Think Twitter and Facebook are only for the young and hip? Think again. Minneapolis-based Medtronic, an established, conservative company whose products are highly regulated, is embracing social media as a means to connect and educate patients and physicians and build brand loyalty. That's according to Ward Tongen, who is helping Medtronic's neuromodulation business enter the brave, sometimes scary, new world of "tweets", "likes", and "friends". Tongen spoke recently at a Twin Cities marketing professionals meeting.
Medtronic maintains an official Facebook fan page and multiple Twitter pages, where they post tidbits of newsworthy information about the company and engage patients, physicians and the public. It's turned out to be an effective way to educate people about the therapies that the company can provide.
In a competitive marketplace, any edge is crucial and Medtronic is betting on the skyrocketing growth of social media to win hearts and minds. For the company, this move into volatile online communities is a paradigm shift but a necessary one. After all, one Internet year is equal to four regular years and the company doesn't want to miss out.
Many patients who would be candidates for Medtronic's products are elderly and not plugged in to social media, much less the Internet. Tongen says that in this case, it is the caretakers to whom they market, the children and relatives of the elderly. But more and more grandmothers are signing up on Facebook everyday to see photos of distant grandkids and if Medtronic can engage them directly, it's a best case scenario.
It's easy to see why Medtronic is pursuing social media marketing when you read a post like this on the company's Facebook page, from the relative of a patient: "[He] feels better. Medtronic is the company that made his device. They had representatives from their company at the foot of his bed during the procedure that told the doctor what to do to fine tune it. Pretty marvelous, this technology. Like having a computer inside with a steel case!"
Medtronic has a team of search marketers, and Web metrics analysts whose jobs are to scour the Web and find out what people are saying about their company and plug into the online communities that are rapidly taking marketing out of the hands of the marketers. These days, the opinions of your Facebook friends are valued more than those of companies' copywriters. And that's why Medtronic wants to be your friend too.
If you have another five minutes to spare, take a look at the following more-or-less related articles:
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- Pharma is (a little) less scared of social networking
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Categories: medical devices