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I go to pharma-centric conferences and as we discuss social media, the question generally is, “How can we do social media and not get into trouble?”

I spend time with e-patients and the question is, “How can we change the world?”

Big difference.

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Last week, I saw a Twitter comment to which I couldn’t help responding. Essentially, it was a blanket statement about the difficulty of adopting social media in pharma.

My response:

Beside the fact that I used the word “actually” twice (I hate messing up grammar and making typos!), this exchange underscored something I know I have been guilty of – over-generalizing about pharma and social media. Since Twitter only allows 140 characters per message, I followed up with this:

The fact is, we often think about pharma only in terms of the restrictions and challenges of prescription brand marketing. There are many, many other areas of networked communications which pharmaceutical companies can and should use apart from any guidance from the FDA about brand communications. Please read Jon Richman‘s very helpful post about this issue.

Think of it this way: Networking approaches can be transformative and effective in multiple areas that have little or nothing to do with branded messaging. Those non- or less-regulated areas are the low-hanging fruit. Spinning our wheels always obsessing about the fruit at the top of the tree causes us to lose sight of the many ways we can use social media now.

The slide below is a bit dated – I think it’s a couple years old now – but it’s a tool to help brainstorm the many areas in which we can productively start using social networking technologies in pharma now (click to biggify).

Pharma and social media: it’s not all about the brand and the prescriptions, people. There’s a lot of other low-hanging fruit out there with opportunities to inform, collaborate, communicate, and learn.

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We’ve had a good number of new on-line initiatives launching in pharma-world lately, which is a welcome development. A new kid on the block is PharmaFaceoff, a joint venture of Pharmaceutical Executive magazine and Concentric Pharma Advertising.

I took a look at the initial video – here are some first impressions:

The format is a high-quality video, featuring a moderator and several panelists, purportedly having a face-off about some relevant topic. The interface is clean, straightforward, and social-friendly. User comments are enabled. Immediate visual/user experience: positive.

Video production: nice. High-quality, hosted on Vimeo, multiple camera angles used. Panelist setup is clean and uncluttered. Perhaps not ready for a CNN newscast, but certainly many steps above an amateur YouTube production.

Bottom line: I like the idea very much. As for the initial session (which is really more of a discussion than a true faceoff), between Bruce Grant (Digitas), Jennifer Colapietro (PWC), and Michael Sanzen (Concentric) – well, it was fairly basic, and overloaded a bit with agency-speak. I’d call this first one PharmaFacetime for agency folks. Plus, the moderator, Barbara Ryan (Deutsche Bank) seemed tentative in her role. But, this is a new venture and you have to expect a shakedown period.

The approach has great potential, and kudos to PharmaExec for taking it on. A wider variety of speakers with truly differing viewpoints will be needed to make this a “sticky” destination, but let’s face it – video is where it’s at for on-line communications, and this is a great way to hash out some issues and gain needed exposure. I think there needs to be some clarity as to target audience (general public? pharma marketers?), and a clear commitment needs to be made either to nicely-controlled civilized discussions or genuine opinionated debate with a few flying sparks lighting things up. So we’ll see how it evolves. But overall, thumbs up for a creative inaugural flight!

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How does the use of Social Media fit into a highly regulated industry like pharmaceuticals/healthcare?

With difficulty. At least initially. And trying to convince others often leads to plenty of resistance.

So here’s my advice: Don’t start with social media. Start with the much bigger trends, which are making social media inevitable.

It’s all outlined here: Pharma and Social Media – What’s the New Normal? This Slideshare explains that technology-fueled Trend Currents (not current trends!) are shaping society in such a way that the use of social media/networked communications is inexorable – and inevitable.

Social Media (or, as I prefer to more accurately call it, “Networked Communications”) is not some add-on to a marketing strategy. It is a pervasive fact of life, and these digitally-fueled forms of connecting people and information will continue to accelerate and impact how we do business.

If you are seeking to grow awareness in your company about Social Media and the pharma/biotech industry, Impactiviti provides specialized consulting services, as well as workshops for executives, marketers, and innovators to help fuel the business discussion.

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Steve Woodruff: Pharma’s Connection Agent. 2 pm ET. All the details right here!

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LinkedIn is a great networking tool that just keeps getting better every year. One nice feature is the ability to create “groups” (which can be either public or private) – we’ve assembled several for our pharma colleagues.

-> 1. The newest is Pharma Talent, for folks inside life sciences companies who have been displaced/downsized. Joining this group will bring you into contact with others who are also searching, and will also plug you into resources that will help your job hunt.

Who this group is for: displaced Life Sciences sales people, trainers, and marketers actively looking for new roles within similar companies (pharma, biotech, medical devices) in North America and Europe.

Who this group is NOT for: Vendors, recruiters, group badge collectors, trolls.

Sign up: http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=3172022

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-> 2. At about 300 strong is Life Sciences Sales/Sales Training Network, for folks inside life sciences companies who are currently working on the commercial side (sales, marketing, training). Joining this group will bring you into contact with others like yourself in a wide variety of companies across the world.

Who this group is for: Life Sciences sales people, trainers, and marketers actively working inside companies that manufacture/market products for healthcare. The purpose is to provide an open and safe networking environment.

Who this group is NOT for: Vendors, recruiters, reporters, yak herders.

Sign up: http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=997277

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-> 3. With about 250 members currently, the Life Sciences Vendor/Contractor Matchup is the group for all those companies (vendors, service providers, recruiters, contractors, SMEs, consultants) who need to find talent for their work. The goal here is to allow vendors to more easily find resources, employees, and partners to accomplish projects.

Who this group is for: Companies that provide services to life sciences manufacturing/marketing companies (worldwide).

Who this group is NOT for: Pharma company employees, ice cream truck drivers, moth collectors.

Sign up: http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=1433567

Yes, we do monitor these groups to make sure that those who apply actually belong, and yes, we regularly disallow or re-direct membership for those who don’t read the descriptions and directions (please save us all time by not trying to skate by – OK??)

All members of any of these groups is welcome to sign up to receive the (almost) daily Impactiviti Connection e-mail newsletter – just click here, put in your e-mail address, click Submit, and choose The Impactiviti Connection – you’ll get fresh news, resources, links, and items of interest in your Inbox each morning.

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It’s that time again – a quick collection of links of interest for pharma marketers who are tracking the eMarketing and Social Media space. Here we go:

What’s the Point of Health 2.0? (Path of the Blue Eye project), in which Fard Johnmar expands on Susannah Fox‘s thoughts. Also, for the same blog – What Good is Social Media Transparency?

The Seven (soon to be Nine) Uses of Social Media in Business. From the thoughtful and prolific Jon Richman.

New web 2.0 site from Hungary: ScienceRoll

Social Media Forums and the Pharma Industry, from eyeforpharma.

Fascinating data from Silja Chouquet on Pharma Twittersphere – who’s following you? (Part 1 and Part 2). WhyDot Pharma blog.

The Pixels and Pills folks have rolled out a neat tool called The Health Tweeder. Here’s a review from Andrew Spong. Pixels and Pills, by the way, will be sponsoring a Tweetup in Philly this coming Monday evening in conjunction with the ePharmaSummit.

My take – Apple’s iPad and eHealth – game changer? You can see a variety of other perspectives over on KevinMD‘s blog. Plus, from Shwen Gwee: Neurosurgeons without papers, but with an iPod Touch

Internet 2009 in Numbers. Great, up-to-date usage stats.

Holistic Common Sense and Social Networking. After all, it is about business growth…

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Recently, I attended a gathering to discuss training applications in virtual worlds. If you know me, you know I love technology, and I’ve always been interested in how technology can transform training and marketing.

One area I’ve always tracked is 3-D virtual worlds. My sense, for years, has been that it’s just not ready for prime-time in a broad sense. Like many others, I see the potential, I see the “cool” factor – but I often do not see a compelling business application.

Most regular folks (not techno-geeks) may find it rather difficult learning to navigate around a virtual space as an avatar, using current computer interface methods, and then learn something effectively. Also, many of the applications I’ve seen thus far seem to be cheesy representations of an “old-fashioned” method – so we go into a virtual world and watch a slide show on a screen. Why?

I DO know, however, that some companies somewhere are using this technology to make a difference. My suspicion is that the focus is not going to be on the technology or the virtual world itself, but on some immediate and intuitive application.

So, what have you seen that works with virtual worlds? What business applications (training OR marketing) are actually proving to be successful? I’d really like to know where people and companies are finding quick wins and measurable success that takes advantage of the unique benefits of a virtual world, and doesn’t just replicate some analog function in a 3-cartoon. Your thoughts?

(by the way, there is a book out on virtual worlds in training called Training and Collaboration in Virtual Worlds, and also one just released by Tony O’Driscoll and Karl Kapp called Learning in 3D)

(Image credit)

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TODAY’S NEWS

Pfizer trimming pipeline projects after Wyeth acquisition – Pfizer Inc., the world’s biggest drugmaker, said Wednesday it is quitting plans to sell popular pain drug Lyrica as an add-on treatment for anxiety as it shaves about 100 projects from its combined portfolio after swallowing rival Wyethmore

AstraZeneca: 8,000 more cuts coming. Ouch - The reduction will take place by 2014 and comes on top of approximately 12,600 jobs the drugmaker has already cut. The jobs will be eliminated from sales and marketing, R&D, and supply chain operations, along with basic infrastructuremore

Cephalon shuffling the executive leadership suite.

Enzon selling specialty pharma biz to Sigma-tau.

Apple’s new iPad – gamechanger for eHealth? I say Yes – here’s why.

RECOMMENDED

On-line/e-mail learning reinforcement – The event is over. Now, how do you reinforce the learning and track uptake? Contact us (stevew at impactiviti dot com, or phone at 973-947-7429) for recommendations.

PLUS

Governments, pharma, and canceling orders. I agree with Vasella’s perspective about binding contracts.

JUST FOR FUN

If you haven’t seen it before – very funny and all too true. The client-vendor relationship (video). Don’t be “that client”!

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Apple just yesterday introduced the iPad, essentially an iPhone on steroids that bridges the gap between smartphones and small computers.

Will this be the platform that accelerates eHealthcare on the provider side (hospitals, doctors, medical education, etc.)?

I say yes. Here’s why:

First of all, the pace at which doctors are using smartphones as part of their practice (and especially iPhone/iPod Touch) is accelerating dramatically, as is uptake/usage of the applications (see here, here). Younger doctors especially will not want to practice untethered medicine.

Second, we are now at a place where the convergence of form factor, power, connectivity, affordability, and functionality argue for widespread adoption. An iPhone screen is pretty small. A laptop is inconvenient. An iPad which can be used for data lookup, data entry, point-of-need multimedia education and reference, and access to electronic health records – what’s not to like?

Third, because Apple knows how to create interfaces, and because app development is now in full swing, this device and its siblings (iPhone and iPod Touch) cross the threshold of easy. That’s crucial for rapid uptake. Also, it’s not a totally “new” device, so many of the potential users will be accustomed to the interface scheme.

Imagine an iPad mounted in hospital patient rooms, and other doctor-useful locations. A physician comes into the room, equipped with an iPhone, and the iPhone sends a signal to the iPad. A quick biometric finger scan and the doctor is “in” the system, with access to all information and medical records necessary for the patient. When the doctor leaves, he/she logs out, or failing that, once his/her iPhone is 20 feet out of range, the system logs the user off. Or the doctor simply carries around an iPad for always-on accessibility during rounds and other daily duties.

It’s not so much that the iPad is a gamechanger in and of itself – it should be an accelerator of trends that are already happening, and inevitable. It’s a right-device-at-the-right-time evolution. It could also be a fabulous tool for a pharma salesforce, but that’s another subject.

(More: Read this post by Christopher Penn, talking about sales and marketing, but note the ease and all-in-one themes. Also this Mashable article, with the payoff in the last paragraph. On the pharma side, I’d guess that Sally Church agrees with me).

Lots of other possibilities come to mind – what do you think? Gamechanger – or big yawn?

[Update: some contrarian points here, and some wait-and-see thoughts here. Mostly valid - but as I mention in the comments, iPad 2.0 will likely address most of these]

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