Friday, October 29, 2010

Pharma Social Media Behind the Curtain

Like the Wizard of Oz performing his "magic" behind the curtain, there may be many pharma "wizards" happily managing social media projects behind the scenes and out of public view. All it takes is a new age "Dorothy" to pull back the curtain. That "Dorothy" is Jess Seilheimer (@Jaeselle), who alerted me about the possibilities in a comment to yesterday's post  about Shwen Gwee (see "Happy Pharma Social Media Halloween!"). Shwen leads Digital Strategy and Social Media within the Marketing department at Vertex Pharmaceuticals.

There's a bit of a brouhaha coursing through Twitterdom and the pharma blogosphere about Shwen. Some critics (eg, Rich Meyer, @richmeyer) say that Shwen "has not really done anything of substance yet and works for a company that does not even have any approved drugs yet." I pointed out that "Shwen may actually be working on ... a [social media] project within Vertex but not talking about it."

Today, the WSJ  published an article touting a drug under development at Vertex that may CURE Hepatitis C! (see "New Hepatitis C Drugs May Be Blockbusters"). Surely, Shwen is hard at work "behind the curtain" developing a social media marketing strategy that will launch in concert with the new drug. In fact, as Jess points out, there may be "plenty of initiatives that pre-launch brands focus on in this phase, some of which may not be public knowledge."

Here is what Jess had to say about that and other ways that pharmaceutical companies may be using social media "behind the curtain:"
I'm of the belief that no one should try to validate who "does what" in social media when you're only qualifying it to an approved brand or initiatives in the public domain.

Exhibit A) There are plenty of ways to utilize social media engagement and digital channel in the pre-launch market awareness phase. Initiatives that pre-launch brands focus on in this phase, some of which may not be public knowledge.

- crowd sourcing HCPs input re: R&D initiatives

- utilizing PatientsLikeMe to identify, recruit and communicate with appropriate patients for phase III trial enrollment

- private HCP advisory board networks built through Ozmosis or Within3 social platforms

- 3rd party social sentiment/listening analysis through Buzz Metrics, et al (something that takes months to garner learnings then analyzed/utilized internally to inform target engagement strategies for launch)

- Unbranded disease awareness campaigns development- creating a need for new market entry (again something that may take months to create---tactics which may be teased out on a phased approach

Exhibit B) There are also corporate level initiatives that utilize building policy around a company's POV on how they approach using these channels to optimize their communications.

- these initiatives happen behind the scenes for months

- corporate initiatives are sometimes not publicly published/available for analysis like Roche or AZ

- corporate level investment in internal staff onboarding, education and applicability of using social media as a means to communicate internally with each other.

My point: Having a public brand/corporate supported "patient community" does not equate to "I have done social media', and we should use caution when trying to qualify someone;s knowldeg or within the area. Lastly, let's please consider using appropriate terminology when referring to utilizing social engagement channels for our business/brand objective-- it's not "doing social media".

Al things to take into consideration when proclaiming "people haven't done anything in social media".

They are.
We all are.
You may just not know it.

2 comments:

  1. Hmmm.John you bring up some valid points but the way pharma self promotes "look what I have done" you would think that these "accomplishments" would be plastered all over the pharma blog universe as Bayer did when they released their mobile app that nobody seems to want to us.

    My emphasis was more on DTC marketing and social media not what the corps do (i.e. Lilly Pad). If I look at all the research I have led over the past two years (2 binders worth) one thing that summarizes up the way consumers are using the Web for health would be "they have moved on from pharma as a resource and have developed resources of their own" at the same time that a number of new community health sites are now starting to appear. In short once again pharma is behind the curve. Some companies like Novartis and Sanofi do get it but for the most part there are a lot of pharma's that are just too engrained in old marketing to appreciate that consumers have moved on

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  2. Anonymous11:00 AM

    Shwen is extremely popular on Twitter. I would think that his personal brand will be very useful to his company if and when it launches a campaign through his account.

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