Last week I had the immense pleasure of chairing the SMI conference on social media in the pharmaceutical industry.  I have to admit that I really enjoyed chairing, despite some minor hiccup with some of the name pronunciations (for which I do apologise!).

On the whole I enjoyed it and found the vast majority of presentations really interesting.  Not surprisingly Boehringer dominated the event. There was  Müge Gizem Bıçakçı Akalın from Boehringer Ingelheim Turkey who presented some great slides on what they have been doing in social media.  The first thing, that got lots of raised eyebrows, was their Facebook page targeting women with period pains for their product Buscopan.  The page is a profile page for a “retro” female character called … Buce Kopan!  To many of us this just seemed so blatantly DTC but apparently this is not seen as such in Turkey and both Buce and Kopan are well known Turkish names.  Doing a bit of research I can confirm that there are in fact numerous people called Buce Kopan so perhaps it is not quite as bad – just a tad a risky in my opinion!


 The other thing that I thought was fantastic to hear from Boehringer Turkey was that they are integrating their social media into their sales efforts – so they are encouraging sales reps to support the social media campaigns and are rewarding them for their involvement.  This to me is taking social media to the next level and it is great to see Boehringer again being a pioneer in this space. 

Another Boehringer presentation was made by John Pugh who showed some really interesting research, which I believe Silja Chouquet did for Boehringer, comparing the various pharma social media accounts.  There were some interesting points about how number of followers correlates to a degree with company size.  Reach however does not – so Novartis has far more followers that Boehringer on twitter but the same reach as Boehringer. 

Boehringer is also known for trying things out, and John talked through another example of this with the hypertension Facebook page for HCPs.  They had chosen an area where products are soon going off patent – so not a priority brand area – to test how relevant and effective a Facebook page for HCPs would be.  So far it looks like this has been a success – with some interesting learnings such as to advertise on the platform you are using rather than on other platforms (i.e. Facebook advert to a Facebook page). 

That was not the end to the Boehringer mentions though!  I myself used them as a case example when I talked about building relationships with KOL and KOI online.  My main points were that there is value in doing this and that there is a clear process to follow.  You can see my presentation here:

Gary Monk also spoke about how human Boehringer’s approach to social media is, citing their Facebook disclaimer as a great example,  contrasting markedly with Novartis’ very legal and formal disclaimer.  Gary also made a great point that Novartis, a company based in Switzerland, a country with four official languages (none of them English) has called out in their disclaimer that they community is English language only.  Boehringer of course manages very nicely to deal with multiple languages!  You can see Gary’s presentation here.

There were also some great examples from companies other than Boehringer.  Sherri Matis-Mitchell from Astra Zeneca presented some really interesting information on how they are using social media listening in R&D.  This actually seemed to complement a theme than ran through the event – namely the move of social media from marketing and communicaitons into R&D.  There were a few other mentions of the use of social media in clinical trial recruitment.  Dr Alfred Steinhardt presented a really interesting case study where social media had been used to reduce clinical trial recruitment down from six months to five weeks.  The cost-saving implications for this are huge! 

He also mentioned a fantastic example where social media intelligence had unmasked a competitor creating multiple online profiles to negatively influence consumer behaviour via social media groups!  Sadly he would not divulge more information on this.

There was also a very brave step by Sanofi to have a lawyer come present at the conference.  Audrey Hagege presented on how legal need not be a barrier but should be a partner in social media development.  I thought it was fantastic to see someone from legal there and I really have to say hats off to Sanofi for have legal not only attend but also present.

We also had a large presence from the #hcsmeu twitterati.  There was @thibaudguymard from Merck who talked about Univadis France and some of the great work they are doing.  Having seen Shona Davis present around Univadis from the global point of view last year it was great to see the local point of view.

 We then also had a whole array of twitterati present “virtually” through video thanks to my ex-colleague Piotr Wrzosinski from Roche.  It brought back many happy memories I must say!

It was also interesting to see such a broad array of social media being presented.  Besides the Facebook and Twitter initiative already mentioned there was also a presentation by James Finney from Novozymes around their use of Linkedin and Claire Perrin from Lilly demonstrated an mhealth initiative in depression.  I was so impressed with the app that I wanted to get my father to download it to show to my brother (a GP) but sadly I could not find it in on iTunes.

Perhaps my very favourite presentation however was the one that brought us all back to the reality of social media.  Ben Furber from Asthma UK talked about having fun online and … the fact that social media is all about cats!  How true!  Yes at the end of the day social media is and always will be about cats 😉

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