Nine months ago, Brand Week ran a good article on why pharma fears social networking. In the time since the article first ran, little seems to have changed.
Pharmaceutical (as well as medical device) companies lag far behind other industries in the adoption of "Web 2.0" technologies like social networking, blogs, wikis, podcast and RSS.
While English-language drug brand web sites are common, they almost never contain the features that marketers usually are desperate to give their customers: bulletin boards, chat rooms, blogs and social networking functions. To see how static and "boring" drug sites are, check out Eli Lilly's Cialis, Sepracor's Lunesta, Pfizer's Viagra, and sanofi-aventis' Allegra.
There are some exceptions, including J&J's Children with Diabetes and Diabeteshandprint.com, which we previously mentioned in our post on crowdsourcing translations, where companies have created online communities. But as Brand Week's article points out, pharma companies are generally not comfortable with the risks and investments required for these kinds of sites.
Just how slowly things are progressing has been highlighted over the past few weeks. During this time, pharma's dabbling in social media took two steps forward and one step backward.
Glaxo launched a new corporate blog and Twitter is getting a bit of traction amongst drug manufacturers. During the same period, though, J&J had to remove a video from its health channel after running afoul of FDA.
So, how far behind are pharma and device companies? A recent report found that 16% of Fortune 500 companies have public-facing blogs -- yet only two drug and device companies maintain blogs and a handful more tweet.
Given how conservative and risk-averse drug and device companies are, the situation is unlikely to change soon. Hey, pharmaceutical and medical device companies don't even speak Spanish!
UPDATE: AstraZeneca, Roche as well as pharma marketers and consultants were featured in the September 2009 PharmaVoice story The Business of Tweeting.
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