My wife is a worry wart. She’s the type of person that will read a study about the effects of metal touching metal and immediately decide that silverware should no longer be used when cooking. She’s constantly making sure I locked the door, buckled my seat belt and arrived safely at work. She’s a great balance to my overly laissez faire attitude. Unlike my wife, when I hear the latest study, I always quip: “you can prove just about anything if you set out to do it.” Why sweat all the things that can go wrong?
Just like my wife is the yin to my yang, pharmaceutical social media programs need to find a balance (you knew there had to be a segue right?).
Like a scientist trying to prove an established hypothesis, a pharmaceutical marketer can make the case for just about any social media strategy if they look long enough. Before conducting any type of online listening or social media research, a marketer could have already decided that Facebook is the perfect platform. With this decision already made, the process of finding supporting research is a selective exercise. The research that supports the conclusion is pulled to the front and the rest is simply glossed over.
It’s reasonable to walk into pharmaceutical social media planning with a hypothesis. The danger arises when you are unwilling to change your conclusion based on the research at hand. Social media demands an open mind. The way people interact, the functions of community and the social currency are all unique. A social media marketer needs to research, listen and observe and allow that to shape strategy—not the other way around.
On the flip side, there can be a tendency to get so lost in the research and data that you never emerge with a conclusion. You can spend months rehashing the same information without forming a cohesive strategy. While a willingness to follow research is important, decisiveness is equally important. It’s that whole yin and yang thing again—you need balance.
Online listening is a critical step to developing a social media strategy. It helps to inform the strategies and tactics that will best serve your audience. Use the information gleaned from social media listening to build a social media strategy that ties directly to the patient need. But don’t use the mountains of information as a crutch. Don’t use it as an excuse to continue stalling engagement.
Be thoughtful. Be flexible. But be decisive.