Is Pharma getting too excited about social media?
This is the closing question in a thoughtful interview with Anish Shindore of Novartis in Spain.
He argues, essentially, that social media is a means, not an end, and that the real focus should be in developing good drugs, because that is where the real competition is.
Well, yes and no. Of course, if you have the wrong products, no amount of marketing is going to compensate. But if you are going to invest anything at all in marketing, social media has changed the rules of the game.
The ability to target and interact with individuals has meant that what you say, how you say it, where you say it – it’s just not the way it was even five years ago.
What the piece reflects, though, is an ongoing scepticism within Pharma about social media even by those who have embraced it – and a feeling that too much is happening too fast.
This may seem funny to those who understand that Pharma is far behind other sectors in adopting social media, but it is undeniable that there is a lot of pressure to get up to speed fast, and that for some, this is intimidating and overwhelming.
A chasm is developing between those companies that are adopting social media imaginatively – albeit cautiously – and those who wouldn’t know the difference between a tweet and a blog post.
While some have raced ahead, if you know very little about social media – and are really quite worried about it – terms like “closed loop marketing” and “multichannel” are just going to put you off. Few companies are going to go from 0 to 60 straight off the bat (to mix my idioms).
So perhaps this is a good opportunity to take a breather, and to reiterate that if you are sceptical about social media, if you feel you are going too fast or if you feel that you are so behind that it’s practically not worth starting, it’s okay to go slow.
- Not on social media? You’re not the only one. Yes, Pharma as a sector is behind most others when it comes to digital marketing adoption. But every single sector has an unbelievable number of companies that are still not there yet (we meet them every day!).If you open your Twitter account in 6 months’ time rather than tomorrow, you will be behind, but you will not be the last one on the planet. So don’t panic!
- Coming late to the party has some advantages. Part of Pharma’s social media problem is that the sector as a whole has not quite worked out its strategy yet. Sometimes, giving others the chance to give things a go and learn a few lessons before you step in can be a good move. You can avoid some of the early-adopter errors.
- It’s better to take your time and do things properly. Some of the biggest mistakes on social media are made by companies that have rushed into it without planning properly. Developing a solid strategy, proper buyer personas and a good content schedule are essential parts of the process. These take time – months, probably.If you take your time to think carefully about what you are doing on social media rather, you will ultimately be far more successful.
- Taking on too much leads to failure. In our experience, the companies that launch a massive social media programme at the outset often end up abandoning it, because they are trying to run before they can walk. Starting off small and then building up is a far more realistic way of handling things. You do not need to have the largest, most sophisticated programme as soon as you launch.
Please note that none of these are arguments for staying out of social media altogether. As I said at the outset, the rules of marketing are changing fast, and while you are deliberating, others are adjusting. It is simply an argument for keeping calm while figuring out the best way forward, even if that takes a little longer.
We suggest that companies feeling pressured into it start off with a limited pilot project, with small achievable goals and a very manageable workload. Get used to social media, become comfortable with its basic functions and etiquette first – then expand.
Grow your campaign one step at a time.
Do you feel there is too much pressure to get on social media? How has this affected your company? Please tell us in the comments!
Danny Bermant is director of Brainstorm Digital
If you enjoyed this post, you might like:
- 8 tips for Pharma companies struggling with social media strategy
- Should Pharma abandon social media?
- 9 ways Pharma can use visuals to boost its social media presence