Jan 17, 2011

What Pharma Can Learn About Social Media From Comcast

Frank Eliason became a social media cult hero in 2008 when he started using Twitter to respond to online complaints about Comcast’s customer service. Eliason moved on to Citibank this summer to help the bank with social media and customer service, but his legacy has been felt across several industries, for example:

  • ­ Major retailers use Twitter for promotion and customer service; think Best Buy’s Twelpforce who answer customer questions, offer product suggestions and field service complaints
  • The airlines, notorious for customer service issues, are all using Twitter to proactively communicate weather-related scheduling issues and respond to customer service complaints
  • Hospitals are using Twitter for community outreach— e.g., Methodist Hospital in Houston, TX was tweeting about flu season months in advance, and Innovis Health. in Fargo, ND used Twitter to communicate with staff, emergency personnel and the public during the 2009 flood crisis

What about Pharma?
Because of concerns about the potential for adverse event reporting, and other possible liabilities that can arise from communicating directly with patients, pharmaceutical companies have generally used Twitter at the corporate level, only to push news or for personnel recruitment. But what if pharma started using social media the way Comcast started using it—to counteract the negative? Monitoring the social media landscape can uncover a variety of misperceptions about therapy that can be corrected at the individual patient level.

For example, in April, Scanfeld D et al. published a study in the American Journal of Infection Control that examined Twitter status updates mentioning antibiotics. They reported:
“…mining the 52,153 status updates for terms likely to be correlated with misunderstanding or misuse and then reviewing them to confirm evidence of confusion or mishandling. The most popular word combination in this category was ‘flu 1 antibiotics,’ with 345 status updates including misinformation reaching a total of 172,571 followers.”

Misperceptions about colds and antibiotics reached over 385,000 followers.

A Foot in the Social Media Door
Clearly there are opportunities to monitor, uncover and correct misperceptions about diseases, therapies and brands through social media. These applications can be the first step toward a more robust patient-centric social media strategy.

Uncovering and correcting misperceptions and promoting proper medication use may be the keys to initiating a patient-centric social media strategy that can meet the requirements of internal medical, regulatory and legal reviews. And it begins with the simple premise that Frank Eliason started with at Comcast—monitoring the social media conversation and interjecting a simple, “I can help.”

Is it measurable?
That’s always my favorite question. You can certainly employ the standard metrics people use when talking about Twitter measurement, like followers, mentions, and influence, but how do these tie back to your objectives? Or more importantly, how do they translate to ROI?
Think about Eliason’s initiative at Comcast. How many hours of live customer phone rep time were saved through his Twitter campaign? How many hours of disgruntled customer on-hold time were avoided? What impact did Twitter have on customer retention? I don’t know if Comcast ever quantified these answers, but over the past 2+ years they’ve expanded their social media initiative to 10 full-time people.
When undertaking this type of initiative, you will probably have to create a rationale that addresses similar questions in order to quantify your social effort. Some of the things you might look to quantify are:

  • What are the costs of patients misusing your brand?
  • What are the costs of negative brand perceptions arising from misuse or misunderstanding?
  • What are the benefits of clarifying questions and correcting misperceptions about brand use?
  • How many patients or prospective patients can we gain or retain as a result of correcting misuse and misunderstanding?

Can this type of strategy be deployed within your organization? Are there other “outside-the-box” metrics you can think of to create a rationale?

By Chuck McLeester, Senior VP Planning, Metrics & Analytics

Jan 13, 2011

Creating A Killer Pharmaceutical Digital Campaign Begins With Strategy

I’ve talked a lot recently about new technologies and even shown some examples of what I think are solid implementations in the pharmaceutical marketing and healthcare spaces.

PharmaVoice January QR CodeQR (quick response) codes, for example, are gaining traction. Nonprofit organizations like the American Cancer Society and the Oral Cancer Foundation have effectively used QR codes to promote disease awareness, and now other healthcare marketers are beginning to take note. We are even using them as part of branded product programs designed to engage young mothers and provide them with educational content served right to the device they use most: their smartphone.

Now here’s the catch.

All of these successes began with a solid strategy, not with the technology. All too often marketers get caught up in the glitz and glam of the next hottest technology (or what they’ve heard from others) and then look for a product, brand or initiative in which to find it a home. This usually ends up with a campaign that’s a dud, get’s executive management upset, and usually reduces your budget the following year when you haven’t been able to deliver the goods in terms of ROI.

I recently received an email as part of a product campaign I subscribe to (which shall remain nameless to spare them the shame), with a QR code at the bottom as a call to action. When I snapped the code it did nothing more than take me to an existing page on the product website I could have gotten to by clicking a link in the email. Not only did it not provide me with any tangible value, it made me work harder to get to the same place I could have reached had I just clicked the link in my email.

Maybe if it delivered a coupon or rebate to my phone that I could redeem at a register when I went to the pharmacy I could somewhat rationalize the approach. But nothing more than a link to existing web content?  Are you kidding me?

January 2011 Issue of PharmaVOICEThat’s why we really need to get people thinking differently. And to that point, it was a main driver behind an initiative we’re launching with PharmaVOICE this month called “A Different Perspective.” In 2011, we’re on a mission to publish content each month designed to provide brand managers, pharma marketers, and agencies alike with viewpoints and guidance that help get the industry thinking differently.
In the January 2011 edition titled, “
TECHNOLOGY FAD OR RAD? I talk about the need for a solid digital strategy, citing data from Accenture and John Mack from Pharma Marketing News.

And, if you want more information that answers the question, you can access
my presentation from the ePatient Connections 2010 conference on YouTube.

Want to engage the people behind the blog to learn more about how to formulate a killer pharmaceutical digital strategy that gets results?
Email me and tell me more about your pain points.

Jan 7, 2011

FDA Delays Internet & Social Media Guidance, Don't Expect AE Reporting to be Addressed

DDMAC has delayed guidance until Q1 (or beyond) regarding new Internet and social media guidance. An excerpt from Eye on FDA, which first broke the story on December 21, 2010:  

The Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising, and Communications (DDMAC) has been researching draft guidance topics on the following issues related to Internet/social media promotion of FDA-regulated medical products:

  • Responding to unsolicited requests
  • Fulfilling regulatory requirements when using tools associated with space limitations
  • Fulfilling post-marketing submission requirements
  • On-line communications for which manufacturers, packers, or distributors are accountable
  • Use of links on the Internet
  • Correcting misinformation

Our goal is to issue one draft guidance that addresses at least one of these topics during the first quarter of 2011, but we cannot comment any further at this point as to exactly when any draft guidance will issue or any specific order in which the topics will be addressed. The public will be notified officially when any guidance is issued via Federal Register announcements.

Source: http://www.eyeonfda.com/eye_on_fda/2010/12/breaking-its-official-fda-delaying-social-media-guidance-until-at-least-q1-2011.html

Interested in a bit more detail, I decided to give DDMAC a call this week and had a good conversation with a contact there regarding the delay and draft guidance.  The information shared with me is that the goal is to get a guidance document out in Q1 2011 (but as we can see from the present delay this is a goal, not a commitment).

Most interestingly, the contact fielding my call communicated that their intent was to provide guidance that answered some of the questions posed as part of the public record (5 total) during the public hearings of last year (you can access the 5 questions here). I asked the simple question, “Which of the 5 would be addressed? Or, would all 5 be addressed?”  The interesting response was that they are seeking to address the first 4 and will not be addressing the issue of adverse event reporting (question 5).

This is very interesting as adverse event reporting is one of the largest challenges faced by the industry (that and off-label promotion/unbalanced promotion).

What do you think about FDA’s decision not to address AE reporting? Share your opinion in the comments.

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