience I would have changed my settings.  To me it is a sad day that I feel like I can no longer stay connected with my friends across the world because one person decided that I do not have a right to privacy, despite my clear disclaimer on what I post to my page.  The sharing of private content from a private and closed social media account is akin to photo-coping someone’s private letter or recording a private phone call and sharing that around.  It can happen but one does not expect a friend to do that.

There is though a broader issue here too.  I mentioned that I share very personal health information on my Facebook page.  Now I am actually very open about my health so I have less of an issue with someone sharing this – but for many people this is not the case.  For many people private social media offers a very valuable resource to connect and talk with people about this very personal topic.  I have been involved in supporting people with severe depression whose only outlet was their private Facebook account.  For someone like this to find out that a “friend” has shared their highly private and sensitive posts with a member of the “public” could be devastating.  For me again this highlights my beliefs that just because a person shares information digitally does not mean they automatically lose the right to privacy.  Regardless of which channel or medium a person shares information – if it is in a private setting and clearly highly personal their right to privacy should be respected.

It therefore with heavy heart that I find myself now having to either censor my content, and no longer share my private news, or to start de-friending people.   If whoever did this to me is reading this – thank you very much for abusing my trust in you and putting me in this situation.  I hope it was worth it for you.

Snapchat here I come …

Being passionate about social media and the latest technology I felt obliged last year to have a look at Snapchat and sign up for it.  I had a couple of friends who are using it and raved about it and it was “the” latest trend so I just had to join the craze.  So I signed up.  Or rather my friend helped me sign up and get started.  She swore I’d love it – she told me about all the fun she was having with her colleagues in the US and all the jokes and laughs they shared.  It sounded pretty fun.

I am a very active Facebooker and have always been.  I am also very active on Twitter and Pinterest.  In fact I love these three social channels and think I would really struggle not to use them on a daily basis.  I have even considered doing a sponsored week off social to raise money for Hope for Romanian Strays … but I genuinely do not know if I could do it!  One week without any online social interaction?  One week with no browsing and sharing?  OMG!

So one of my concerns was Snapchat was that I was potentially adding yet more to my social routine – where would I find the time?  If it was a great as my friend made out I would soon be addicted!  However part of me also questioned the “why”.  As mentioned I was already very active on two high engagement channels (Facebook and Twitter) and for communication with my friends I was also very active on Whatsapp.  What role would Snapchat play?  How would it enhance what I already had?  Or would it not enhance but rather replace something?

I was not sure so I gave it a try to try to answer these questions.  I tried it.  I really did try.  But I just did not get it.  I really did not see the “Why”.  It offered me nothing that my current social channels were not offering.  It did not enhance these either.  While Pinterest, for example, does not offer much in terms of “engagement” with my friends or network it did provide me with content to share to my network or content that I could enjoy looking at or using (e.g. recipes).  Snapchat just did not add anything to my life that I did not feel I already had covered. I gave up.

A few months later my friend was at me again, this time with support from a second friend.  I really should give it another try. They got me active by sending me some stuff.  This time round I could start to see some of the “Why” but again it really was not enhancing any of my engagement or relationships.  I also began to suspect that this was a channel that you only really got if you were very active and had a big group of active friends too.  I had neither – after all I am about 20 years older that the average Snapchatter.  So I gave up again.

Then today as I headed off to a business meeting I got a message from one of my Tinder dates who I have been seeing for a while (did I mention I am a huge fan of Tinder?).  He happens to be younger than me and fits easily into the top end of the average Snapchatter demographic.  He is on Snapchat and yes he asked me to add him on my Snapchat.  And so it is I am now giving it another go – maybe third time lucky.  Maybe this time I will see a different side to the “why”?  I must admit that I have not yet snapchatted with him but I have discovered another venue to bombard my friends with funny photos of my cats.  I think I may finally be seeing some value in this channel!  Whether my friends will agree with this as they see more and more photos of “King” Don remains to be seen.

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The Don looking all regal