Category Archives: Facebook
I have been asked to talk about the topic of “Is Pharma Afraid of Social Media” at the GLC Social Media and Emarketing Forum this week in Frankfurt. Had I been asked this question a few years ago, indeed even last year, I would have said a resounding “Yes”. However times have changed and my initial response to this was “not anymore”. But I thought I would reach out and ask the community and see what they thought. I posted a poll on Linkedin, and then shared it via Linkedin and Twitter.
I will have to admit that I was mildly surprised by the result (so far at least). The first pleasant surprise was the talented Andrew Spong feeling inspired by my poll to write a blog post in response: http://stwem.com/2013/06/04/four-reasons-why-pharma-isnt-afraid-of-social-media/
The second surprise was that I thought the majority of answers would go to “Yes and No” as opposed to “Yes” or “No” – if anything because it is the most neutral “depends”-like answer. The result so far however is a resounding “Yes” with over 50% voting that Pharma is indeed afraid of social media.
Personally my response is the “Yes and No” because of the mix in responses to social media – there have been some great examples but there are also a large number of pharma companies failing to adequately engage via social media. I can however understand the strong tendency towards the “Yes” vote – there are certainly enough examples of pharma being scared of social media.
Firstly, while there are many pharma companies that have undertaken great social media initiatives (like GE Healthcare’s current #GetFit initiative) there are far more examples of no initiatives or a lack of activity. If we look at Facebook for example at first glance it looks like pharma is finally onboard as most of the big companies have some sort of Facebook presence. On closer inspection however you will notice that very few have their walls open to posting – Boehringer Ingelheim is one of the few to do this. This shows, in my opinion, a fear of opening up to conversation, questions and engagement. By restricting your engagement simply to comments under your own posts you have some form of control – comments are less visible than posts and in theory will be focused around what you posted. This reflects pharma’s fear of giving up control – something which is a reality on social media.
Secondly is the age old regulatory argument. As Andrew so rightly points out there are very few examples of regulatory bodies raising complaints or having issues with any of pharmas social media activity (including Boehringer Ingelheim’s full-on engagement approach). Nonetheless this fact seems to have evaded a number of people in pharma. Regulatory constraints is still the number one push back I get from pharma companies around why they are not active on social media. It is a great, and very comfortable excuse. It also highlights the fear of trying something “new” (even if social media really is no longer new).
Thirdly I believe politics and internal inefficiency is often holding companies back from publishing and pushing through social media guidelines. Yes many companies have these (I like Andrew have also written quite a few!) but what I have also seen is that these guidelines get approved and may get shared with a few people at global and department level, but it is not unheard of to find out that people on the ground, at local level, have no idea that these guidelines exist, or if they do they are still to concerned to take the risk to implement. For guidelines to be effective they have to be communicated, publicised and encouraged, from senior executives, otherwise they end up in drawers or getting ignored.
Finally I think the sad reality is there is still a great deal of “ostrich head in sand” syndrome in the industry – the concept that if I do not see or hear it then it does not exist or affect me. I have often heard the reason / excuse for not doing social media that “it is not relevant to me / to my stakeholders”. My response to that is “take your head out of the sand and look around”! There are very few instances when there is literally no value or use in social media. Certainly all marketing and communications related departments, and those relating to clinical trials, can glean a great deal of insights just from social media listening. As to stakeholders not using social media – this is an ever diminishing group – do they really warrant your total lack of attention in this area?
So there is still a great deal of fear of social media in pharma. That said I am an optimist and I think that fear is diminishing. I firmly believe if I redo this survey next year there will be a resounding majority answering “No” pharma is not afraid of social media.
And thanks again Andrew for the inspirational blog post (if you have got this far and have not yet read then I recommend it http://stwem.com/2013/06/04/four-reasons-why-pharma-isnt-afraid-of-social-media/ )
One wonderful thing about social media and new technologies is the power it places in individuals hands. Where previously as an individual you either had to have actual power – e.g. be the Prime Minister, or be in a powerful role such as a journalist for a leading newspaper, today technology has placed power within reach of individuals and small groups.
This is particularly valuable when it comes to worthy causes and raising awareness. Social media has enabled some very positive changes in healthcare – for example raising the awareness around the need for women to get screened for cervical cancer. Often the awareness is driven by an organisation or charity, but at other times it can come from a dedicated individual who knows how to make full use of the channel. Kelly Young, aka @Rawarrior, and author of the http://rawarrior.com/ blog, springs to mind as a great example of an individual who does a great job in raising awareness and providing resources around a disease.
Now the reason I was inspired to write about this is actually not related to healthcare. Rather my inspiration for this post comes from a very small and brand new charity called Hope for Romanian Strays set up by Aniela Ghita. To me Aniela is a wonderful example, like Kelly Young, of the difference that one person can make – and how social media can then amplify that difference.
I first came across Aniela via my cat’s facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/TheDonCat). I saw a rather desperate post asking for help with a paralysed dog that had been rescued from the street. Emily was a one year old terrier and along with her friend Aira – another rescue dog – had been found a forever home in the UK. Emily and Aira’s new mum was going to pay for the medial expenses – including Emily’s expensive wheels – and a transport option had been found for them. However the cost for the transport was around €1000 and Aniela had four days to raise the funds – the new mum could not afford to pay medical expenses and transport costs.
Years ago this would probably have been an impossible ask – but Aniela posted an event on Facebook and shared it with her network. This was how I came across this heart-wrenching story. My first concern was that this was one of the many scams but I decided to risk it anyway and donated – I felt that if this was genuine then I had to act to help get these two dogs both with horrific stories to a new loving home. It was no scam and Aniela managed to raise the funds in time thanks to Facebook and Emily and Aira are now both very happy in their new home in the UK. Had it not been for Facebook both these dogs would probably still be in a desperate condition in Romania but social media gave one woman the power to make a small change for the good and rescue these dogs.
For me this is truly inspiring to see passion and dedication like this becoming really effective, and making bigger changes thanks to a technology and channel that gives the individual the power to reach out to like minded people around the world and ask for help for such a worthy cause. I salute all you individuals out there making these changes and doing good – and on behalf of all the dogs and cats you rescue I thank you Aniela!
As an addendum: I am now working with Aniela to help further extend her work. She has formally set up a charity called Help for Romanian Strays and you can find out more information via Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hope-for-Romanian-Strays/310177669061280 , Twitter @hopeforstrays and via the blog http://hopeforstrays.com If you can help with your skills or wish to donate (or even better adopt) then please contact Aniela at firstname.lastname@example.org. And of course please share!