Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

If you’ve followed my writing and speaking over the years, you know I’ve been a big proponent of social media as a vehicle for communications, network-building, and new business approaches. And I absolutely believe – more than ever – in the power and utility of digital networked communications

I was among the first in the pharma universe to begin blogging and tweeting pharma/healthcare topics. The first time I used Twitter at an industry conference, I wondered if I might be discovered and tossed out!

In fact, I even put together the first published list of pharma folks and companies active in social media – which, at the time, was a pretty small group! That number has since grown considerably, which is a very good thing.

As the industry has evolved, however, I can’t help but ask the question – is it time to give up on the idea of commercial prescription pharma interactively participating in the open, public social media space using current platforms? (please note the careful choice of words before having a knee-jerk reaction).

I’m not giving an answer – I’m asking a question. Here are the streams of thought feeding into this inquiry:

1. The FDA has shown zero readiness to give guidance about the use of on-line media in pharma communications. They are ready, however, to send warning letters about perceived violations in an ad-hoc fashion. This seriously inhibits pharma companies from getting involved. Regulatory fear does not go along well with open, public discussion.

2. The nature of current social media approaches and tools demands real-time interactive response and dialogue, out in the wilds of digital space. Pharma does not and cannot communicate that way.

  • Facebook demands interactivity and informal 2-way communication. Pharma companies are forced to come up with all kinds of work-arounds to make Facebook something other than it is, in order to participate. It’s like trying to enter a canoe into a speedboat race.
  • Twitter demands short bursts of communication. Pharma communications (prescription brands) demand fair balance, context, long explanation, disclaimers, and all kinds of monitoring/reporting. Would a congressman reading a speech from a teleprompter fit nicely at a cocktail party?
  • LinkedIn is all about the individual professional. Nice platform for recruiting, even in pharma. But my experience with pharma folks (I have years of it) on LinkedIn is that interactivity is almost nil. Pharma professionals live and work in an atmosphere of non-openness. You can sow seed on a gravel driveway, but don’t expect much of a harvest.
  • YouTube is one place where pharma companies can participate on a social platform, as long as you strip it down to, essentially, one-way broadcast and storytelling. It’s not social, but it is media.

3. Pharma companies tend to rotate commercial professionals (sales, training, marketing, etc.) through their job roles every 1-3 years. This means a constant default to short-term thinking. However, successful involvement in public social platforms demands long-term commitment and readiness to innovate. As soon as a little bit of expertise begins to accumulate, it’s time to move on to the next rung up the ladder (personally, I think that this, and the bondage of short-term quarterly profit reporting, are the two biggest hidden killers of pharma companies making true inroads in social networking).

4. Social media is moving rapidly to point-to-point on-demand mobile communications (including real-time UGC of all sorts, location data, commerce, and fragmented data streams). Pharma is all about centralized, one-way, controlled communications. Black, meet white.

We could go on, but the point is this: Public, interactive, real-time social media platforms and commercial pharma communications simply don’t mesh well. At all. And I don’t see that changing any time soon. Stuff you can easily say about other industries really isn’t going to translate well to pharma (as much as I like Chris Brogan, he’s out of his league on this post).

Is that a death knell for social media usage across all areas of pharma? Not at all. Non-branded communications can occur on existing public platforms, albeit often with a good dose of restrictions and care. Non-public networks (private communities) are a fruitful area of valuable involvement. Private, internal social networks (Yammer and the like) are potentially hugely useful apps for digital networked communications. One-way storytelling, while not fully social, can still add value, even in the public sphere (if done very carefully). Mobile apps that provide information or services are great – though again, they are using social-ish platforms in a less-than-fully-social fashion.

Also, the maturation of a platform like Google Plus could lead to more controlled communications to distinct, defined groups – and that is where the future could well be brighter.

Commercial, prescription pharma communications happen within thickly-walled gardens. The open, public social web is anything but that – and it’s not going to change for the pharma industry. Current platforms make it very difficult to marry the two. The future may well lie in walled social gardens, but existing approaches are still maturing through the wild west stage. Maybe we should expend less concern about “getting on Facebook” or Twitter, and architecting a social strategy that fits the industry – rather than trying to fit this square industry peg into a round, shape-shifting hole.

What do you think? Agree or disagree? Add your comment!


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Whistleblowers – maybe a big payoff, and maybe a lot worse. The Life and Times of Whistleblowers.

WebMD and content that looks a lot like it was written by a pharma company. Not the first time.

Alzheimer’s – are plaques really the problem? Or have scientists been chasing the wrong quarry?

Do med students need help managing the influence of drug reps?


Oncology Training. A specialty field force like Oncology needs specialized training – both therapeutic/product and selling skills. Contact us (stevew at impactiviti dot com, or phone at 973-947-7429) for recommendations on the best vendors for your needs.


Pharma on Twitter? Sure – Wendy Blackburn has a roundup on that. Links to help you find the best pharma resources.


If birds could talk: Don’t. Mess. With. Me.


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We’ll be giving live updates of the PharmaMed conference from Princeton on Sept. 23 and 24th – but also, you can get a live stream (using CoverItLive) of all the tweets coming from various social media users at the conference (and interacting from outside the conference using the #PharmaMed hashtag) on Twitter.

Launch the CoverItLive window: Click Here


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Merck has laid off 750 sales reps so far this year. Ouch.

Genentech to Roche: No. Again (translation: move us from “no” with “dough”…)

Endo brings Indevus into the fold.

PLUS – who is actively involved in social media in pharma? I’m assembling a growing list…here’s what we have so far on this expanding community.


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I was recently asked, by a pharmaceutical client, what was “new” and leading-edge in training.

trends1I haven’t seen a lot of specific programs or approaches that struck me as the latest-and-greatest must-haves, but there are certain social and technology trends that will profoundly impact training in the years to come. Here are a handful that I think are important:

1. Who – specifically, from whom will we get our knowledge, coaching, and support? I believe that the formal, centralized model of training will increasingly be displaced by social, peer-to-peer networking and resourcing on the job. New platforms are now emerging, combining elements of learning management, knowledge management, content management, and social networking, including such features as wikis, blogs, and micro-sharing (peer-to-peer messaging). People are now getting used to learning from one another via networking, and this will (should!) shape training approaches in the years to come.

Example: Pfizer’s Pfizerpedia project. Pfizer researchers creating a living wiki that is peer-to-peer driven. See Karl Kapp’s overview (with more helpful links); a .pdf case study; article from Information Week.

2. When – these days, with the one-click-away Google, presence apps like Twitter, and cell-phone connectivity, it’s all about the NOW. We’re getting used to finding what we need when we need it, and training will need to migrate increasingly to a Continuous Training Development / Continuous Learning Access / Constant Update / Immediate Equipping model. While there will always be some training content on the long development cycle slow train, we’re now entering a technology era where fingertip performance support is potentially ubiquitous.

Example: On-line coaching tools. For software apps and other needs, context-sensitive help & coaching, now including audio/video/screencasts, is being rolled out. This is far superior to sitting in a classroom for 5 days with fire-hose training, and a hope and a prayer that students will retain the material.

3. Where and How – With smart phones, notebook computers, Kindles, and who-knows-what-will-be-launched-next-month, information and communication are finally untethered. We can take pictures, chat, videoconference, blog, search, and listen anywhere and everywhere. Training will gladly hop aboard this fast-moving express. Multi-channel communications (podcasts, e-mail simulations, webcasts, videos) are being woven into daily life, and will increasingly shape training, as will the use of gaming environments and virtual worlds.

Example: One of my pharma clients recently rolled out laptops that included integrated webcams. This capability soon led to a new layer of productivity – pre-event training practice on selling skills that could be conducted “live” and at a distance, making the on-site training more efficient.

4. What – The era of personalized information experience is here, and is increasingly moving into training platforms. Anyone can set up an iGoogle or My Yahoo page and add information and application boxes, or customize widgets on Facebook pages, or set up RSS feeds around their own interests. As these technologies are embraced in training, whole new layers of efficient and customized training delivery become possible.

Example: Some Learning Management Systems are rolling out portal-like front-ends, which allow people to see customized training, resources, and information according to login. This trend will accelerate as personalized information delivery becomes the norm across all web technologies.

And now, one final trend that SHOULD be embraced – Strategic Design and development of training with a focus on operational efficiency. But that’s a whole separate topic…

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I enjoyed the opportunity this week to attend a half-day Real Time Communications conference in NYC, put on by Business Development Institute. I’m glad to say that this is one of those events that exceeded my expectations.

One reason I attended was because a keynote was to be given by Pfizer‘s VP of Worldwide Communications, Ray Kerins. He did not disappoint. Not only was he engaging and very “human” on stage, he explained the pro-active and strategic approach that he and his team at Pfizer have developed for communicating more effectively with the press and the public.

Big Pharma companies, as part of a highly-regulated industry, have tended to be quite cautious about communications – Pfizer was no exception – but Ray understands that this is a real-time world and his philosophy is to Engage and Educate. As of a year or so ago, his comm. professionals spent perhaps 15% of their time actually engaging with members of the media. Now, the target is 50%.

One very interesting perspective was that his team now views (influential) blogs as top-tier in importance, on the same level as the NY Times and Wall Street Journal.

Marc Monseau, J&J’s corporate blogger, also spoke on a panel (ditto the engaging and “human” comment), and like Ray, he did a great job explaining to the mixed audience the tightrope that pharma companies must continually walk in the effort to avoid potential regulatory setbacks while striving to be accessible and immediate in communications. It’s a tough challenge for pharma in the marketing, communications, and social media realms. Lots of grey, with little guidance (but plenty of consequences for perceived transgressions!). It was good to finally meet Marc face-to-face after a couple years of on-line interactions!

Roundtable discussions were also helpful. Kudos to my Twitter audience, which participated via iPhone in real-time on one of the roundtables, and to David Sacks of Yammer, who responded right away to “virtual” audience questions.


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Impactiviti is a pharma consultancy focused on helping pharma/biotech/medical devices companies identify optimal vendors for training/marketing needs.

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I had the pleasure, this week, of attending the Digital Pharma conference (sponsored by eXL Pharma) in Princeton, NJ. I’ve been to a number of conferences over the past years that did not meet expectations. This one, however, EXCEEDED my expectations.

This conference was about the use of new media (esp. Web 2.0/Social Media) in pharma marketing, a topic near and dear to me.

The speakers, on balance, were solid and knowledgeable. As usual, in a setting like this, there were some who were just spewing platitudes and generalities, but some were quite engaging and well-informed.

I “live-blogged” the conference (first time I’ve done this) and the experiment was a great success – not the the least reason being that it forced me to stay engaged as I uploaded the messages in real-time to the Impactiviti blog. If you’d like a summary of the sessions, you can start with this link to the first one, and then scroll “up” to the various others.

I also was invited to speak on a panel, and showed the attendees how tools such as live-blogging and Twitter were being used (by me and handful of others attending) to interact and share with the “outside world” during the conference.

Some interesting statistics and resources were shared. Here is a list of related links that you might find interesting:

Internet Surpasses Doctors as the Top Source of Health Information (from Manhattan Research).

AstraZeneca digs into the Cause of Non-Adherence

Why Pharma fears Social Networking

Web portals open up pipelines of Information to Consumers

Marc Monseau (of J&J’s corporate blog JNJ BTW) on Healthcare Companies and the Social Web.

More resources–

FREE upcoming webinar: E-Detailing in a Web 2.0 world. Info here.

You may wish to purchase the “Social Media Pharma Marketing” Supplement to Pharma Marketing News. Click here for more details — including a table of contents and link for ordering the pdf file online. If you order it, use the discount code SMM444JM and get $17 knocked off the list price of $29.95!

You may wish to purchase the “ePharma Marketing Special Supplement, Vol. 2 Sec. 1 & 2” Supplement to Pharma Marketing News. Click here for more details — including a table of contents and link for ordering the pdf file online. If you order it, use the discount code sep268 and get $15 knocked off the list price of $29.95!

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