Real Insights from Social Media — ePharma Summit, Part 2

by No Comments »

To continue with my thoughts, themes, and takeaways from the 2009 ePharma Summit, I thought I’d take a page out of Steve Woordruff’s blog (or rather, his Marketing Prof’s article) and share/elaborate on what I presented during the panel on “Social Media, Blogs, and User Generated“…

Jack Barrette (CEO and Founder, WEGOhealth), our panel moderator, suggested a simple objective for our panel discussion — focus on “what’s real and actionable today”, such as: real metrics, real value of video, real culture, real learning, and real people. My topic was “real learning”, which I loosely translated into “real insights” and what can be gleamed from harnessing the social web.

Of the five main Groundswell objectives, “real insights” falls mainly within the Listen category (see Josh Bernoff video). The other four objectives are: Engage, Energize, Support, and Embrace. Listening involves really understanding what your customers are saying — if you don’t make a plan to listen and learn from your customers, you will never truly get the meaningful insight that empowers social media. In fact, there are many who have said the following in one form or another: “if you do nothing else in social media, at the very least, you should Listen“.

Many times, we think we are “listening” because we do market research and focus groups, but the issues with those are: (1) they occur in acute and “artificial” settings (i.e. at a single point in time and not in a customer’s “regular” environment), (2) they are oriented more towards the “what” and the “how” type of metrics/data, and (3) we are usually the ones directing the questions. On the contrary, Listening — in the social media sense — usually occurs in a medium/environment that the customer is most comfortable in (e.g. at home on the computer), is opinionated and therefore directed towards the “why” reasons, and is obviously self-motivated. Not to say that Listening should replace market research, but it should seriously be considered as an important supplement.

So, here are several ways that you can get meaningful insight — including some pharma/healthcare-specific examples — starting with rather simple and free tools to more “sophisticated” and cost-incurring options…

Free Tools
Thanks to Google alone, there’s a quite a number of free tools that you can use to search and monitor the social media landscape for your product names and corporate brands, starting with the basic web search and Google Trends for comparing keywords (e.g. your product vs. competitors). Progressing one step beyond basic search, you can use Google’s blog search to limit search to blogs which Google archived and, additionally, you can also set up Google Alerts to send yourself an email whenever Google picks up one of your key terms during it’s daily scour of the web. In fact, you can even set up an RSS feed and have the alerts delivered to your inbox… Or, of course, you can also use Google Reader to read the RSS feed.

If you have a website, then you probably want to look through your Google Analytics results — watch the helpful videos at Google Conversion University for detailed info on interpreting your analytics. Finally, if you have a podcast or blog, then you probably want to setup a Google Feedburner account to help track your subscribers and optimize your feed(s) for syndication/distribution.

Beyond Google, there are a multitude of other free tools — like Technorati for blogs — that are available on the web and are designed to search specific types of social media. Read Mashable’s excellent post on “Top 10 Free Tools for Monitoring Your Brand’s Reputation” for some of the best ones.

(Free) Community Sites
When thinking about social networks, there’s often a tendency and temptation to take a “build it and they will come” approach. However, depending on who your key customers are, you might want to first consider a “fish where the fish are” approach instead. With plenty of “free” social networks — such as Facebook, MySpace, numerous (topic-specific) Ning communities, and even YouTube (both videos and comments) — one can easily find a network to peruse and discover useful information… You just have to make a point to proactively seek them out.

A great example of this is McNeil Pediatrics’ ADHD Moms Facebook page, which seeks to create “…a unique online destination where mothers of children with ADHD can hear directly from other moms about their experiences raising children with this condition“. By creating a community, McNeil has essentially created a “listening post” for issues surrounding a therapeutic area they are invested in and which they can easily monitor and manage (to an extent). NOTE: Be sure to check with your internal authroities (e.g. legal/regulatory) before creating/engaging with any public-facing web initiative.

Other great “free” destinations specific to healthcare include: PatientsLikeMe, WEGOhealth, WebMD, Revolution Health, Everyday Health, and many other health portals and forums. Also, have a listen to this interview with Jack Barrette to understand the importance of “Consumer/Patient Opinion Leaders” and their use of social media platforms to engage and influence their community.

Social Monitoring Agencies/Dashboards

If you’ve got a small budget and want more in depth information (trends, sentiment, analysis, etc.) you can start of with a data dashboard like Radian 6, which is very popular in the social media circles and has a very low barrier to entry (in terms of cost) and is very scalable according to your budget. However, if you can afford a larger budget and prefer to have someone else monitor and compile the data for you, then you should look at the various Social Monitoring agencies that offer this service.

In the BioPharma world, the two agencies I am most familar with are TNS Cymfony and Neislen Buzzmetrics, but there’s a HUGE number of these social monitoring services with similar offerings — just check out Jermiah Owyang’s comprehensive list from 2006 (which has been updated more recently).

(Paid) Patient and HCP Communities
Now, if you’ve got the budget and a clear objective for getting insights through engagement with your customers, then you have a choice of (1) mining an existing social network/community or (2) creating your own community and inviting customers to join it.

Existing Communities
The good thing about existing communities is that you can jump right into the mix and start gathering information immediately. The best examples within the Health Care Professional (HCP) space are Sermo and Medscape Physician Connect — you can subscribe to their services in order to monitor and engage in discussions with their community. Other HCP communities include Ozmosis, iMedExchange, and Clinician 1 (for NPs/PAs), though my understanding is that they have slightly less interactive models — mainly advertising and sponsorship more so than actual engagement. For an interesting article and a nice chart of the various services, read “Behind Doctors’ Social Networking Websites” in Medical Economics.

Creating a (Paid) Community
As alluded to earlier, the choice to create your own community should not be taken lightly. Besides the high cost and time/resources needed to recruit people to your new community (which better have a good reason for them to join and stay there), there’s also a huge ongoing commitment that will be needed to nurture and grow the community. However, if done right, it can also be very rewarding, because you’ve built a community for your specific purpose, which you can then use to get deep insights whenever you need. From the patient community stand point, there are services like Communispace — which launched the successful Alli Connect community — and WEGOhealth, where you can sponsor a community around a specific health area, inclusive of a health activist/advocate for that disease area who helps to moderate and manage the community. From the HCP standpoint, there’s a service that I recently discovered at the ePharma Summit called Within 3, which is like a combination of Sermo, Communispace, and LinkedIn. Within 3 offers an HCP networking community, that allows members to search and connect with others around areas of interest, expertise, and even through literature database searches (i.e. PubMed) — a very interesting model that I look forward to learning more about soon.

This area of healthcare and patient community networks is growing quickly, so don’t be surprised to see many more of these popup soon.

And then there’s Twitter…
Ahhh…Twitter — one of my favorite topics (and tools) of late. So much to say about this great service which grew 1,382% between FEB 2008 to FEB 2009 (YES, that’s one thousand three hundred and eighty-two). During the ePharma Summit, I gave a live demo to introduce the audience to the actual application and also it’s utility in gaining insights… But since I’ve already rambled on for far too long, I’ll save this portion of “Real Insights” for Part 3 of my continuing ePharma Summit reflections.

Pills, Marketing and Web 2.0

by 4 Comments »


It’s that time of year again: flu season. These days many people stay in bed with high fevers and snotty airways, feeling miserable. Waiting rooms of doctors are crowded with people, begging for recipes to get their comforting pills from the pharmacy.

Most of us don’t realize it, but behind those pills stands a huge marketing machine from the producer of these pills. A lot of money goes around in the pharmaceutical industry and competition is murderous. Development of a product takes many years and requires an investment from the pharma company that goes in the multi-millions. And once they’ve marketed their product, they lose the patent on it after a dozen or so years where generic companies take over, manufacturing and selling the same product for a fraction of the price. That’s one of the reasons why pharma companies spend a lot of time and money in building a brand. Simply because a strong and reliable brand is harder to kill.

Marketing communication is a challenge for pharma companies. Due to heavy regulations, it is not allowed in Europe for the industry to directly communicate to the end-users of the products, the patients. All communications around prescription drugs, i.e. drugs you only can obtain through a physician or specialist, are done by these doctors. They are seen as independent experts. In addition, governmental institutions, at least in many European countries, also have a say in the communication simply because a lot of the money used in health care is tax money.

The current developments in communication also have their impact in the pharmaceutical world and the way they do marketing. Pharma marketeers are more or less aware of Web 2.0 and their challenge for is how to deal with the well informed and assertive patient of the 21st century. The current new technologies bring great opportunities to start a dialogue both with patients and doctors.

Web 2.0 indeed brings great opportunities for health care. Let’s be honest, what’s more valuable to you than your health and that of your loved ones? The moment something is wrong with it, you surf and search, expecting to find correct, transparent and complete information. Or you get connected to a community of like-minded people to share experiences and emotions. Honesty, transparency, communities? Sound familiar?

Due to the strict rules and regulations, pharma marketeers frequently cannot respond rapidly and adequately to changes like those we currently see in communication. Although it brings opportunities, Web 2.0 very often still is an unknown and uncertain phenomenon. There are agencies that offer their assistance to pharma companies in how to deal with these developments. Recently, we were present at a seminar for the pharma industry on how to use these technologies in this regulated world. The seminar was organized by Across Health, an agency originally specialized in eCRM.

‘A Brave New World’ was the title of this seminar that took place in Breda, The Netherlands. Around 30 participants from the pharma industry were present. The seminar was started by Peter Hinssen, one of the partners of Across. Peter gave a fantastic presentation on the acceptance of Web 2.0. Peter is a well-known expert on the impact of technology in our society and a great believer of the fusion of commerce and IT.

Online medical education and web conferencing are tools which with pharma companies are currently experimenting, as demonstrated by a research that Across did amongst their clients. The results, presented by Marcel Scheringa (Senior Management Consultant, Across), demonstrated that the regulations are not the only pitfalls around communication. The lack of a clear eBusiness strategy and the knowledge how to measure ROI are other reasons for failure.

The effect of SEA (Search Engine Advertising) also entered in pharma-marketing, as presented by Filip Standaert of Janssen-Cilag. This company demonstrated that SEA had a significant positive influence on the campaign around a product that improves the quality of life of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Click for an interview with Hans Mampaey here.

The sales force plays an important role in pharma-marketing in bringing the product information to the doctor. Maybe you’ve seen him/her, in the waiting room of your physician: the sales representative, well-dressed, preparing him/herself for a short and effective meeting with the doctor. And short it is. On average, the time spent by a sales rep in the office of a physician is less than 3 minutes. This as a result of the increasing competition between the pharma companies, but also due to the increasing time pressure of the doctor.

In order to still being able to efficiently inform the doctor on the products many companies (if not all) use eDetailing as an alternative. eDetailing can be seen as an online, interactive and educational product brochure. Doctors can consume the information at a time that is suitable to them. Beverly Smet (Senior CRM and Busines Consultant, Across health) explains that engagement with the brand is one of the main achievements of this medium.

Arnoud Kok (Republic M!) and Danny Donkers (Bristol Myers Squibb) presented the advatages of ‘MedConference’, a web conference for the medical world where the main advantage is to save time and money. Simply because you can visit the lecture from behind your computer. This is something, especially in these economic situation, is appreciated by many managers.

Click for an interview with Ruud Kooi here.

Positive but reserved
The feedback from the participants after the meeting was overall positive. People realize that something must be done with Web 2.0, but many still have their reservations. And that is still with reference to the regulations, which limits the possible activities. Still, the pharma industry (and the regulatory institutions!) have to realize that they can’t lag behind. Certainly not when realizing the participation and desire of involvement of patients issues related to their health. Pharma should get involved in these discussion, in one way or another. The will talk about you anyway! And that also gives the opportunity to do something about the bad reputation the industry has amongst both doctors and patients.


ePharma Summit: Thoughts, Themes, and Takeaways, Part 1

by 2 Comments »

Let me start off by apologizing for the lack of blog posts over the last few weeks. It turned out to be busier than I expected (though I don’t know why I wouldn’t expect it to be), so I hope you at least found the “live tweets” from ePharma Summit and the Week (or 2) of Industry Launches interesting and informative.

Anyway, now that I’ve established that I’m behind on my blogging, I guess it’s no surprise that I’m also late to the gate for summarizing my thoughts/takeaways on the recent ePharma Summit. If you want the official conference blog posts (including some speaker videos recorded at the event), then check out the ePharma Summit blog — FEB 10th and 11th entries. You can also read opinions of the event by some others, like: PharmExec, Steve Woodruff (Day 1,2,3), and John Mack (Pharma Marketing News); though you may want to take John’s “10 things…” with a grain of salt ;-) .

Out for dinner with some of the speakers — From Left to Right:
Marc Monseau, Jack Barrette, Fabio Gratton, Shwen Gwee, James Chase, & Craig DeLarge

So, what did I personally think of it overall? Well… I feel it was possibly one of the best conferences at the confluence of eMarketing and Pharma that I have attended in the last couple of years; not just because of the quality of the speakers/presentations and the large number of high caliber attendees (plus good industry-to-agency ratio), but also because the organizers (IIR) and conference staff made every effort to really practice what was preached — using social media to really connect with their attendees and encouraging the use of it even during the event. They truely get it!

Just take a look at the ePharma Summit website… It offers the audience various options for interacting with them, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, their blog, and even simply receiving updates by email (which they really did send out regularly). They also established an #ePharma hashtag before the conference started and made participants aware of this, so that us bloggers and twitterers would use a common, identifiable label — a practice I have never seen at a pharma conference in an official capacity, but is pretty standard fare at most tech/Web 2.0 type conferences these days.

During the conference itself, the organizers not only had their own official blogger/twitterer (@ePharma) to cover the event live — and who actually posted updates within hours of sessions ending, btw — but they also strongly encouraged, supported, and even gave props to Steve Woodruff and myself (nicknamed the “Power Twitter Team“), who were live tweeting the event. In fact, when Steve and I tweeted that there was a severe lack of power outlets for plugging in our laptops, the organizers immediately responded by tweeting “…sorry to all for lack of power outlets. We learned from last year, and we have WiFi, learn from this year…need more power” (see tweet). And on the 2nd day of the conference, they even invited Steve and I to sit at a reserved table at the back of the room (a.k.a. the “Power Twitter Corner”) together with their official twitterer and a nice long power strip for all our charging needs. Now that’s getting it — all other conference organizers should definitely take note and learn… Bravo Lesly and team!!!

OK, so enough about how the conference was run… What about the content that was covered?

Seeing that this conference covered all aspects of eMarketing in Pharma, a variety of topics were covered, from reaching MDs online to online media mix  to market research. Of course, there were also panels that covered Social Media — which was a recurring theme that was brought up throughout the conference — including Josh Bernoff’s great keynote on leveraging Groundswell, with some new and interesting data on health/pharma topics. By the way, this is another good example of where the organizers have thought outside the traditional box and invited a non-pharma KOL in social media.

Of all the sessions, however, I do think that the best discussion of the conference had to be the panel on “Driving Policy/Guidelines Around the Use of Social Media in Pharma“, which featured an esteemed panel consisting of: Robert Goldberg (moderator), Marc Monseau, Fabio Gratton, and Fard Johnmar. You can read more about it at the ePharma Summit blog and I also recorded the session, but will need to check with all parties involved before being able to publish it, so let’s hope.

So, if I had to narrow it down to three key takeaways from the meeting, here’s what they would be…

  1. We need different strategies for different stages of the patient journey…
    Basically, a patient goes through very different stages during their journey from undiagnosed to diagnosed, diagnosed to treatment, etc, etc. At each stage, the patient will have different needs, so we should cater to those needs by strategizing our marketing/engagement efforts accordingly. One size does not always fit all.

  2. Medical devices should work with online medical/health services (e.g. iPod and iTunes)…
    Too often, we have proprietary systems that don’t talk to each other, so how can we expect a universal adoption of online records, like EHR’s, EMR’s, and PHR’s? We need to start thinking about inter-operability, just like Google Health and Mircorosft Healthvault have started talking about. Portability of one’s data is key to adoption.

  3. Start with a corporate framework before launching any social media initiatives…
    Pretty self explanatory, but there are always questions on where to start with social media initaitives and how to get buy-in for programs, etc. Before jumping onto a specific platform or campaign, one should first consider developing a corporate framework that has input from all key stakeholders (e.g. legal, regulatory, etc.) that will help guide any future social media programs.

OK, that’s it for Part 1. In the continuation of this post, I’ll share some of what I presented during my panel session on Social Media, Blogs, and User Generated

WP Theme & Icons by N.Design Studio
Entries RSS Comments RSS Log in