Social Networks: Too Much of a Good Thing?

MPP0086632This is your brand on social media.

By Sven Larsen (@zemoga)

Back in the late summer-early fall, we saw several major consumer-product brands decide that theyre not going to spend marketing and digital-media funds on their own brand websites anymore. Theyve chosen to take down their activity to just maintenance on those properties. All new activities are going to their Facebook pages. Even their television advertising is going to be driving traffic to their Facebook pages rather than to any of their corporate websites.

To say “social is where its at would be a bit of an understatement. It would also be old news. When we spoke with Harold Johns from Johnson & Johnson back at the EyeForPharma eCommunications & Online Marketing Summit, his message to Pharma marketers was clear: don’t abandon your corporate website.

Putting All Your Eggs in One Basket

On the one hand is the argument that its too risky to focus so much on Facebook. Facebook might be where its at now, but do we really think that will be the case in two years, or in five? Hot properties change. Thats as true in the online world as it always has been in real estate. Why force yourself to have to keep rebuilding all of your destination equity every time the trend changes? Why not keep the brand’s .com site the keystone of the online offerings, as its always been? Its safer, and youre not at the mercy of Mark Zuckerberg.

Moving With the Times

On the other hand, you cant disagree that, obviously, yes: Facebook is indeed where its at right now. And yes, maybe it wont be in two or three or five years, but thats irrelevant, when you think about it properly. The reason that Facebook is irrelevant is that its less about the brand of the social network and more about the social network concept itself. Whats important is the shift to a social web instead of stand-alone properties. Think about it in terms of what you want. Whether youre Tiffanys jewelry or Keds sneakers, Lambourghini or Smart, doesnt matter. High-end or mass-market, you want your brand to be discussed, not visited. You want to be the topic and the setting of the conversation. More than that, you also want to be able to overhear people so you can become part of that conversation too. You cant do that just with a .com site, no matter how excellent it is. Youve got to be on a social network.

How it All Ties Together

Your corporate website and your social media page should always complement each other. Your brand’s .com should be able to provide the consumer with trustworthy facts and other information about your brand, and link to your various social media outlets. Similarly, your social media pages should always point visitors/fans/followers/whatever back to your corporate website for further research.

What About Pharma?

Does all of this apply to Pharma? THAT is the million-dollar question. The answer is yes – more than ever, we have a responsibility to provide accurate, important information about a drug to the empowered patients that are taking to the Web to research their conditions and treatments. Social media is a great place for community and conversation, but it is not necessarily a great place for research. One major reason for this is because the content is not evergreen…we are dealing with a real-time web where conversation scroll off the page constantly. Pharma is also at the mercy of limited characters and word counts to provide important drug information. All of this makes the corporate website more important than ever.

So take a hint from me, and from J&J’s Harold Johns, and don’t abandon your corporate website in favor of a bunch of social media pages. When we talk about the theme of education driving Pharma marketing, we have to re-evaluate the efficacy of a social-only approach: how great of an education do you think your child would get from interacting with his or her schoolteachers bookless – that is, solely through Twitter and Facebook? My guess is not so great…

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