Pharma’s Adoption of Social Channel: Caution and a Sense of Hesitation

Lot is being said about the efficiency and effectiveness of the Social channels (twitter and Facebook) and why organization should define strategies to leverage this “Free Channel”. I would like to discuss the reason why Pharma as an industry is cautious in adopting this channel. I can think of the following reasons:

  1. Can I use this channel? FDA laid out the regulations…but then sporadic incidents like what happened with Novartis sharing widget on Facebook confuses the marketers. They seem to be interested, but reticent in using this channel and defining the optimum channel mix leveraging these social channels. My understanding is that there is still lot of work that regulators have to do to define and answer basic questions around what and how? Some Product companies have come to the rescue of Pharma organizations by providing a sharing widget that can comply with the norms (Read the blog to know more…. But is that sufficient? I believe NO. Proper operating processes (internal and external) need to be laid out to clear this confusion.


  • What should I use this for? Channels are used by marketers primarily to create awareness, Influence and engage customers. With the profusion of channels marketers perform a juggling act of defining the right channel mix to achieve one or more of the objectives. Traditional channels like F2F, Contact Center, Email, D2C etc have had their share of success and failures over the past years. Marketers are still pondering over the use of the social channel as a medium and what services to be provided over this channel. Should we use this as an extension to the Contact Center? Or can this be used as a detailing medium? Or should this be used to launch campaigns? Or can this be used to provide education and wellness programs for patients and HCPs? I see a lot of Ifs and buts around this. @Novartis twitter account is primarily being used for creating awareness around disease area and to promote wellness programs. @AstraZenecaUS and @Boehringer use their Twitter account to promote videos and drugs along with providing awareness and education.So will we see migration of S&M functions on these channels in near future? It depends…as we witness the end of “arm race” these channels may play more important and strategic role in future.


  • How this ties up with the overall strategy? Important and very pertinent question. Businesses are becoming more customer centric and Pharma is no exception to this. But can organizations use this channel in isolation or should these channels be part of the overall CRM strategy that organizations define? Yes they should form part of the overall reference architecture (technically and functionally). This is easier said than done. Pharma organizations CRM landscape still does not feature social channels like Facebook and Twitter. It does feature newer channels like Gated Communities, Podcast, eSamples, Discussion forums, Portals etc. Is it the conservative nature of this business that is pulling them back or has Pharma purposely taken a decision to keep these channels away from their CRM landscape? I think it’s more about the basic DNA that builds a Pharma organization that restricts as well as limits the use of these channels.


  • Can I measure the success? Papers have been written on how to measure ROI of CRM investments. If one asks me… I still have my own apprehensions around this question. Is there a   direct formula to measure the ROI of the CRM investment? If answering this is tough then trying to find the ROI from the investments into these channels will be a much bigger puzzle. And so it becomes a big task to secure budgets and funds for investment. We are still far from defining metrics for creating imperial evidence of returns from these channels.


  • Is this really free? Finally the reason that I feel is hitting not only Pharma but others also. Creating accounts/profiles on Facebook and Twitter does not cost a penny… and this is true. But it does cost on other fronts… right from staff managing the profiles to creating content to be delivered using this channel. With time these channels will need full-time people with defined SLAs and protocols. All this will surely cost money.

Look at some of the twitter and Facebook accounts of these organizations and you can easily gauge the caution and a sense of hesitation from Pharma in adopting these channels. How do these compare with your experiences? Anything you would add to this list?


About Amitesh Srivastava
I have over eight years' experience in IT and Business Consulting. I have been involved in business analysis, consulting and client management for reputed clients across life sciences domain, and possess good understanding of various commercial systems managing pharma sales and marketing processes

2 Responses to Pharma’s Adoption of Social Channel: Caution and a Sense of Hesitation

  1. When i visit a blog, chances are that I see that the construction is poor and the writting bad.On the other hand,I have to say that you have done a good job here.

    • Thanks for your comments

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