Despite moves by pharmaceutical industry regulators both here and abroad to clarify rules around use of social media, pharma companies remain wary of delving into the social networking site to promote their brand/campaigns. This reticence will not be helped by the announcement today that Bayer UK have become the first pharma company to breach the UK ABPI Code of Practice for the Pharmaceutical Industry through their use of Twitter.
@BayerUKIreland have tweeted just 93 times since Jan 25th 2010, posting news bites and links to PR materials. In March the company posted the controversial tweet: “First & only melt-in-the-mouth erectile dysfunction treatment launched by Bayer today http://tinyurl.com/6hfxymf” and linked to a UK press release announcing the launch of a new formulation of their ED drug, Levitra. This wasn’t the first time the company posted product-specific comments. Last year they tweeted about a product launch saying: “Sativex® launched in UK for the treatment of spasticity due to Multiple Sclerosis.”
When questioned by inpharm.com in March, Bayer UK’s PR and Media Relations Manager, Andrea Postles said that “All news releases are ABPI Code-approved before they are issued. Social media users only see our tweets if they have already elected to be ‘followers’.” However this wasn’t the case as their Twitter account was open to the public and regardless of their 521 followers (at the time); their tweets were publicly displayed and indexed by search engines.
Following online debate one anonymous ‘reporter from a healthcare publication’ took a complaint to the PMCPA about the promotional activity. Following a panel review of the case, the PMCPA reported that although the Levitra tweet did not cite the product’s name it “referred to its qualities, indication and launch“. Furthermore they said: “The Sativex tweet mentioned the brand name, indication and launch”.
The PMCPA ruled that the tweets breached the Code of Practice stating that “each tweet was in fact a public announcement about the launch of a prescription only medicine which promoted that medicine to the public and would encourage members of the public to ask their health professionals to prescribe it”.
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We all know that social media can bring consumers and brands closer together. Brands no longer just shout messages at consumers through adverts but can actually talk with them – getting real time customer feedback, dealing with queries, building on offline promotions, rewarding loyal customers and building lasting relationships…all of which ultimately fuel sales.
According to recent research, “almost half of the Active Internet Universe has already joined a brand community” (Wave 2010 – annual social media tracker survey – Universal McCann).
So what can cause these newly forged online relationships to break down and have consumers saying “it’s not me, it’s you” and moving to “unsubscribe,” “unfan,” “unlike,” or “unfollow” a brand?
Email marketing service provider ExactTarget has released a report which looks at exactly that – the motivations and actions of US consumers as they terminate their relationships with brands through Email, Facebook, and Twitter.
This survey highlights that consumers don’t want the brand to be their friend. They want relevant and useful info, discounts and special offers, customer support, to find out about the company and it’s products and to connect to like-minded people. However it seems many brands are ‘coming on too strong’ with too many posts being the top reason for people giving the brand ‘the elbow’. Continue reading »
A new campaign by Pfizer, promoted by WHPR, is encouraging people to kick their smoking habit by getting advice from their doctor. The Quit with Help campaign will allow people who are interested in giving up smoking to chat online with a GP through private instant messaging on Quitwithhelp.ie.
The virtual doors of the Quit with Help surgery swing open at 12pm today and it will run all this week until Friday 12th November. GPs will be online ready to chat to you from 12.00-15.00 and 18.00-21.00 daily.
The pharmaceutical sector has been slow to embrace online media channels in promotional campaigns. A focus on traditional sales and marketing, stringent regulations and a fear of ”adverse event reporting” (i.e. a fear of people going on to your web page and saying they had an adverse reaction or a bad experience with a drug) are just a few of the reasons why pharma companies have shied away from digital strategies.
However according to a recent IMB report, 1 in 4 people turn to the internet as an information source on medicines…
- 56% research a particular health problem
- 33% search for information on types of medicines available for a particular condition
- 1 in 3 of those searching for medical info online are doing so to self-diagnose
- Internet influences the choice of treatment for almost half of those who use the web (49%)
So as the volume of people going online continues to rise and the body of evidence for integrating new media into campaigns grows, expect more innovative initiatives from the pharma sector in the coming months.
Two other healthcare campaigns from overseas that caught my eye recently include…
- Questival by Bayer Healthcare – a nice eye-catching site which uses the “latest augmented reality techniques to create an interactive festival style experience” and provide teenagers with information on haemophilia. Teenagers were given unique cards at haemophilia centres or downloaded them online. When these cards were held up to the computers webcam the site changes to reveal a ‘stormy landscape’. Site visitors can then blow into the computer’s microphone to clear the clouds to reveal a special code granting entry to the site.
- Genzyme Calcified Heart – This site is aimed at healthcare professionals who specialise in chronic kidney disease and aims to shock them into using a ‘calcium-free binder’ by showing them what a calcified heart looks like. Again this site leverages webcam technology and allows doctors to hold up a print out to the camera and then see a ‘door’ in their own chest open to reveal a beating heart which then highlights the dangers of calcium cardiac deposits. The campaign coincides with the launch of a new calcium-free binder from Genzyme.
I came across an interesting study over the weekend of the World’s “100 most valuable brands” which concluded that there was a clear and significant relationship between quality online consumer engagement and financial performance.
Wetpaint/Altimeter group looked at how well these brands were engaging with consumers using social media and “how that engagement correlates with their most important financial metrics: revenue and profit“.
They found that “socially engaged companies are in fact more financially successful“.
The report below provides brief case studies on four of the top brands – Starbucks, Toyota, SAP and Dell – looking at the strategies behind their success using social media. Interestingly Starbucks although a humongous global brand has a relatively small social media team of only six people, yet has one of the largest fan bases on Facebook and over quarter of a million Twitter followers.
What were the takeaway points for someone readying to implement a social media strategy for their business?
- Engagement via social media IS important — and we CAN quantify it.
- What’s in it for me? The report quantitatively demonstrates a statistically signiﬁcant correlation between social media engagement and the two most meaningful ﬁnancial performance metrics – revenue and proﬁt. Money talks, and it’s declaring that it pays to engage meaningfully in social media.
- Emphasize quality, not just quantity. Don’t just check the box; engage with your customer audience.
- To scale engagement, make social media part of everyone’s job. A few minutes each day spent by every employee adds up to a wealth of customer touch points.
- Doing it all may not be for you — but you must do something or risk falling far behind other brands, not only in your industry, but across your customers’ general online experience.
- Find your sweet spot. Engagement can’t be skin-deep, nor is it a campaign that can be turned on and off. If you are resource-constrained, it is better to be consistent and participate in fewer channels than to spread yourself too thin.
Just as advertising and corporate sponsorship keeps many print publications on our shelves, so too it keeps the wheels of the internet turning. More and more websites are integrating advertising platforms and negotiating sponsorship deals with big brands to ensure they’ve the cash to keep their online show on the road. However it’s often a fine line between making your website attractive to potential advertisers and maintaining the integrity of the site to ensure that you don’t alienate your website visitors.
One such website that has crossed that line is ScienceBlogs – one of the largest online communities dedicated to science.
This week ScienceBlogs got in to bed with PepsiCo, launching a PepsiCo ‘sponsored blog’ – Food Frontiers. However after just two days up and running, the blog was pulled. The result negative PR for PepsiCo and ScienceBlogs unleashing the wrath of their online community. So what was the problem? Continue reading »
Connect with me
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- Is the social media novelty wearing off?
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