Pharmalot: How bad was the hacking incident? Meyer: For consumers and patients, I don’t think it was that bad. They know hacking occurs. Sony was hacked. Banks and credit card companies have been hacked. So was the Defense Department. For pharma, though, it’s really bad, because I think it’ll give them another reason to say they shouldn’t move into social media. It will give them an excuse to say there’s another obstacle, instead of saying what can we learn and move forward. So now, they may not. Ironically, when pharma employees check their email, there’s a portable ID to change the log in every five or 10 minutes to gain access. There are layers of security to get email. Yet this same level of security wasn’t put on their Facebook page. It tells me a couple of things – they don’t really understand social media, which was evident by having a pr agency doing it, and it also tells me they don’t understand social media marketing itself.
Pharmalot: Having a PR agency doing a Facebook page signifies what? Why does it matter? Meyer: Social media only works when it’s effective and genuine. I conducted some research earlier this year when we wanted to talk to patients and consumers about biopharma companies. We heard concerns about who they’d be talking to? What surprised me was they said they didn’t want to talk to pr people or third party people. They want a genuine person. So pharma needs to put someone there who is authentic. ..People want a genuine conversation with the brand – that’s the way you build trust and establish a genuine persona for the brand.
Pharmalot: And what exactly does pharm not understand about social media marketing? Meyer: There’s a misperception that social media is setting up Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. But it’s a lot more than setting up a page. It’s a way of thinking. In my opinion, pharma has not shifted from outbound marketing to conversational marketing. At one client, a senior legal vp person said this to me: ‘ I’m not going to allow any in-bound marketing (which is allowing people to come to you and ask question) at this company.’ When I asked why, he said there’s too much risk. For every item of risk he named, I was able to say we could manage it doing this and doing this. And he responded by saying when there’s human interaction there’s always a possibility of falling outside of DDMAC guidelines and getting a letter, and I don’t want any letter. So long as you have that mentality, pharma just doesn’t get what social media marketing is. It’s not just a tactic or strategy, it’s a way of thinking about marketing in today’s environment.
Pharmalot: And what should Pharma do about the upcoming Facebook changes? Meyer: A couple of things. One digital agency launched a pharma wall- an addition to a Facebook page that would allow pharma companies to moderate anybody who posted something on their Facebook page. This tool would allow pharma to approve something before it goes on a wall. The second thing is most biopahrma companies are not set up for legal, regulatory and medical reviews in real time. When I launched Sarafem for pmdd, we launched a message board for women because our research told us women wanted to share information about their views on this condition.
I set up a web site where people could put something on the message board but it would not go live until legal regulatory and medical people signed off. That is something else they could physically do. It doesn’t have to be around the brand, it can be around the health condition. A lot of pharma people are not finding out why consumers are searching for information. Nothing we do in DTC marketing is without risk. The conversations consumers are having is around products and disease states, and they’re going online to do this. What pharma has to ask is ‘Do we want to be part of that conversation or a train stop on the road as consumers go online to learn about health?’
Pharmalot: Recently, Steve Woodruff wrote that maybe it's time to concede that pharma and social media don't mix (read here). What do you think?
Meyer: I don't believe that. If you’ve got magnetic content that draws people in – if you give me a reason to talk to you on an elevator full of people, I’m going to continue talking. Pharma needs to get in the minds of their consumers and ask what’s important , what do you want to hear from us and what do you want to know. But there’s no emphasis to provide magnetic content in a way that’s conversational instead of a brochure you’d pick up at a doctor’s office. Read the Pradaxa DTC web site and it’s like reading a medical journal. I don’t see how anyone would read that and say they’ll go to their doctor and ask for Pradaxa. There’s only going to be more interactivity online – they have to get away from push, push and push and learn to listen, listen, listen.
pic thx to birgerking on flickr