Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Filling the Social Media Void: Shout or Be Shouted At!

Yesterday I posted a critique of Bayer's use of YouTube to present the video "A Discussion of Oral Conception Using YAZ: Risks and Benefits" (see "The Trouble with YouTube: YAZ Case Study").

The trouble comes from the fact that if you don't have other videos in your channel, then competitor videos will be highlighted alongside yours. These "competitors" are often law firms suing your company, disgruntled consumers, or actual brand competitors whose videos are selected on the basis of some Google algorithm.

That is, the message vacuum opened up by this YAZ YouTube video was filled by some techie's idea of relevance rather than the marketer's. Marketers should abhor such a vacuum.

Kevin Nalts (@Nalts) offered a "workaround" in this comment to my post: "It's kinda like the web... can't control it but you can shout louder and hope the truth rises. Also there are 2 workarounds. First, branded channels put your own stuff above related videos. Second- You can buy a featured related video spot targeted to your own video."

Bayer might try this solution: Instead of one long 8-minute video, break it up into 4 short 2-minute videos (the video should have been designed for this in the first place). Then the "related video" column would include all the YAZ videos at the top instead of a law firm's anti-YAZ video.

Is this "gaming" the system by "shouting"? If it is, then it's a beneficial form of "gaming" because it actually may make it easier for viewers to digest the message in short bites rather than one big gulp.

"Shouting," however, is not proper social media etiquette. What is shouting any way? IT COULD BE USING ALL CAPS IN TWITTER POSTS. Maybe it's using all CAPS in Twitter posts. It could be using all CAPS in posts made to Twitter. Or it could be repeating the same message over and over again as I just did.

I don't think Nalts meant this when he mentioned "shout louder." He meant populating the space with more of your messages than the other guy. Again, something frowned upon in the social media space.

My suggestion is that pharma marketers ENCOURAGE conversation even if it means critics SHOUTING at them.

My fear is that if pharma marketers are not going to encourage conversation, then their only alternative is to fill the vacuum by pushing out their own messages. If this is what the industry is headed for, then it will be marketing as usual.

Just a thought.


  1. Thanks for your insightful post John, much appreciated. You raise an interesting point of discussion on the idea of "shouting" as a social media technique. I think the argument you make--that "shouting" is not proper social media etiquette--and the intent of Kevin's comment meet somewhere in the middle. By its nature, shouting does not imply a two-way conversation. Taken on its surface, that certainly falls short of the standards of social media. But as you pointed out, pharma marketeres should encourage conversation. This conversation has the same result as the so-called "shouting." the more a brand is involved in a conversation with its customers/patients the more likely it is to generate search results with psotitive commentary. It's about content really, not getting your meesage out more than the next guy. Granted, the content should not be self-promotional and should always be transparent.

    As we all know, SEO has changed the face of marketing because it allows commentary to live in infamy. If a ticked off patient writes a post called, "Big Pharma Company A Sucks," it is likely to appear prominently in search results. But instead of "shouting" (i.e. broadcasting a rebuttal), what if a pharma company was present in the discussion happening on that post in an attempt to address some of the patient's concerns? What if that particpation spurred a follow-up post praising the company for its proactive outreach, which would help to balance out the negative view? That has to count for something right? The point is, as you say, pharma marketeres should be encouraged to partake in and spur conversation. This will inevitably help their brand and also achieve the same outcmoe as the "shouting" mentioned above.

  2. Chris,

    I agree with you 100%. My only fear is that marketers may have a tough time conversing rather than delivering packaged messages. Obviously, pharma marketers have a tougher row to hoe because of FDA regulations, but they shouldn't use that as an excuse, IMHO.

  3. Chris- I should clarify. By shouting I meant being easier (or as easy) to find as negative or misleading information. Given manufacturers' legitimate fears (regulatory/legal) of truly "conversing," it's the best we can hope for in the near term. And the tone, of course, is not a shout. It's about being where our customers are... with a polite and relevant way to engage before we jam our promotion down their throats.

  4. that's great idea for twitter shouting.


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