Pharma At The Social Media Tipping Point: A Report From #SMWKetchum

pharmaThe Pharma industry has been engaging with social media for several years now, but we’ve become far too accustomed to seeing Facebook pages that have been closed down, You Tube channels with comments disabled, and twitter feeds with only 20 followers and a ‘last post’ made over a month ago.

Social media is all about open, transparent, fast-moving debate and information sharing. The reason Pharma has struggled to engage in a meaningful way is because, next to financial services, it is one of the most regulated industries and this, to some extent, has stifled innovation to date within its use of the social space.

However, change is in the air.  To quote Steve Jobs the biggest innovation of the 21st Century will be the intersection of healthcare and technology. Health has become the number 1 reason people go online to conduct a Google Search and 23% of patients seek out similar people living with similar conditions to support and share information with each other. Even consumer brands are converging into the health space, just look at Nike who now sell wearable technology that plots your running fitness levels through Nike+ and allows you to share that data with your friends. Nike is no longer just a sports brand, it’s selling health.

So healthcare finds itself at an exciting tipping point and the very regulations that have made the Pharma industry slow to adopt social media in the first place have forced us to innovate and find new ways of using Social Media. For example, crowdsourcing initiatives are revolutionising drug development and drug discovery by involving communities to solve problems, such as Merck’s Molecular Activity Challenge and Sanofi’s Diabetes Innovation Challenge. In fact, Sanofi reported that, “offering a $100,000 prize has yielded ideas in six months that would have taken four to five years to develop at ten times the cost.” Pharma is also becoming increasingly adept to Big Data initiatives, and for good reason. The possibility of capturing and making use of information about each customer, communication and business function is both overwhelming and exciting. This has already been put to use in social spaces through mapping twitter conversations around specific health topics to understand more about the most influential tweeters, not just those with the most number of followers but those who take an active and passionate interest in a topic. Identifying genuine digital thought leaders, not just Stephen Fry.

In summary, our call to action from our healthcare Social Media Week event is that we have been talking about Pharma ‘doing social badly’ for too long and in fact this is a hugely exciting time for the healthcare industry. We are at a tipping point of seeing some really ground-breaking work in social spaces and we need to continue to drive this innovation so that it becomes much more commonplace. The social revolution has well and truly begun.

Ketchum London is hosting other events during Social Media Week, if you’d like to find out more click here…

Click here for the deck from our Social Innovation for Healthcare presentation too.