10 Things You Should Know About Social Media

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Well, I can’t believe it’s only a few hours before Christmas (what happened to the rest of this year?), so it’s probably too late for a corny “12 Days of Christmas” pharma parody and there’s no point in trying to out do Ellen Hoenig’s very eloquent “T’was The Night Before #FDASM“. So instead, I thought I’d share “10 Things You Should Know About Social Media (But Are Often Overlooked)” as a countdown to Christmas.

Basically, it’s just a list of thoughts and ideologies that I feel are important — but often overlooked — fundamentals of social media that I have come to learn and understand over the course my time and involvement in the social media culture. Those of you who have heard/seen some of my recent presentations will recognize these 10 ideologies, as I’ve added them to the end of my talks of late.

  1. It’s NOT a magic pill or the holy grail
  2. It will only serve to amplify — not rectify
  3. It humanizes your corporate brand — act like a human
  4. It’s a commitment — not a campaign.
  5. Your biggest investment will be your time and resources
  6. It does not replace face-to-face — it enhances and supplements it!
  7. Time to stop convincing — time to start compelling
  8. Bring booze to the party — don’t be a mooch
  9. Empower your audience — and earn their trust
  10. Set  Expectations  Xplicitly!

While some (all?) of them may seem rather cliche, I do think they speak to issues that are often lost in the hype when people think about social media. And more than at any other time that I’ve heard many of these issues brought up, these ideologies rang most true to me during the closing un-conference session at the recent Digital Pharma conference (read about it here and here), where many of these topics were brought up, discussed, mulled around, and ruminated. So here’s a bit more detail for each one:

#1 It’s NOT a magic pill or the holy grail
The problem with getting caught up in the social media hype is that we sometimes forget: It’s NOT the answer to everything. It won’t solve all your problems or turn your mediocre product/marketing into something that it isn’t (see point #2). For more, read Tara Hunt’sYour Social Media Strategy Won’t Save You” presentation from the 2009 Web 2.0 Expo in NYC.

#2 It will only serve to amplify — not rectify
Again, social media isn’t going to save you if you have bad staff, bad marketing, bad product, etc. IN FACT, it’s quite the opposite. Be prepared for an amplification of the perceptions of what already exists…Good OR bad. If you want a positive amplification, then you need to work for it and put effort into what you’re doing to make it better. It’s about genuine, authentic responsibility and relationships with your customers. Not just another sales pitch.

#3 It humanizes your corporate brand — act like a human
A big part of social media is turning cold corporate walls into warm blooded humans. Humans that connect. It’s a very different medium and culture from traditional media, so instead of trying to squeeze the square social media peg into the round traditional hole, think about what you’re trying to achieve. Don’t just take the traditional “corporate voice” and copy-and-paste it into your social media channel — a sales pitch or a speech doesn’t belong in a conversation. For more, read Chris Brogan’s great post on “What Human Business And the Social Web Are About“.

#4 It’s a commitment — not a campaign
This is another one about NOT treating social media like we do traditional media campaigns. The long-drawn build up to launch is not where the hard work and big efforts come in to play. It’s AFTER launch that you really need to put a lot of work and nurture the initiative; monitoring, reviewing, responding, adjusting, etc. See David Armano‘s great diagram and blog post for more insight.

#5 Your biggest investment will be your time and resources
As mentioned in #4, it’s not just a one time deal and, just like in any relationship, the biggest effort happens AFTER you meet. The build up before the meeting was just a preface to the hard work that makes any commitment or relationship really work. So make sure you plan for the resources that are required for the post-launch activities ahead of time! There’s no sitting back and waiting to see how a relationship turns out.

#6 It does not replace face-to-face — it enhances and supplements it!
I believe one of the biggest misconceptions that exists about social media is that it’s about a bunch of geeks online all the time, conversing through Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks. However, what many people fail to realize is that social media actually drives and multiplies the opportunities for face-to-face interactions. Look at all the tweetups, meetups, podcamps, foocamps, unconferences, etc, etc. that surrounds new and social media. We love meeting the people we meet online. The technology that drives social media just ends up being a conduit for human interaction and in turn propels us to want to make real world, face-to-face, human connections!

#7 Time to stop convincing — time to start compelling
OK, so this one’s borrowed from the summary of Web MD’s 2009 Health Forum. It’s about doing those (sometimes intangible) things that your customers will feel compelled to tell others about in a positive way.
It’s not about occupying a “new category” for your brand in the mind of your customers. It’s about connecting with their hearts and bringing them value, trust, and authenticity.

#8 Bring booze to the party — don’t be a mooch
Another borrowed statement… This one is a slightly altered version of something I once heard Chris Brogan say: “Bring wine to the picnic“. Basically, this really speaks to the need to start thinking about what value we bring to our customers. Ask not what they can do for you (and your profits), but what you can do for them. Create value for them and they will thank you for it…And sing your praises.Ties in very closely with #7.

#9 Empower your audience — and earn their trust
This follows on from #8. If you really want to do well with social media, you need to give your customers the ability to amplify your positive value in their lives. Just look at the Obama presidential election “Social Media Toolkit” (PDF link to Edelman whitepaper) for the many ways that the audience had opportunities to raise their own voices, share it with others, and evangelize their party. However, it’s important that you need to earn your customers trust first, before asking them to do anything. Remember, #8 — bring value first. Otherwise, they will have no reason to sing your praises.

#10 Set Expectations Xplicitly!
Finally, I end with the idea of setting expectations with your customers (I purposefully left off the “E” on “Explicitly” — makes for a better acronym ;-) ). This is probably the single most important thing for any corporate entity engaging in social media, especially if there are limitations for how a social platform has to be implemented, due to legal/regulatory issues, etc. By first telling your customers what to expect, you have transparently allowed them to understand the framework that you are working in. See the JNJBTW, GSK’s “More Than Medicine“, and AZ’s “Health Connections” blogs for examples of their frankness about their approach to blogging within the regulated pharma industry. Don’t let the purists or trolls make you think that social media is an all or nothing activity (see my comment on that here).

Phew… That was longer than I expected (Wow — it’s almost Christmas!). But I thought it was worth noting some of the details down for each of my 10 ideologies. To end this post, I thought I’d leave you with a video that was nicely put together by the guys from DigiRedo (including my co-blogger, Erik) from the 3rd Annual Digital Pharma conference, where  you can hear comments around the event itself and the “unconference” approach/principles that we tried to infuse into the entire meeting — enjoy…

[pro-player width='400' height='275' type='video']http://vimeo.com/7649490[/pro-player]

Original video here.

6 Responses to “10 Things You Should Know About Social Media”

  1. Meredith Gould Says:

    Love #4: “It’s a commitment, not a campaign.” To that I’d add my own twist: it’s a commitment, not a contract.

  2. Pharma Blog Review » Blog Archive » Happy new year, sort of Says:

    [...] at Vertex Pharmaceuticals (you can read his 10 things you should know about social media here), the Street’s Adam Feuerstein, and CNBC’s Mike Huckman, it almost seemed like I was [...]

  3. Pharma twittersphere - who is following you - Part I - whydot pharma Says:

    [...] drives me to use twitter. As Shwen, my much admired pharma social media guru pointed out in this awesome post: social media humanizes your corporate brand — act like a [...]

  4. agaliazo Says:

    I was driven here by @whydotpharma and yes, your post is all I wanted to know abt SM but no one told me so far. I particularly like
    3. It humanizes your corporate brand — act like a human
    4. It’s a commitment — not a campaign.
    5. Your biggest investment will be your time and resources
    and these are valid not only for pharma but for everyone posting out there.
    What could particularly suggest to patient orgs in twittersphere?

  5. Contact Center Philippines Says:

    Excellent post! The great aspect of social media is with proper attention, it significantly expands the entry points for your brand and business. Now, instead of customers finding you through just Google Search, or the Yellow Pages, they can find you through Search, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, and many, many more. The possibilities are endless for grassroots, guerrilla style marketing campaigns. All you need is a little bit of creativity, and some time.


  6. Medicare OutSourcing Says:

    Wondering, what kind of targets could we set in our marketing efforts keeping in view the above points?

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