A Pharma Grade Book on Social Media

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By DJ Edgerton

Social media efforts of pharmaceutical companies get a lot of flak for being lackluster, ineffective, or altogether nonexistent. But really, it’s not as bad as all that. There’s already a spectrum of success, all with lessons to teach us.

Before going any further, since the rest of this post is talking about grades, here’s your required reading: Jonathan Richman’s Pharma and Healthcare Social Media Wiki . Sine qua non.

And now, a few examples, from the wiki and otherwise. Each one gets comments in addition to its grade. Nobody’s “running with scissors”, but some are close.

A: Effective and practical, the Acuminder project 1s an easy A – the “delight to have in class” sort of grade. It offers consumers a schmorgasbord of social media opportunities to easily manage their contact lens health. That’s not something that people would do unless it was easy, and made their life even easier. This works because it is and it does. Come on: bi-weekly text messages to change your contact lenses? Sheer, simple, genius. Improves patient health, prescription compliance, refill rapidity.

B: Novo Nordisk‘s “Race With Insulin” campaign combines the standard industry tactic of a celebrity patient spokesperson with social media in a way that’s both attention-grabbing, useful, and effective. Fabio Gratton’s IgniteBlog has a great detailed post about it . But in short, they’ve got a racecar driver with diabetes Tweeting about his life – and occasionally mentioning (with fair balance) his treatment. It’s only been around since June, so the B is on the grounds of newness – “keep up the great work”!

C: Pfizer’s jump into Twitter at the end of July got them a good deal of attention, but several major pharma have been doing it for quite a while – Johnson & Johnson, Boehringer and Novartis , among others. They’re getting it, slowly but surely. “Steady workers.”

D: Sermo , the physician social network, seems to be the “troublemaker”. It offers amazing data to pharma companies while being transparent to the doctors who use it and providing a secure world to interact. So far, fantastic. However. Working with the network can be prohibitively expensive, especially for smaller companies, and that’s not cool. Moreover, earlier in July their two-year collaboration with the AMAended, badly , leaving both organizations looking pretty immature. Comments on the MM&M– linked post above raise very interesting questions about Sermo. Is it a “glass case” where industry watches doctors “like lab rats”? Or is it a useful, vibrant community? Unfortunately, The network’s isolation makes it impossible for non-participants to see for themselves.

F: The abandonment of Calm, Patient and Good-Humored is a case of “waste of great potential”. For two years, three global-C-suite officers and retirees offered fantastic insight and opinions on the industry and its news, informally and creatively. Then it fizzled. Was it realistic to expect people of this caliber in the industry to be able to keep it up as a side project? Possibly not. But it was great while it lasted. Such a shame.

Do you have other examples worth noting. rather then list all the efforts we have seen top date…we’d like to see what you think is worth discussing…and grading. We are all learning here.

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