Healthcare & Pharma: 10 Years of Google Gone By

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I like to critique Healthcare & Pharma but I do so because I think they’re one of the most important industries in the world, not just to be controversial. I think these two separate but inter-related industries have some of the brightest people working in them. If anyone should be able to figure out technologies and how to employ them, these two are the ones. So, I’ve been puzzled for over a decade over the industries’ apparent AWOL on the Web. Why so late to the party?

FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS BOARDROOM

Hindsight is 20/20, of course. It’s clear today that the Web isn’t going away and that more and more patients are searching and connecting with others online for their healthcare needs and desires. Doctors and nurses and other healthcare professionals are turning to the web too. It’s in the interest of both Healthcare and Pharma to have the kind of solid presences on the web which deliver priceless value to their stakeholders. So what’s been the delay? Why the well-constructed but fear-laden arguments about learning to live in the Socially Hyper-linked Economy?

I think there are many answers to that question. I won’t go into them here: if you work in the industry, please – by all means – publish your hypotheses in the comments below.

But here’s something to think about. It’s been about ten years since Google’s been around – and in the last few years it’s become the primary gateway for finding content online, even with the evolution of social technologies. Are the right kinds of healthcare and Pharma companies turning up in relevant searches? Google will be happy to give you the answer.

Imagine if you started blogging ten years ago about your healthcare organization? Imagine if more Pharma companies started blogging and posting and sharing their ideas about the future of their services – not to please brand managers and push product – just simply to establish authoritative presences online. Think of the compound interest on that Google juice! All gone.

Not to mention, the industries by now would have groomed a generation of bloggers and social media agents who would have learned from their mistakes and be able to lead the industry forward with online presences and communities. Now, it’s catch-up time. Now, all the companies who finally understand the need to be online and to be socially remarkable have to muster through huge, steep ramps. Bonus: they now will be competing with each other, so Google Juice will be harder to grab off the table. And as “easy” as it is to sign up for Twitter and Facebook, the noise you have to compete with gets louder everyday. The cost of attention grows exponentially these days.

Well, that’s all behind us now. A lesson learned I hope.

LOOK FORWARD, ANGEL

Looking forward: if you’re running one of these industries, learn your lesson, reflect on the psychology that held you back from the powers of the web and think seriously about your overall business strategy (not just online) and where you need to go next. Do you understand how the Web may be affecting your business’s ecosystem?

I think for years we have been entering a period of Web Illiteracy – not among the poverty class, but among Corporate Cultures. This is a problem that may be costing our economy billions of dollars: it’s up to you to overcome it.

Here’s my tip to you (I’m including C-suite here): spend an hour a day learning something about the web – no matter how busy your day is. If you’re “old-fashioned”, buy some books about the web (Amazon is generous in this regard – and if you want suggestions or if you want a personal touch, call me 484-362-0451 – I’ll be happy to converse). Here are some offerings for you (they’re just pointers):

  • Learn a tiny amount of HTML (you don’t need to be an expert, but it enhances your understanding of what’s under the hood)
  • Build a simple web page (again, you can skip this, but it helps to know a little something about how a web page works – it’s the practice that may give you an important insight)
  • Learn a bit about SEO (yes, this is still important) – [UPDATE: Social SEO)
  • Ditch Internet Explorer 6.0 – On Windows use Google Chrome or FireFox (to learn the value of extensions). Better yet: invest in a Mac.
  • Learn what blogging really is (it’s not just posting content on a web page) – even if a few people read your blog
  • Learn some things about  Analytics
  • Find out why  RSS is still an important tool (you see those objects on the side of this site – do you know what they mean?)
  • Sign up for Google Reader – it’s been getting social lately
  • Get a Twitter account and play around with it (Copy and paste this into your first tweet: “@PhilBaumann I just signed up for Twitter. What the heck do I do now?“)
  • Tinker with Facebook – poke around all the crazy settings and find out if you can make sense of it yourself
  • These are just tools and tidbits, but they’ll help introduce you to the way things are on the web

Bonus:

  • Question everything you learned during the course of your career and see if any of it means anything anymore. Do you know  what’s changing?
  • Get everyone’s attention in your organization and ask them who knows how to blog or otherwise use social media. Take them out to lunch, listen and learn.

There are other ways to get up to speed on the web. I’m offering the above because they’re rudimentary – they’re the building blocks of the Expanding Web.

THE WEB WILL NOT BE OUTSOURCED

You see, the lesson of the web is this: once the costs of publishing messages reaches zero, the models developed when the costs were in the $Millions cease to hold their relevance.

It’s not enough to outsource your social media practices – I’m not referring only to outside agencies but also to your direct reports. None of us know everything about the web. Since it’s human nature for careerists not to admit to their bosses that they “don’t know”, you can’t rely completely on others to develop your strategy. [Sidenote: in my days as an accountant and analyst in Enterprise, I irritated my executive leadership with “I don’t know”; you know what?: I was promoted like a golden boy. You can’t learn if you’re not curious. Just something for you to think about during your human resources choices.]

You’ve invested decades in climbing to the top. What will be your legacy? Will you discover after all that hard work that you gambled on a dying world?

If you’re an executive of any kind, you need to understand the problems which the web pose – and you can only do that by sitting down, getting online and learning this crazy stuff on your own; and by connecting with the multitude of helpful smart people you can discover via social media. The web is now becoming a brain-to-brain network. Take advantage of that.

Ten years of Google indexing has gone by you. Are you going to let another ten years go to waste?

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