Social Media is here to stay – Pharma needs to join in

“There will be a trend towards using Web 2.0 [in pharma]”, confirms Simon Freedman, Marketing Director at Allergan in the May/June issue of Pharmaceutical Marketing Europe. “We have already seen some spontaneous use of YouTube in some of the disease areas we work in”, he explains.

“It is important not to lose sight of what social media actually entails. “The true meaning of social media unfortunately gets lost in the marketing hyperbole and inflated expectations and promises”, says Jaan Orvet, Communication director at Orbitsville, a social media specialist. According to Orvet, social media is defined by its simplicity and straightforwardness, because at its core are the everyday social interactions that we enjoy in real life. The only difference is that this is driven by technology.

“Note that there is no mention of ‘deploying messages’ or ‘penetrating core groups’ or any other marketing speak in social media. Social media is about conversation, about honesty and about behaving like a person and not a corporation. After all, you don’t buy friends or credibility. Both come with time and commitment,” he adds. The idea is to engage with customers and to participate in meaningful and extended dialogue with them. This requires companies to be upfront, about the good and the bad.

“Allow people to show you what they think. Let them share photos of what a bad rash they get from your product. Or how well the surgery scar healed when they used your cream.” Orvet suggests. “You will be amazed by how many people will appreciate you, and forgive you, if you are honest.” Companies interested in embracing social media may consider creating their own social network from scratch, but it is sometimes more effective to become part of an existig community.

Furthermore, social networking should not just exists outside a company’s walls. Internal relationships can be enhanced by collaborative action and Orvet encourages the development of an intra-company network where staff can share ideas, photos, links to what competition is doing, slogans for new products and so on. “Collaboration is a huge part of social networking,” he says.

Additionally, start a small in-house project with the aim of boosting awareness and familiarity with social media. This could involve starting a wiki – web pages that allow anyone who accesses them to modify content – or launching an online photo competition for staff.

Malcolm Allison, Marketing Director of new products at Actellion Pharmaceuticals foresees three major challenges in the use of social media. Firstly, recent high profile paedophile ‘grooming’ incidents could result in access being severely restricted unless effective self-policing is maintained. Secondly, social media is anarchic, so very difficult to influence… Companies have already been burnt as they tried to make money. Thirdly, social media is fad driven, will evolve very rapidly, with no particular site or engine remaining popular for more than three of four years, making it even harder to use it on the long term.”

A fear of relinquishing control is perhaps the most immediate and common response to the social media movement. The concepts of openess and sharing are not a feature of modern day corporate culture. In response, Orvet stresses that “openess is crucial, but it doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. It’s just different. This comes back to the fact that people already talk about your products and they form opinions based on what others think of your products. If you don’t want to be a part of that, that’s OK. But if your competitor does participate, they will have the upper hand.”

The web will continue to change and evolve.. “Eventually, ‘social’ will be a natural part of the web, in much the same way that no one thinks twice about viewing videos online anymore – yet that was called a ‘short-term craze’ too, as was the whole web in the 1990s”

Excerpt from an article featured in the May/June edition of Pharmaceutical Marketing Europe, written by Selina Denman, mnaging editor at the publishing group of Macus Evans.

The Afya adventure – part one

Just landed in Nairobi, after spending 4 days and 4 nights in and around the Serengeti. Tomorrow morning I fly back to Holland. Since there was no internet available in the places where we stayed, I was not able to give an update earlier than today. But apart from that, the trip was unique, amazing and breathtaking. I realize I have had one of the best experiences in my life. Let me share these with you in the following days, step by step…

I arrive in the Serengeti on Wednesday, May 28. A small propeller plane takes me into the park, taking off with a delay of 1.5 hours. From the air I can get a taste from what is waiting for me down there. Large herds of wildebeest and zebra’s are visible from the sky. The plains are drying up and the wildebeest are migrating north of where there is more food and water available. This has started already a few weeks ago and the herds I am looking at are only a fraction of the number of animals that have already moved over the plains of the Serengeti. Although I find these (give or take a few) 3,000 animals, running in a large stream of an amazing size, compared to the 50,000 that are seen at the start of the migration it is peanuts. Current estimations of the wildebeest population range from 1.1-1.2 million animals. That’s 4 times the size compared to 45 years ago, clearly showing the benefits of this protected area of 14.500 square kilometers, roughly the size of Northern Ireland.

Sarah Cleaveland, leader of the rabies control project has been waiting for me for more than 2 hours at the Seronera airstrip. Not only did the plane took off too late, it also has flown a different route, leading to a much longer route than intially planned. No reason for me to complain, referring to the earlier described sights, but the downside is that we will be too late to join the team that is vaccinating the dogs in Rung’abure, a small village west of the Serengeti. Later I hear from the team that this was a crazy day, with over 400 dogs vaccinated, hundreds of people surrounding the team, laughing and cheering children and a dog giving birth to three puppies…

We have lunch at the residential place of the Frankfurter Zoological Society, close the airstrip. Here the research team resides when they operate in the field. It is an amazing place. While sitting on the porch, we see grazing zebra’s, a family of water-buffalo’s, two warthogs and a baboon passing by. I can hardly believe my eyes, wildlife in your backyard…

After lunch we have to move. Paolo Charles, the vehicle manager of the team, will take Sarah and me to Mugumu, a village west of the park. Here we will stay two nights as the vaccinations take place in villages in the surrounding of Mugumu. We have 4 hours of travel ahead of us. In about 2 hours we will reach the border of the park and Sarah assures me that I will see tons of wildlife in this period. Within 15 minutes, we encounter a herd of zebra’s, drinking at a small pond. We decide to wait and observe them for a moment. I take my camera and start filming them. Suddenly the zebra’s seem to be alerted by something and leave the water. We think to see the outline of a crocodile in the water…or not? The zebra’s aren’t sure either and return to continue to lessen their thirst. Again, a sudden move and the huge reptile raises from the water in an attempt to grab a small foal, but misses. Nonetheless, I caught it on tape and Sarah ascertains me this being a rare sight, as she has been waiting for hours next to similar sites where nothing happened. (In a few days I will publish this scene as I currently do not have a high-speed connection to upload the video).

We continue and after watching wildebeest, more zebra’s, giraffes, hippo’s, ostriches, Thompson gazelle’s, eland and more we arrive in the town of Mugumu. We stay at ‘Anita’s place’, a nice hostel, far less primitive than I expected. Although there is no running water, it is clean. I have a large two size room, even including TV. Shortly after we’ve arrived, the team returns, tired from, as said earlier, a crazy and hectic day. I meet the remaining members of he team; Idi Lipende, a veteriarian and coordinator of the campaign, Israel Silaa, the driver, and Kaneja Ibrahim, the field assistant. With the team is also Tendeka Matatu, our cameraman, Suzanne McNabb, a researcher, who is working on her PhD and James Desmond, a recently graduated veterinarian from the USA.

Tendeka tells me that he has found in Kaneja the host for our podcast show as he is a charismatic guy with no fear for the camera and someone who has a talent for improvisation. And that’s not his only talent, as I will find out in the next days. Although they have spectacular stories of which many is caught on tape, I am not allowed to see it yet. “No, you have to experience it yourself first, before we can show you the footage, for that it is too special”, Tendeka promises me, with a smile on is face.

So, I just need one more night of patience. And I can tell you, he was right…

To be continued

Content Management Systems Conference 2008

While we are awaiting further news from Tanzania I found this article I still needed to post.

Last Wednesday, May 21st, we went to the 2008 edition of Content Managemet Systems (CMS) in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. Many of our activities make use of a CMS, and we are also working on some projects which heavily use CMS. Not bad to dive a bit into the matter, we thought.

The conference was entitled “Anytime Online”, hinting to the Web 2.0 trends. Vincent Evers, the Dutch sort of  Scobble but in his own unique way, was moderator of the day and opened the congress with a vivid presentation (as we are used to). Next, several subjects could be chosen to attend, such as for example SEO marketing, usability, community systems, user generated content and much more.

Beig a newbie on CMS we were not really impressed. A lot of the presentations were from vendors, trying to ‘sell’ their product. Moreover, the quality of most speakers was poor (exceptions being the rule, such as Vincent for example).

Of course we learned new stuff (you always learn something), if it was only that most CMS vendors have a difficult time to disticht one to another.

Check out Vincent’s video-impression here. The full program you can find here.

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