There’s a fair bit of angst circulating about how pharmaceutical companies will manage to start using some of the new on-line tools such as social media to enter more fully into the communications marketplace.
I’m reminded of the same anxiety that existed, years ago, with early web adoption, and early eLearning adoption. You can’t go against the tide forever – the discussion, after a while, moves from “if” to “how”. It WILL happen. Here are five reasons why:
1. Networked communications and communities are rapidly becoming ubiquitous. What seems “new” to some of us who have been around the block for more than a couple decades is simply going to be normal life and practice in upcoming years, especially for the rising generation. To not be involved is to occupy the wrong planet. Pharma companies and brands will find a way to be where so many stakeholders already are.
2. The demand for involvement, coming from every level, will increase dramatically. Doctors, patients, caregivers, and employees will want to tap into information on-line and via mobile devices. Some of that information can only come from drug companies and brands. Static information presentation is already giving way before the interactive web. There won’t be a choice anymore.
3. New/rich/social media approaches have the potential to address one of the largest and most pervasive health and business needs for patients and the drug industry – patient adherence (patients filling/re-filling prescriptions, and taking their medicines). To my thinking, this is the THE low-hanging fruit for pharma. Not selling product (“ask your doctor if Viagra is right for you!”), but devising smart ways to add value to the healthcare marketplace by aiding and educating patients. I’m already talking to solution provider firms about this high-potential area, in order to better advise brands that want to move in this arena.
4. Current methods of communication and promotion (DTC, armies of sales reps, etc.) are increasingly coming under fire as being wasteful and inefficient. Smart on-line strategies using social networking are an effective way to engage target audiences with greater precision and at a much lower relative cost.
5. Pharma companies will begin to see the rich vein of information and feedback that is generated through social media approaches, and will (rightly) understand that a huge amount of valuable intelligence, market direction, and thought leader influence is sitting out there on the table. This will be irresistible, as it should be for any business.
But, the big question – what will the FDA think? Actually, the concern there is always the message, not the medium – read this very interesting article just out on that topic, with more in-depth commentary here. Personally, I think well-designed new media apps have to potential to far more accurately communicate the needed messages about fair balance, etc.
I’m sure there are other reasons why adoption WILL occur (feel free to add your thoughts in the Comments!) – yes, there are legal/regulatory hurdles, but there can be no doubt that pharma will put these tools and approaches to use. I, for one, am eager to brainstorm with clients and provider companies on how we’re going to move forward.
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