You do not need one social media strategy, you need many

Written by Silja on 5 June 2009 in guidance & regulations - 4 Comments

A fascinating discussion popped-up today around strategies and tactics that pharma should use to engage with social media.

Johnathan over at dose of digital started this discussion with this list of interesting tactics that pharma should explore. He got fed up with pharma shuffeling their feet not daring to dip their toe into the cold, rough waters of social media. I agree with him, it’s time to move people! (Btw, I especially liked proposition 2. Get rid of your brand website.)

Fard at healthcarevox reacted to Johnathan’s article with a counterproposal. Fard would like to see pharma think carefully about their business objectives before jumping into the deep-end of social media. He sees four possible objectives for the use of social media:

-Improving corporate or brand reputation
-Gaining greater competitive insights
-Forging deeper and more fruitful customer relationships
-Powering and improving research and development efforts

As a former strategy consultant, I am professionally deformed and thus have to agree with Fard ;-) Getting your objectives straight first is key to defining strategies that work. I also agree that many pharma social media initiatives have been too focused on the fancy tools.

Finally, John Mack from Pharma Marketing Blog added a very interesting spin to this conversation. He points out that social media is about relationship building and that :

…each brand has different stakeholders — not all patients and physicians are alike in what they need from a brand. Do they even want a “relationship” with a brand? I, for one, have no need for a relationship with Lipitor! I want a relationship with a company, which consists of people. To me, a brand is not people.

Thank you, John, for bringing the people dimension into the discussion. It’s so true!

I am quiet puzzled by the fact that even though social media is supposed to ring in the age of “long tail marketing”, so many of us “social media“ experts are trying to derive the cookie cutter strategy for pharma social media strategy. Why are we so uncomfortable with going for the niche approach?

As I pointed out in this article: The social media landscape is not empty, unchartered territory.  As a matter of fact, if pharma companies think about engaging with this channel today it is precisely, because thousands of patients are profoundly engaged in online communities already.


It is essential that companies thouroughly research and understand the online communities in each specific disease area. If research shows that there are enough pockets of online activism, then companies should craft social media strategies for them! In addition, each strategy for each community will greatly vary depending on: the treatment, its role in patients’ lives, its costs, its impact on quality of life, as well as the past relationship with the company and/or the brand. The choice of which social media tools to use will also vary by many factors, the most important of which will be: where does your community currently “hang out“ online?

Sounds like a lot of work – yes that is true.  But this is the true potential of the amazing social media opportunity. Social media enables you to provide targeted, customized and value-added content to every consumers in a constant, consistant and timely flow of information.

4 Comments on "You do not need one social media strategy, you need many"

  1. David Stevens 29 June 2009 at 20 h 11 min ·

    Although I don’t quite believe the cliché, the concept of broad demographics could become a thing of the past if technology continues to evolve in this direction. As John states, it really is about relationship building – and relationships always involve at least one individual. Could be we’ll soon be developing strategies aided by this technology to run through marketing messages similar to how a computer today might exhaust all numeric combinations to open a virtual safe. Using what we know of an individual, we hone in on the single most compelling message to win them over to our side.

  2. Silja 30 June 2009 at 15 h 05 min ·

    Thanks for the input. And I agree with most of your comment. Not sure though about the need to bombard with marketing message though. Ideally, I you can target your customer at this level, they will get what they want, just give them the info they need to make the decision ;-)

  3. Veronica Denti 10 July 2009 at 18 h 55 min ·

    personalised pharma communication would go hand in hand with the emerging trend of personalised medicine

    I wonder what the legislative progress is trending towards in EU and other privacy-sensitive regions in this regard?

  4. Silja 10 July 2009 at 22 h 11 min ·

    Thank you, very interesting comment. And you are right, when technology is ready to “get to one“, we better have a legal frame ready to regulate privacy issues etc. I guess this will all be a question of consent on the part of the person being targeted – much as it is done with mobile messaging today (ie. SMS or email reminders).

    I believe that we still have some time ahead of us, before we get to this degree of precision. In the meantime, we should attempt to focus our communication efforts on informing the communities online and cater to their interests – add value to the conversation vs. push one-size fits all messages.

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