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Pharma (still) fears social networking

Pharma still fears social networking - medical translationNine 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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  1. Gail McDaniel said...
    Cook Medical is embracing social media and Web 2.0 with CookARTLab.com and menshealthpd.com, two prominent examples.
    Danny Lieberman said...
    Social networking and pharmas is a very enticing idea if you don't understand how pharmas sell.

    Pharmas are the last bastion of traditional door-to-door marketing with reps knocking on doors of docs. The pharmas use medical, marketing and legal staff to vet and control the content delivery. Pharmas like to believe that they can control the medical rep messaging but they close an eye to off-label marketing by reps. For their part, doctors enjoy the attention, samples and invites to conferences. Pharmas probably understand in a visceral sense that doctors despise their marketing material which is another reason to preserve the door-door marketing paradigm - and not open it up to open access - It's like a girl friend who enjoys your gifts but won't marry you - pharmas and docs are in a love-hate relationship that will break down if the physical visits stop.

    This is also a time when most users on the Internet have a fairly critical view of vendor-sponsored content in a "customer community".

    I think that the key to cracking the puzzle of getting users and doctors in particular to warm up to vendors in a social network is "clusters" - groups of people who have a ongoing physical world connections - if you have a trusted sales person in your network whom you meet and talk to once/week - chances are - you will be more likely to trust his influence inside your social network

    Danny Lieberman
    Software associates
    Jamessmith said...
    Thank you for this articles. This will really a good one. I will appreciate it
    Timo Ahopelto said...
    Good article, and illustrates the fact that the industry needs to move. Pharmaceuticals has always been the industry afraid of having its products and services being openly judged by the public, and web 2.0 will change it as eventually the walls will fall no matter what the regulation says - it is interesting to see who will lose and who will win.
    Kamagra said...
    This is really nice article to see.One thing i would like to say in the pharmacy market now social networking is very popular these days.

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