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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1001 Remarkable Pharma People to Follow on Twitter

Twitter Bird
Image by Paul Snelling via Flickr

Online, everybody loves lists. A number like 1001 is impressive. But would it be useful? I’ve compiled an extensive, curated list of people (and feeds) focused on Pharma and Life Science. The list continues to grow as more people hop on the Twitter hype-train.

I was going to publish the list a while ago, but then it occurred to me that a Twitter directory is in effect a mechanical tool that – while practical and useful – could actually discount the most important value which Twitter offers: the re-humanization of traditional communications. That’s not something you can achieve by pushing 1001 follow buttons in one afternoon. Twitter is discovery.

FELLOWSHIP AND PHARMA

So what if you follow 1001 people on Twitter who specialize in Pharma (or any other industry for that matter)? What matter most are the purposes, meaningful conversations and valuable links to interesting and relevant content which Twitter can enable. Taking a mechanical and technology-focused approach to Twitter deprives you of the core experience – the one that will ultimately help you to accumulate social capital.

Also, it’s my opinion that the Pharmaceutical industry’s traditional marketing philosophy and approach won’t square with the realities and opportunities presented by the Web and the communities which it has the power to engender.

I’d rather Pharma marketers and doctors and nursers and researchers take advantage of Twitter’s ability to connect people in meaningful and productive ways. And that can only be accomplished by starting out Twitter small, following the exchanges and links of who you follow, participate in conversations and following whomever you find interesting. Social relations involve time not numbers.

1001 REMARKABLE PHARMA PEOPLE TO FOLLOW ON TWITTER

You can follow thousands or millions of people on twitter. But if you followed 1001 of the “right” people on Twitter all at once, you’d lose any sense of meaning and orientation. If, however, you follow and engage a few people at a time, you will slowly but surely develop a strong fellowship – you’ll be following 1001 or more before you know it if you’re sufficiently active.

Rather than following some arbitrary number at once, here’s who I recommend you focus your following on:

  1. @BoehringerBoehringer Ingelheim’s Twitter account. Perhaps the first Pharma tweeter to “get it”. Providing pertinent and interesting content, the interaction with the community is outstanding and probably sets a standard for how Pharma can use Twitter to provide value to its communities. You could just follow this one stream and find just about anybody who’s tweeting about Pharma and related fields.
  2. @WhyDotPharma – Silja Chouquet blogs over at WhyDotPharma with a focus on patient-focused social communities. She’s obviously sincere about leading the use of social media for Pharma, interacts heavily with the Pharma Twitterverse and provides links to intelligent content.
  3. @Arthur_Alston – Arthur tweets from Down Under and is an oncology marketer and project manager for Big Pharma. In addition to tweeting about Pharma, he understands social technologies and for that alone he’s worth the follow for anyone interested in exploring where social media is heading.
  4. @WendyBlackburn – Wendy blogs at EyeForPharma and has an active presence on Twitter. Always engaging, and scouring the web for high quality content she brings an intelligence to Pharma’s social media needs that is hard to find. Follow her. Period.
  5. @Shwen – Shwen Gwee founded Social Pharma, blogs at  Med 2.0 and is currently Lead, New Media Communications at Vertex. Shwen is the arrow head for the industry’s trek into emerging technology and new media trends in science and medicine. In addition to tweeting most of his day ;) he promotes some of the best material and people related to life sciences. View his presentation Twitter Power Tools for Health Activists.
  6. Bonus:  @swoodruff – Steve Woodruff is Pharma consultant who brings in a marketing perspective important to online presences.

I selected the above six because I’m certain you could connect to the right people in your own way just by following them. I have literally thousands of remarkable people I could recommend for life science tweeting. Any of those deserve to be mentioned. Twitter’s like a universe of connect-the-dots: Twitter reduces the degrees of separation between us.

SOME CHEATING TIPS FOR TWITTER FOLLOWS

Feel like cheating?  #FollowPharma is a hashtag that helps to collect Pharma tweeters. Feel free dump yourself into that stream and learn to swim. In addition to following the above, it’s a way to follow Pharma activity and introduce yourself to the community.

Also  @jonmrich has a Pharma social media wiki from which you can find talent.

PARTING THOUGHTS ON TWITTER, PHARMA & MARKETING

Everything is marketing: 21st Century marketers need to understand that (there are lessons in this post’s title). The old model of massive unilateral communications is being inverted by real-time conversations. Hopefully, I have pointed you in the right direction to exploring just what that means.

You can follow me, but less than 10% of my tweets are Pharma-related. My interests in Pharma & Healthcare social media marketing lie in creating living spaces for remarkability in how we come together, share experiences and increase social capital in health care for the next generation. I’m just an idea man. You need focused executioners, like the people above.

For me, Twitter is useful chaos. As for yourself, perhaps that’s just what you’ll see it as too.

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Pharma Presentation on the Real-Time Consumer at CBI

I’m speaking today at CBI’s 2nd Annual Conference on emerging media for Pharmaceutical and Biomedical industries. You can follow the Twitter stream using #Pharma as the tag. Here’s the presentation. A compendium with more detailed notes will be published later.

You can also link directly to The Real-time Consumer (RTC): Twitter Primer for Pharma if the embed isn’t viewable.

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Rethinking Time in the Real-Time Web

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This post is a bit of an experiment in what could be called expansive blogging. I’ve been thinking about the so-called Real Time Web: what it is, what it means and how it will impact the way we do business, collaborate and lead our daily lives. In a couple of weeks, I will be talking about how the Pharmaceutical and Biomedical industries can leverage real-time communities. What I’ve been thinking about lately is the time component of the Real Time Web. Time is something we take for granted: but there’s more to its history than we realize. Time for re-think.

Rather than devote a complete traditional post on the matter, I’ve decided to embed a  FriendFeed riff that I started earlier. Feel free to join (the link is here if the embed isn’t viewable):

As I mentioned earlier on this blog, I’ve been investing a little more time with FriendFeed because I think it offers a great community-enhancement to the kinds of activity that take place on Twitter. I will write more about what I’m up to soon.

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Pharma, Presence-Marketing And You

You have a medical condition. RemarkaPharma, Inc. has a tiny blue pill for it. You’re in one place. The blue orb is in another.

You each share a common problem. It is called presence.

If you’re nowhere near the pill, you’re farther away from a place called health.

Many important things must go into the pill for it to work: science, effort, hope, money, labor, research, care, vigilance. Integrity.

Since the truth is integrity and health is wholeness, your life depends on the honesty of others.

You need a link, a thread of hope, a life-line to a place you have a right to be and that blue pill is a part of the rescue effort. RemarkaPharma needs to be present for you if what they have is to do any good.

You can’t afford for RemarkaPharma to waste resources or to squander the important things that go into that little pill. In an age of  mass-connection and  real-time surveillance, neither can RemarkaPharma.

What both of you need is a meeting place. It is called a market. The happenings and efforts to get you and RemarkaPharma to the market are called marketing. Nothing in marketing can happen without presence – hopeful, truthful and meaningful presence.

You need the sort of marketing that converges the important things, like integrity and innovation and hope, onto a healing place.

Welcome to presence-marketing. It’s not something that has been done well in recent years. You, me and RemarkaPharma will need to change that. The paradigm to which traditional marketers have adapted last century will need to be inverted and the force of resistance will take cleaver undermining. Only the creative will survive the revolution.

Pay attention carefully to this revolution: some of us care with passion about your health and for the re-markable presence it requires.

Whether you know it or not, your health depends upon presence-marketing. RemarkaPharma owes you its presence because if it’s not present for you then we all lose.

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