Digital Pharma on Quora

By Kimberly Reyes (@CommDuCoeur)

There’s been a lot of debate as to whether or not crowdsourced information, the type found on sites like Quora, is really beneficial to anyone. But, like many of you, my curiosity led me open my own Quora account and see what all the fuss was about. In case you’re interested, here was my initial impression of Quora.

Now, let me go on a tangent here and say that there are a lot of places to get good information on the latest and greatest in digital pharma. I have a heavily populated Google Reader with all the best blogs and feeds I could find. There’s also Twitter, where Pixels & Pills relies on you, our followers and friends, to contribute your own findings and converse with us about them (or, in some cases, ask us when DJ will arrive at the party…*sigh*). We read trade magazines, watch the news on TV – the point is, there are a lot of ways for us to get our fill of Pharma happenings. But Quora – at least to some of us – is still uncharted territory.

That said, I rounded up some of the questions people have been asking on Quora about the subject that is near and dear to all of our hearts. My goal here is not just to demonstrate why you should probably open a Quora account if you haven’t already, but to also warn you that you may not get the results that you originally hoped for unless you make Quora work for you. I have different reasons for posting each question here. Some are good examples, some are bad examples. Without further ado, here’s a sampling of the conversation – if you want to call it that – around digital pharma on Quora:

Which bloggers are influential in social media for health care and health organizations?

Shame on you for not nominating Pixels & Pills. Shame. Our blog only won a Manny, a WebAward, A Marcom Award, a Davey…

Despite that, it’s a good round-up of some of our most favorite blogs, and our dearest friends. Check it out if you’re new to the conversation, and while you’re there, you might as well vote up Mike Myers‘ answer 😉

How may Pharma marketers stay apprised of emerging trends in healthcare professional and consumer use of technology?

I’m not sure what the (asker?) was hoping to get out of this question, but I included it in my list because I actually want you to answer. If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably part of the digital pharma community, or part of our “extended family,” which includes, in no particular order, social media-savvy doctors, e-patients, and other people in the business of digital healthcare. If you’re reading this blog, you are actively engaged in “stay[ing] apprised of emerging trends in healthcare professional and consumer use of technology.” Right now. You.

The real reason why I included this question in my post is because it makes us reflect on the state of our industry. If we could score ourselves on how well we understand technology and how people are using it or want to use it to manage their healthcare, how well are we doing? Sure, there’s an app for that – but is anybody using it?

Why are so few pharma and healthcare companies using Twitter effectively?

Ouch. There are a few reasons why I wanted to include this question in my post. Very rarely have I seen the (asker? someone help me out here…) establish his or her credentials/knowledge of the topic. Here, the person calls out Pfizer and J&J, and links to the infamous Eye on FDA Twitter Rankings. It’s one of us, asking why we aren’t using Twitter effectively. We’ve opened accounts. We’ve read and written how-to’s. We’ve ranked our favorites. And apparently, we’re still not pulling it off.

Oh, and my favorite part, “Alternatively: is the moment passing for pharma on Twitter?”

Then there’s the top-voted answer, which includes this little snippet: “Keep in mind that pharma companies are manufacturers with a portfolio of products (drugs) within a rangeof therapeutic categories, and patientsgenerallydon’t know who manufactures the medicines they’re prescribed.” The rest is a very basic, but very well articulated overview of the risks and challenges facing pharma on Twitter. Very well done, Blake Shiller.

How can Pharma integrate outcomes from successful digital pilots into its full-scale activities?

You know what clicking on this question will lead you to? Nothing. Why are there no answers to this question? Have you, Mr. Pharma marketer, not launched a digital pilot yet? Of course you have. Do you know how to integrate it into your company’s full-scale activities? Of course you do. Again…why are there no answers to this question?


From actual, hand-on experience on the platform, I found two main benefits to being on Quora.

The first is content. Week after week, the writers of this blog get together, exchange ideas, share news, and debate about the industry’s big topics. We pour our ideas into a meticulously kept editorial calendar, including links, notes, references, and what have you. And as we keep trying to top the last blog post with something newer, fresher, more interesting, Quora made me look at things differently. It made me think of those “big question” topics that we wrote about a year or so ago, and wonder: have we really solved that problem? How has the landscape changed since then? Quora makes you pull back, and get input from people who weren’t involved in the original conversation. It makes an old subject new, fresh, and interesting: a new perspective, a fresh voice, an interesting twist.

The second is community. While I haven’t focused my efforts on building or being part of a community on Quora, I instead used it as a point of reference to add to my existing social media communities. I’ve discovered people who have contributed meaningful insights to topics that are important to me, and started following them on Twitter and adding their blogs to my Google Reader. It lets me get a feel for someone’s expertise beyond 140 characters – leading me to discover social media users who are not only qualified sources of information, but who have very specific interests in common with myself.

The point is, I don’t fully embrace Quora the same way I did when Twitter first came out. I found my own way of reaping its benefits. Hope this helps everyone!



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