This is very difficult for me to admit, but the social media emperor has no clothes and the hope that pharmaceutical companies will ever embrace this new technology to reach out and communicate with consumers and physicians is a pipe dream imagined by over-zealous entrepreneurs.
I have some personal experience and recent news items that back up what I say.
First, this bit of news reported in MM&M: "Revolution Health reduces staff by 50 to 'consolidate synergies'"
As you may know from at least one post to Pharma Marketing Blog, an interview on Pharma Marketing Talk, and an article in Pharma Marketing News, Revolution Health was founded in March 2005 by Steve Case and is a social networking site for consumers and patients.
Case blames pharma's notoriously puny e-Marketing budget for the need to downsize:
"...Case has publicly lamented the pharmaceutical industry's hesitation to embrace interactive marketing and inject a greater share of promotional budget into online initiatives.What's crazy is the idea that social networking sites can make money serving pharmaceutical ads, especially a site like Revolution Health that includes many comments from patients dissing brand name drugs!
'It is astonishing to me how under-invested this industry is in digital media,' Case told delegates at the seventh annual ePharma Summit in Philadelphia in January. 'This is crazy.'"
But the causes for the failure of social networking sites goes much further than the lack of pharma buy-in.
I've been experimenting with social networking applications for some time. One site is the Pharma Marketing Network Forums to which marketing professionals can post content, engage in discussions, build "buddy lists," rate other posters, create polls, etc. The benefits of submitting content to the site are staggering -- eg, extremely HIGH search engine visibility -- but very few people are participating, even when I register them and set up their basic profiles!
You might say that I have not explained the benefits well enough to my audience. But that's not what I hear when I talk to colleagues. The main issue they cite: NOT ENOUGH TIME.
Given all the things we need to do in a day, WHO HAS THE TIME to post content on a regular basis to social network sites? Not me! I have engaged RSS technology to AUTOMATICALLY post content from other sources. From surveys I am finding that THAT is the most useful feature of my social networking site.
Only losers, malcontents, and bargain hunters have the time to engage in social networking. Is this the audience you want to reach with your ads? I think not!
OK, tell me how WRONG I am! Inquiring minds want to know!