It’s been gratifying to see a recent upsurge in the number of pharma people starting to put a toe in the social networking water. New blogs are being launched, a number of new people are joining Twitter, and career uncertainty has driven a number of folks to take sites like LinkedIn more seriously.
A number of us are wrestling with the issue of how social networking will fit into the pharma space (see Social Pharmer conference this coming week in Boston), but for those within pharmaceutical companies who are curious about all this social media stuff, I have one simple word of advice.
Before you even consider how social media will fit in as a marketing tactic or brand strategy or enterprise application, hold off on those social-networking-as-professional-tool considerations, and dive into social networking YOURSELF. You see, you really won’t understand what this social media stuff is all about until you actually participate.
Create a robust LinkedIn profile, then reach out to a few industry folks and, instead of just asking to be connected, start a discussion!
Read blogs in an area of interest for you. It might be a professional area, or it might not. Just plug a keyword or two, plus the word “blog”, into Google and you’ll tap into a wealth of resources. Then, actually leave comments on interesting posts. You’ll begin to make new friends; bloggers love commenters! If you want to read pharma-oriented blogs, start here.
Do you have an area of passionate interest, and at least a modicum of time and writing ability? Then start a blog. It’ll take you 10 minutes to start, using either Blogger or WordPress (I’ve used both; much prefer WordPress). It’s easy, intuitive, and free. Then link to other related bloggers. You’ll be surprised at how your network starts to grow.
Hearing about Twitter a lot? Join in. It takes 2 minutes. You can see what pharma folks are “tweeting” about here. Follow me (@swoodruff) and send me a message asking who else you should link to as a start. I’ll suggest some other Twitter folks in your area(s) of interest. Then learn from us/them what it means to network on Twitter. You’ll be surprised at the new acquaintances and friends you’ll find (note: Twitter and some other social sites may be banned from your work computer. So you may have to do this at home on off-hours).
You may already be on Facebook. If not, consider starting. Facebook, like Twitter, tends to be more informal than a professional-oriented site like LinkedIn, and here you’ll learn to interact more transparently with people, as if you’re talking over the backyard fence.
What you’ll discover, once you start, is that social networking is about dialogue. Sharing. Transparency. Peer-to-peer discussion. Giving and receiving. And once you’re involved, you’ll begin to understand both its power, and how it might fit into, say, a brand marketing plan. Because it’s not just another channel for message delivery. It’s joining and building communities.
Just start. Jump in. Really – the water is fine!