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.
Today in MarketingProfs, an article about how the “human voice” in social media builds customer relationships.
I’ll just file that under “DUH” again (this folder is getting kinda full).
The reason social media works is that it’s powered by people. That chatbot you have to talk to when you want to “chat” with your cable company? No fun. Chatting with a person at Zappos? More fun. The web is people-powered. Every good web site you’ve ever read, every game you play, every flame war that made you giggle: People powered (Note to self: re-write The Police’s Every Breath You Take for the internet).
Here’s the problem, though. All those pages you ready that suck? A person wrote them, but while they were trying very hard not to sound like a person.
Example? Here’s something I found in five seconds on IBM’s website:
Implementing a cloud computing model means encouraging innovation by simplifying and standardizing underlying infrastructure. It entails the creation of efficient yet flexible IT foundations that can support the development of new services and the consistent delivery of quality user experiences. And it demands a focus on ensuring interoperability, resiliency and security in an integrated fashion.
Um… I’m a geek and I can kinda parse that stuff, but what I really take away from it? “This is a bunch of text that sounds impressive and says nothing you can hold us to later because the lawyers have taken my grandma hostage and won’t let her go until I remove any trace of humanness from this article.”
We. Hate. Reading. This. Stuff.
Insurance Explanation of Benefits? Hate. Contracts?. Hate. Terms and Conditions? Hate. Most business writing? Hate.
Bring me the people! Oh, it’s the internet and the people are someplace else… okay, bring me the human voice.
This is why you spend time on Facebook and Twitter: Real people’s voices! This is why the sales writing at a woot.com is so good.
But pharma is in trouble because pharma is terrified of the human voice because it terrifies the lawyers which are terrified of the regulatory agencies who are terrified of the people they are supposed to protect.
So the question isn’t “What will the fed let us do on social media” because even if the fed let us do anything and everything, if it’s not built in the human voice, it’s all worthless. It’s all so much Explanation of Benefits in social media form (eww). The question is “How do we find a more human voice with which to talk to our customers?
Funny thing is: there’s already an answer. But the answer is as complicated as the question. The answer? Get HCPs online and in social media!
[Sorry, I didn’t realize this would be such a long post when I started it.]
Yes, we need to get HCPs active on Facebook and Twitter. But they, like the rest of us, as terrified of the lawyers and getting sued, so they stay away in droves. They even try and force a copyright violation on people who complain about them online.
Suggestion: We need a federally mandated “Good Samaritan Law” for HCPs online. And HCP is allowed, encouraged and expected to answer questions online, knowing full well that if they are acting in the best interests of the “patient” and with the best possible knowledge they have, they are protected from lawsuits. They can answer any health care question (with links to their info, so I don’t accidentally ignore an oncologist in favor of an answer by a podiatrist when asking a question about cancer) using their full name and licence, based on whatever information is presented to them, based on the best knowledge they have at the time and you can’t touch them because they are acting on good faith. The patient accepts responsibility for asking a good question, getting follow-up when something is misunderstood, and have the good sense to stop lurking online when clearly the right answer is to see a doctor.
How does this help pharma? Now HCPs can talk openly about medicines, what they like and don’t like about them, recommend (gasp) off-label uses that might be beneficial, and can talk openly about what they’ve seen.
This means that pharma can focus on the one thing they’re supposed to do: make good drugs.
It’s a long weekend coming up, but you can still disagree with me at @digital_pharma or in the comments.