Thursday, October 28, 2010

Happy Pharma Social Media Halloween!

Shwen Gwee recently received the Pharmaguy Social Media Pioneer lapel pin in recognition of his pioneering work as a pharmaceutical social media evangelist.

Just today, Shwen received this mummy on his doorstep from an anonymous source. Needless to say, he's pretty confused. Who would send him such a thing? Perhaps it was an old mummified Web 1.0 pharma pioneer? We may never know.

Shwen leads Digital Strategy and Social Media within the Marketing department at Vertex Pharmaceuticals where I am sure he is playing a major role in educating his colleagues and preparing for the day when his company may launch a social media initiative.

How can someone who has not yet actually been involved in a pharma company social media project receive such a coveted award? Well, first of all, Shwen may actually be working on such a project within Vertex but not talking about it*. More importantly, he is everywhere that social media is discussed within pharmaceutical and healthcare circles.

Like one of the original seven U.S. astronauts, who may not have traveled in space, Shwen is training those who will be there someday and may yet be called to duty himself. So stop trying to scare him, whoever you are!

*Vertex may soon get approval for a blockbuster Hepatitis C "cure" (see "New Hepatitis C Drugs May Be Blockbusters"). Four million Americans may have Hepatitis C and as many as 3 million of them don't know it. This is ripe territory for a social media campaign focused on a population of younger people that includes celebrities.

CORRECTION: Shwen tells me that "most prevalent pop for HCV is baby boomers" like me. Even better I would say. According to Deloitte data, 2009 was the year that social media bloomed for Baby Boomers, with nearly 47% of them actively maintaining a profile on the social web, which is up 15% from 2008 (see "Baby Boomers and Seniors Are Flocking to Facebook").


  1. John: As you know I tend to say what is on my mind. My passion for patients drives my love for pharma marketing and I too am aware that one of the little secrets that I believe is hurting pharma marketers are that it tends to be the same people over and over saying the same things but doing little. I have nothing personally against Shwen but I mean he has not done really done anything of substance yet and works for a company that does not even have any approved drugs yet he is continually speaking at conferences and one has to wonder why he is speaking so much? Of course a lot of us are aware that some people who sponsor these conferences want us to pay to talk and others are aware that people who work in pharma often add conferences as achievements during their reviews. I personally want to hear from people who have done it not people who are educating colleagues

  2. Great post John! Well said.

    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.

  3. Jess,

    Thanks for your comment. I think it should be elevated to the level of a post all its own!

  4. Agree! and who knows exactly what anyone is doing for their brand- I have no idea if Shwen is doing any of that. What I do know is that a lot of marketers are.

    Note: I also plan to elevate my spell checking skills/tools when firing off rapid blog responses in time to make a 9:30am meeting. haha

    At least my point was understood :)


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