Let’s get this out of the way: social media for pharmaceutical companies is hard work. There I said it.
Far too many people suffer from the misconception that social media is simple and merely a question of value. “How hard can Twitter really be—it’s only 140 characters?” “My daughter can master Facebook; surely I can make it work.” Or worse still, “All I need to do is come up with a few good corporate messages and then proliferate social networks with them—think of how many people will see it!”
The latter statement is the one that keeps me up at night. When engaging in social media, pharmaceutical marketers are faced with a choice—take the easy route or the longer, more difficult road. As I mentioned in my previous post, the easy route in social media is tempting. Instead of taking the time to form relationships, learn the landscape and provide meaningful commentary, pharmaceutical marketers can simply broadcast a canned message to the masses. Of course, this isn’t really social media but that may not matter.
We’ve reached an important, dare I say, tipping point in social media for pharmaceutical companies. We’ve moved passed the evangelism stage to a point where many pharmaceutical companies are actively weighing and pursuing some form of social media engagement. As they do, will they be tempted by the lure of the easy route in search of quick hits? Or will they take the methodical, strategic approach?
The answer to the question depends on how the social media marketer approaches the medium in the first place. It is important to remember that social media is not a silver bullet. It cannot cure all the ills of the checkered marketing past of pharmaceutical companies. Social media is not a quick fix. Relationships in the real world are hard work (just ask my wife who has to deal with me). All relationships take commitments, dedications and honesty.
Social media is no different. And like any meaningful relationship—when it works—boy is it rewarding.