Collecting ideas and thoughts slightly too big for @digital_pharma

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Posts tagged "Facebook"

Facebook is serious about getting pharma on board with social media.

You remember Facebook, right? The number one or two website in the US and the world? The place where people spend insane amounts of time playing games, posting photos, and chatting with their friends? I know you know of it, because I’m almost certain that you have a personal profile on it. 

You may have wiped it from your professional memory because for the last few years, Facebook spent a lot more telling us that it wanted our business than actually learning what it was like doing business within pharma. They were playing B2B footsie, occasionally bending their very retail-oriented rules about commenting and interaction when a brand reallyreallyreally needed them to turn off comments (read: spent a lot of money buying ads on Facebook). 

But you were probably right for writing the FB off as a place where pharma should fear to tread.

So it was surprising to see that Facebook has taken itself to the woodshed and returned a changed company. They really are serious about bring pharma into the fold, going so far as to put together a team of six full-time staffers dedicated to pharma. This team will teach any brand manager or agency willing to listen the lessons learned from the early adopters. They have regular newsletters describing new ways of targeting customers, building brand awareness and driving engagement. They will sit you down and walk you through a deck describing all the ways they can help you achieve your brand goals.

You might be interested in hearing that FB can reach hundreds of thousands of pharmacists, nurses and doctors (and based on numbers I’ve seen, assume 60-80% penetration). They can segment pretty well by specialty type, demographic-type, and geography.

They can also help you build a page that abides by your particular MLR needs. No longer is Facebook pretending all companies are the same: they are serious about getting pharma into social.

And that’s great news. Except one small detail.

While I’m all for getting pharma to embrace the twenty-first century and admit what we all already know (everyone, including your doctor, your mother, your pharmacist, your nurse, your support group, your physical therapist, your KOL, and your pharma executive are all on social media and using it quite a bit), Facebook may have a bit of problem: clicks on their ads aren’t all by people.

Someone has uncovered evidence that as much as 80% of ad clicks that businesses pay for on Facebook are by “bots.” Now, in this world of indexing spiders and other crawling bots, we expect a few clicks on any ad to be worthless because they aren’t being made by a person (good luck persuading a piece of software to ask their doctor about Humira). And it’s safe to say that this traffic is about 1% of traffic we end up paying for. But 80% is outrageous.

It would be easy to say that this is how Facebook is artificially inflating click numbers to charge you more (and if last month’s earnings report is any indicator, everyone in FB is aware of the value of charging clients money: Zuckerberg lost more than $420 million yesterday!), but there’s no real proof. It’s just as likely that bot-writers focus on their software on Facebook because that’s where people are. However, it’s not obvious what their motivation would be to fake-click on links.

As this story grows (and it will, as the “GM says FB ads aren’t effective” story is still fresh in our minds), Facebook will have it’s hands full managing the PR. They will need to prove 1) that it is not doing the fake-clicking and 2) that it is working towards eliminating the problem. Otherwise, all their hard work in building a targeting system we want to leverage will be almost worthless.

Provided it can fix both parts of the fake-click issue, Facebook will be well-positioned to become an effective pharma marketing partner. 

Yesterday, my boss’s boss’s boss (hi, @ormshr) asked me to talk more about this idea I have about how certain sites/tools/companies have DNA that they simply can’t escape.

For example, the DNA of IBM means that it will always embrace structure, hierarchy, and rules, no matter what the rest of the world does. It may have taught elephants to dance when it moved from PC powerhouse to enterprise services, but it did so through structure, hierarchy and rules.  When it finds a new challenge, it will fall back to that view of the world and itself to meet that challenge. That’s what  mean by corporate DNA.


Let’s start with the DNA of Microsoft. You know what I hate? Microsoft commercials. All of them. It doesn’t matter what marketing team they hire, they will always be bad. Why? Because all of Microsoft’s marketing is based on its DNA, that all of our problems can be solved with the rigorous application of office tasks. Currently, there are two commercials which show a family hanging around the house, creating powerpoint slides (and no, Microsoft Word, I refuse to capitalize “powerpoint,” no matter how angrily you add red squiggly underlines). Now, I have to assume this is some sort of alternate dimension, because I’ve never been in a house where creating a slide deck was considered something fun a family did. Nor have I ever heard of a family deciding to buy a dog because of persuasive powerpoint deck. In the Microsoft world, the only reason you have a computer at all is to write memos, work on spreadsheets and craft slideshows. The web? Angry Birds? Facebook? These are distractions to the true purpose of computing: get a promotion. And helping you get that promotion is the nature of Microsoft’s DNA.

No matter what product Microsoft puts out, it will be in service of the office task. Whatever fun veneer they apply to it (the only reason the Xbox succeeded is because it was treated as an almost separate company from the start), the root DNA is all about the “TPS Report” or “Billable Hours” or “Corporate Memorandum.” What do you mean they can’t come up with an iPod competitor?! I’m shocked!


The mirror image of that Microsoft is Apple, who’s entire DNA is about how much you want to get out of the office. Every product they release is designed to make you forget about the office, that you should pick up your tools and work in a park or coffee shop, that the end of the workday is almost here and you can go play. If you have to be at work, at least the tools are designed around the idea of exploration, curiosity and play. I mean, what percentage of Apple commercials involve people dancing?

Even tools used in a professional setting (like current Siri commercials) don’t seem like “work.” It seems like a friendly, fun process to figure out what your next meeting is about, or what that last text said. From the smiley-face Mac that shows up on boot, to the magic mouse that is really a big touchpad, everything Apple produces is imbued with that feeling of discovery.

The reverse example: What was Apple’s biggest corporate failure in the modern Steve Jobs era? The Xserve server. No one wants to “play” with servers; it just didn’t fit with the DNA.


Then there’s Google’s DNA. Google started as a search engine, and that’s significant. Google believes that there is no problem that can’t be solved or any situation that can’t be improved when you are given the right piece of information from the right place at the right time. It doesn’t matter if what you need is a photo or book, web page or blog post, it wants to give it to you. Remember that email you needed? Or that document? Or that calendar event? Or that song? Or that movie? Google wants nothing more than to be the obedient puppy butler that gleefully retrieves it for you and waits, tail wagging, for your next request.

Google+ is a great example of what happens when you try to break out of your DNA. Google doesn’t understand social, it understands finding and delivering useful information. Google could be good at retrieving something on some other social network, but building its own doesn’t make any sense. When it tries to be truly social, it’s like watching Shaq trying to be a jockey: its DNA keeps it from succeeding. (G+ should be seen as a way to collect, store and share all your personal online information, not at a place to display your “status”.)


And then there’s Facebook. As the youngest company on this list, its DNA might be the easiest to see. Facebook’s DNA is a 17-year-old punk-ass, snot-nosed kid who wants to find a lot of people it can call friends without ever having to be too close, who respond to their whining and rants with cheers for more. Facebook’s DNA is our collective Id, responding with dopamine bursts at our righteous indignation and joyful squeals. Facebook wants to be your social secretary and best friend gossip, not talk about logic or complex issues. It’s is pure lizard brain, connected to 800 million other lizard brains.

Is it surprising that the idea of a meme, while fairly old, didn’t really explode on the internet until Facebook made it easy to share these ideas with our friends? David at the Dentist ( and only 107 million views) and that surprised kitty ( and 60 million views) wouldn’t have existed if they didn’t cause some sort of protean emotional reaction in our reptile brain. And Facebook is the delivery mechanism.

Think about what additions and partnerships have succeeded on Facebook: Zynga games are all about distraction. Newsfeed tickles that “I need to know what’s going on RIGHT THIS SECOND” fear in the Id. And the Timeline is pure nostalgia trigger. Facebook will not be publishing a treatise on Plato or helping you navigate the complex waters of making important life decisions. There is no financial planning app in the works. Facebook’s communal Id is what makes Facebook so successful.

Even if you’ve heard the news from Facebook, you might not have seen the implications from a medical/pharma standpoint. Facebook announced a new tool called Facebook Timeline. Scrape away all the marketing copy and you get this: All that stuff you enter into Facebook (and Tumblr and Twitter and Foursquare and Flickr et al) aren’t just quips and stories and complaints and jokes and whatnot, they are the ephemeral data about your life.

If your doctor said, “I’d like you to keep track of how many cups of coffee you have, how well you sleep, when you go to the gym, and the like” you’d hear, “Do a bunch of tedious homework.” If your doctor said instead, “Hey, since you already track when you go to Starbucks and the gym on Foursquare, and complain about your lack of sleep on Facebook, can you keep doing that?” that sounds easy.

And now you can. Or rather, you already have.

Facebook, users already engage in countless acts of data entry, so it’s possible that the data [life-tracking pioneer] Felton will be visualizing will already be available. Automated data gathering through smart phones—especially location data—provides even more data to mine.
-Christopher Mims at MIT’s Technology Review

And that’s where things are about to get interesting. We’ve been sitting on the precipice of some seriously cool ideas and tools for collecting, measuring and analyzing data, but they’ve all suffered from one of two problems: Lack of broad support or lack of fun. Facebook solved both those problems.

99% of the people who are interested in, and who would benefit from, collecting and analyzing their own data are stymied by the idea that it’s a lot of work. At the end of the day, do you really want to rely on your memory? Or do you want to interrupt your life a dozen times a day and look like a dork doing it? Oh, you’re updating one of your social media services? You’re no less of a dork, but we all understand now.

And while Facebook is pitching Timeline as a way of easily keeping track of the birthday/breakup/roadtrip/concert parts of your life, people are already thinking about how to leverage all this info for medical and wellness tracking purposes.

Granted, this is Facebook we’re talking about. These are not people who have a stellar track record when it comes to privacy. Or trustworthiness. Or professionalism. And while the intent behind all this work is clearly to be able to market products and services to us in a way that may actually be something close to interesting and useful, the opportunity exists for the data to be used in more meaningful ways… assuming Facebook can be persuaded to open the door to others, something it doesn’t like to do.

So who’s going to be the first to build a Facebook App to start to collect and use people’s wellness data?

This post appeared as a guest-blog piece over at ePharmaSummitBlog. I’ll be there once a week and save a copy of the posts here.

So, if you’re paying attention, it looks like our friend Sermo is having a bad couple of weeks. Sermo is a “publisher” or purveyor of a web site, somewhat like Facebook, specifically designed around HCPs. The idea is that HCPs can get together, talk about what HCPs are interested in, maybe get a few marketing messages from people like me trying to make them more aware of some medication or treatment option, and generally do what people (maybe I should be more clear and say “adults” to keep Sermo from sounding like some sort of frathouse) on Facebook do.

I will say, in an effort to be upfront and open, that my company has done business with Sermo before, though I have not.

So things are going pretty well for Sermo. That is, until @TomRines at Sermo started a Twitter conversation (Medical Marcon has the whole conversation archived on their site, which you can read here) to kinda introduce themselves to people who hadn’t heard of them yet.

Perfect. Yeah. Well, one of the things Tom said Sermo did was to “listen to the physicians conversations to mine business and competitive intel” which started the first round panic. Twittering HCPs were surprised to discover that Sermo, a service they get for free, might actually be trying to get something out of the relationship.

In fact, a quick read of Sermo’s terms and conditions pretty much spells out that they are listening and going to turn the discussion into information about what HCPs are looking for, how they see a given product, attitudes and beliefs, etc.

I want to reserve judgement on the HCPs and how they could think that Sermo was providing this service for free, especially after they partnered up with Pfizer in 07.

But I also want to introduce everyone to a little company called Facebook, which looks like a fun way to keep in touch with friends and make new ones, but is really the best collector in personal information available today. How else are you going to have a significant number of people (700 million at current count, which is pretty freakin’ significant) tell you what they do, who they like, what they do with their free time, what school they went to, who their family is, what websites they like, what products they use on a regular basis, and really what they are thinking about right now. They collect so much information that there are numerous conspiracy theories that makes Facebook the greatest CIA intel collection operation ever.

Every time Facebook changes privacy settings or posts your information to a news feed without giving anyone a head’s up, or just does whatever Facebook feels like doing, everyone goes nuts for two days, groups form to protest the change and demand it be reversed and nothing happens. Well, that’s not true. One thing happens: Facebook keeps growing.

Oscar nominated movie that makes the CEO/Owner look like the devil? More people sign up. Data mining? More people sign up. Virtually impossible to delete personal data? More people sign up.

I mean, if you’ve ever used the Facebook Ads system, you see exactly how well Facebook knows it’s users. If I wanted to, I could place an ad that would only be seen by men ages 22-23, who live in Peoria, who are not in college, who like motor cycles and knitting, and don’t work for Walmart. No, really. 

This is the internet and the world. Yes, it’s weird putting more info out there, but when everyone does it, maybe we really do get better messaging. (I mean, I have zero interest in buying a hearing aid, so why should I see ads for them?)

What does it all mean? @pharma411 reports that Sermo numbers are up 200 in the last couple of days despite all the chatter.

Not surprising. People (and HCPs) want a place to congregate. It looks like Sermo is it for the time being.

Comments open. Twitter me @digital_pharma

Otherwise, have a great weekend!

This week has been crazy, so a link I wanted to post last week has been delayed until this week. 


Anyway, according to the Social Doctor, Doctor’s Facebook Profiles Now Rank At Top of Search Results. So you don’t have to click, it just says (in more professional language) that HCP profiles on places like their practice web sites and insurance provider finder sites aren’t getting much google-juice (shocked! Who doesn’t link to their insurance company? It’s hotter than Twitter!). But what does have a lot of google-juice is Facebook! Ergo, when you go looking for an HCP on the internet, you get Facebook first.

Add this to the fact that we know that 20% of people look up their HCP on line to see reviews, this means they are also seeing their Facebook pages.

Yes, we are entering the world where even your HCP is not private. I’ve always been used to thinking about my doctor as not really being a person, but as a big brain who lives at the hospital or clinic. I don’t want to think that they might have just had a fight with their spouse ten seconds before they walked into the exam room. Or that they might be a little tired or (gasp) hung over. I trust my health to them, so its easier to not think of them as imperfect people.

Of course, I know they are imperfect people, but HCPs like to put on the air of people who are… above it all. The white coat, the legion of nurses and assistants who do the supporting work so that the HCP can swoop in, look at a chart, ask two questions, prescribe something, tell me to lose some weight, and swoop out again.

You know, like Batman. Or something.

But Facebook (and Yelp and Google and and and) are changing that. What if before the doc comes in, I look at her Facebook page and see she’s friends with someone I know? Or that she forgot to hide her wall? Or her pics? Suddenly, no more Batman.

All the factors are pushing us all in the same direction: Docs can’t stay behind the curtain of authority any more than cops, teachers, bosses, celebrities or sports figures could. It’s not my fault, but there’s no denying that it is happening. 

You’ve heard the stories about HCPs who claim that diagnosises are copyright protected and that you can’t repeat them on Yelp, right?

These are two opposing forces (internet’s destruction of the wall between us and authority versus the desire of HCPs and others in a position of authority to demand specialness) that won’t just lay down. I wonder who blinks first?

Comments are open, or just @ Reply me in Twitter (@digital_pharma).

Everyone’s got their lab coats in a twist because Facebook has finally stopped flirting with the idea of enabling comments and likes for all Pages and just kisses it on the lips and asked for its hand in marriage.

See the scoop? Here’s ePharma Rx’s version.

So I, like so many others, took the tack that Facebook was flipping off pharma marketing and its marketing budgets in a “We don’t need you”/”Take my ball and go home” snit. I mean, Maybe it’s my bias that Facebook is the kid in high school who got picked on for years and suddenly has some power and wants to rub it in everyone’s faces (The Social Network was a great movie and deserved the Oscar). Maybe it’s the reckless way it treats anyone who isn’t Facebook (erosion of privacy for users, bait and switch use terms, privacy controls that don’t even make sense to them, the recent Google smear campaign, untested public News Feeds, etc, etc, etc), so I just assumed this move was a way to tick off someone it didn’t need to appease.

But I’m wrong. Pharma is (if you can believe it) an innocent bystander in a war between Facebook and the feds. In this case, the FDA. Facebook always acts as if anything we ask of it is a horrible burden and is the worst idea (remember when we tried to tell Detroit to make a hybrid a decade ago? Yeah, like that). Every move sounds like, “Facebook is a free service and if you don’t like it, go away, but by the way, all your friends are on it, so good luck living without us.”

The move to treat pharma like every industry is either ignorant of the fact that pharma lives in a regulated house (haha! Like Pharma hasn’t lobbied Facebook for years: no one’s ignorant here) or Facebook has decided to start jousting at a very big windmill: the fed.

Why bother? Who is the only group who can tell Facebook what to do? Not the courts, not public opinion, not the media, not users, not stock holders (hahaha! Goldman Sachs has only one thing to tell Facebook: Thank you!). The answer is the fed. The fed is the only group who have any chance of laying down some laws for Facebook, and clearly Facebook (the willful 16 year old that it is) doesn’t like it when someone else tells it what to do.

Let’s see how this plays out. I only wonder what other aspect of the fed Facebook will lob grenades at next…