Instant Is Not Real-time

Facebook, Inc.
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Should Enterprise software be like Facebook? That’s a question Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff recently raised. While reading Dennis Howlett’s analysis, Dennis makes a very simple but easy-to-overlook point about the difference between instant media and real-time media. It’s an important point, one I believe gets lost in the noise and hype about social media.

INSTANT CONFUSION

One of my main focuses is health care adoption and employment of software for improving collaboration and communication among patients and doctors and nurses. It’s important, therefore, to understand the property differences between media and the different contexts, conditions and processes needed for successful deployment. What works for consumers (Facebook) doesn’t necessarily work for business.

One of the properties of media like Twitter and Facebook has to do with time. Twitter and Facebook statuses are instant (at least when there are not server errors). Instant is exactly that: immediate, without regard to relevance. Real-time, however, has to do with relevance. In an enterprise, what matters are information flows – and without context and relevance, information is just data.

Real-time is more than just anytime (which is what instant is) – I need the right information delivered at the right time within the right context throughout the right process.

This distinction between instant and real-time is critical because any software developed must take into account the purposes and needs and contexts in order to ensure proper user experience and appropriate results.

So no: I don’t believe Enterprise software should be designed like Facebook. It follows then, that any software designed for patients and hospitals and doctors and nurses must not confuse themselves with consumer applications.

BUILD IT RIGHT AND SPEAK CLEARLY

Therefore, any healthcare enterprise analogues of media like Twitter, must take into account the difference between instant and real-time. The applications must take into account the sociological and informational needs of clinical processes. Otherwise, disaster is certainly built-in.

Software lock-in is a huge problem in technology. I fear that philosophical lock-in of social media philosophy may be one our time’s greatest threats. (As an illustration of what I mean, the Privacy Is Dead mantra is, I fear, just one self-fulfilling instance of social media fallacy – it’s one of the most dangerous myths propounded and accepted by superficial thinking these days – it’s a dangerous mind-virus.)

We need a clear language when discussing technology – especially media technologies. Confusing instant with real-time is sloppy thinking. In a health care context, it’s downright dangerous.

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The Winkler Nurses Case on #RNchat

When I started #RNchat last year (@RNchat on Twitter), my hope was to assemble a simple and supple forum for nurses and the public to discuss important issues from the perspective of a diverse group of people.

Here’s a re-post of the transcript for Friday, February 12, 2010’s RNchat, with my commentary on the Winkler County, Texas Nurses case:

Below is a SlideShare of #RNchat for Friday February 12, 2010, organized in chronological order (from beginning of chat to sometime just after). The chat was moderated by Ellen Richter (@EllenRichter on Twitter).

The #WinklerRNs case was the topic of conversation. In Winkler County, Texas, nurses who went through the torment of being charged for leaking private medical information. One of the nurses went to trial and was acquitted within one hour. Now the nurses are responding

This is an important case, one which – among many other things – highlights the need for swift and bold and sturdy nursing organizations. This case isn’t just about defending nurses: it’s ultimately about the safety of patients, the ethical fiber of nurses and doctors and administrators and government officials. Had Anne Mitchel been found guilty, the ramifications could well have been ominous for the integrity of our entire health care landscape.

Friday’s RNchat, discussed topical features of this case: the best practices for whistle-blowing and how to get more organizations behind nurses and the public. Feel free to share the presentation below.

Let’s hope that nurses don’t become scapegoated victims. Do nurses make technical mistakes? Sure they do – we all do. But it’s critical that nurses never feel afraid of expressing their sincere perceptions, their intuition nor their ethical belief system. People can die under those circumstances.

Nurses are the last Jedi Nights of our faltering Republic. A cheesy metaphor? Yes. But it’s true. Anne Mitchell and the other nurses involved in this case are Jedi Knights who fought through a derangement of how ethics and law and responsibility should work.

Anne Mitchell has gone through a Kafka-like hell. Let’s hope she receives comfort and equity and sanity.

NOTE: We also are preparing for a special even in conjunction with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Details upcoming soon!

As always, thank you to those who joined today. If youโ€™re new to #RNchat, just follow @RNchat on Twitter and weโ€™ll provide updates and links on how to make the best use of this nursing chat. You can also send inquires to info [at] RNchat [dot] org.

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What Pharma Advertising Should Be Made Out Of

The Pharmaceutical industry has effectively made a mockery of itself with television advertising (harsh assessment, I know, but bear with me). In the late 1980s – 30 years after television advertising was figured out – Pharma finally jumped into the game after regulatory constraints were lifted. Some of it worked – but mostly, the efforts just amplified the industry’s public relations comorbidities.

I actually believe that the industry could learn a few things in this video I came across. It’s a road safety advertisement and it brilliantly weaves together a simple idea with visual and emotional vigor.

See? It’s very hard to hold attention anymore. You have to know some things about the human brain.

It can be said that we have three brain segments: reptilian, mammalian, neocortical. Sex sells – that’s the reptilian brain. Love sells – that’s the mammalian brain. Ideas sell – that’s the neocortex. The video here: do you see what it’s doing? It’s making a stunning appeal to all three brains. Fear of dying; love of family; the reason of a seat belt.

It’s not easy to achieve this kind of remarkability. I think the Pharmaceutical industry could learn a lot from this video. So could the Healthcare industry. Why? Because when it comes to our health, we need all three brains activated in brilliant and loving ways. Doing this is very hard – and it has to be selfless, ethical and useful.

This is the sweet spot. Very few advertisers and marketers will hit it. Which means, it’s wide open for someone to take a shot.

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The Vaporization of Marketing

Nuclear weapon test Romeo (yield 11 Mt) on Bik...
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Was your company blogging ten years ago? If not then why? Google made it easy for you and now you’ve lost ten years of priceless link juice. Given the fragmentation of media in the last ten years, it’s clear now just how relatively little work you actually had to do back then. But that’s in the past. Still, I have bad news for you: what you have to do now is far harder than it was ten years ago. Let me explain.

CONTENT FRAGMENTATION AND SOCIAL DISTORTION

As the Web expands and proliferates novel media, messaging becomes increasingly diffuse and fragmented. The Web creates new opportunities and destroys old standards. It disrupts communication patterns, rattles social structures and ruptures attention spans. Ten years ago, you could leverage your audience-building skills for acquiring and retaining customers. You could even have learned and mastered a skill which traditional marketing didn’t really demand: conversational aptitude.

But now the honor of your presence demands you to be at many different places at once. You not only need to know how to create captivating content but you also need to know how to converse and lead with such conviction and remarkability that it could almost require you to be loved.

The choices open to you grow. Where to begin? Where to be? Twitter? Facebook? Blogs? Youtube? Foursquare? Gowalla? Flickr? The dozens of other places yet to come along? And if you show up and listen and play, will you be good at it? If you’re not good at it, you’re not going to achieve anything.

Here’s the biggest challenge for companies struggling to “figure out” social media: the convergence of Strategy and Practice becomes increasingly elusive as the Web mercilessly evolves.

What do I mean? Strategy and vision are essential parts of ultimately getting business done. But strategy without planning and mechanics and process worked out, nothing gets done: the going concern becomes aimless and bankrupt. Much of the daily work that has to be accomplished online has to be done manually and personally. Furthermore, the work has to stand out so it can be kindly remarked from one person to another.

Much of this work may not fit into any strategic category; as a consequence, the strategic directives can easily diffuse and lose their trajectories. Once that happens, it’s easy to lose balance and focus and clarity.

THE VANISHING POINT. BTW, JUST WHAT IS THE POINT?

The one question every executive asks every time a marketing or PR agency or internal manager tries to push social media is this: What on earth is the point?

Many of us who live in the echo chamber have answers. Or statements we think are answers. The truth is, however, that this is a vital question. The whole enterprise depends on it.

There’s no doubt: the Web is the place to be; and companies need the skills and confidence to incorporate all media into their day-to-day routine. But the vaporization of the Web creates a situation where:

  • so many choices have to be made;
  • conversations need to be quality and sincere;
  • attention spans are short;
  • messages are now real-time;
  • traditional Search is being disrupted;
  • new technologies are emerging which don’t necessarily communicate well with other
  • the prospect of walled gardens is rearing its head

Contrary to Social Media evangelist claims, the Web is becoming a mess. Messaging is being liquified, subject to evaporation – and worse: your message can be easily replaced with someone else’s within seconds.

Marketers used to have a landscape they could map out. They could harvest farms of attention. They could plant their feet on the ground and develop real estate which they could mostly control.

But the new landscape isn’t on land. It’s vaporizing. The vaporization of marketing will get worse. Not every business will figure out the point of being online, let alone be able to cultivate a captivated audience and converse real-time. Most will just be talking to themselves and an imaginary audience.

That’s what happened to Pharma giant GSK because they had too many meetings and consults and fears on how to do something as simple as running a blog. Mind you: this is a company with over $40 Billion in assets and which employs some of the smartest people in the world. From an investor’s perspective that’s managerial irresponsibility, indicative of severe creative anemia.

What’s the point? isn’t something you ask and answer once and then move on. No: it’s a daily question. It’s no different than asking What’s the point of our business?

The problem is this: there isn’t a point. Or one single point I should say. There are many points. All kinds of purposes and opportunities and needs. A thousand points of light flashing and fading and distracting.

This is only good news for marketers who have creativity, muscle, chutzpah, intelligence, pliancy and permission. For the rest, it’s a disaster waiting to happen – no matter if you play or not. The Vaporizing Web is Scylla and Charybdis for businesses.

HOW TO HANDLE THE VAPORIZATION OF MARKETING

What to do? You can read a million how-to posts, hire big agencies who know how to price and bill, attend overpriced conferences or have tons of meetings littered with streams of buzzword-stuffed PowerPoint presentations. But I’ll give you one simple answer:

Don’t take it so seriously! If you do, you’ll vanish into a mushroom cloud. ๐Ÿ™‚

A sense of humor and a style of lightness are enduring qualities of successful long-run presence, especially online. Once operations become chores and jobs they cease to be useful. The Web is the end of the assembly-line.

If your business doesn’t know how to have fun and to be spontaneous and swift, it probably won’t survive this century. Capitalism is destructively creative. It’s also creatively destructive. The Age of the Farmer is coming to its close. It’s Hunting time now. Prepare yourself for war.

You’ve been warned and advised. Questions? Call me: 484-372-0451 or Skype: Phil.J.Baumann or Twitter: @PhilBaumann.

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The ROI of the Tweet

Money
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Is Twitter a sales tool? Can it “drive” sales? If so, what’s the return on investment of a tweet? Most executive teams today still view the world through the lens of the assembly-line. They like metrics and clearly defined goals and well-thought decision trees. They prefer straight lines over curves with cloudy distances. They are largely justified in their lines of reasoning.

But the Web has opened up a decidedly non-linear fabric of novel media. Consequently, many organizations have been slow to adopt emerging media and technologies because they simply don’t see the return on investment. Often, they’re not even sure what the investment is. Or what the return might be. Or what the goals or purposes or opportunities of subsuming the Web into their going concerns could be for them.

So this post aims to provide a clearer, if alternate, view of what’s at stake. We’ll look at metrics. We’ll also examine how organizations can better understand the nature and essences of media – all media, old and new and media not even around yet.

If you work in an organization which has been struggling with keeping up-to-date, I offer this to you so you can go into C-Suite and answer the tough questions without looking like an unprepared stooge. You owe it to yourself to understand the media you sell to your executive team – and you owe it to yourself to ensure they understand how to properly enframe media in the 21st Century.

NOTE: This is a long post. My aim here is not to prove that Twitter is not valuable to business. Quite the contrary: I don’t believe enframing Twitter as a generator of financial ROI is the proper way to view the service. But I do believe that evangelists must be able to say to executive management something like this: We have crunched pro forma numbers and in our opinion Twitter is not really a direct (or even indirect) driver of ROI; we do believe, however, that Twitter can be a linchpin within a web of comprehensive web strategies. You can get this post as a document here.

BRUTE FORCE APPROACH TO TWITTER

In order to provide some insight into the difference between Twitter-as-sales-tool and Twitter-as-public-utility, I believe pro forma metrics may help to reveal some important properties of a medium like Twitter. Too often claims are made about Twitter’s business values – and usually the issue of metrics is explained away with vague optimism.

But why not take a crack at metrics, if only to reveal a basic truth of Twitter? After all, Twitter’s simplicity makes it a utility with varied uses. By seeing that Twitter’s effectiveness in driving revenues (even indirectly), allows conversations to focus on a more robust enframming of the service.

I’ll call the strict Financial ROI enframing of Twitter the brute force method. The brute force method makes several assumptions and follows an algorithmic, assembly-line logic. So here are the assumptions:

  • Number of followers are true fans – not just the count of followers according to Twitter – not bots,ย  or miscellaneous people who aren’t invested in a brand.
  • Followers are people who are likely to buy a product and who are actively paying attention to the Twitter stream of the business/product account.
  • The tweets include links to actionable web real-estate where conversion is possible.
  • Customers make at most one purchase per month.
  • Clickthrough and conversion rates are comparable with traditional web metrics.
  • The effect of retweets is actually minimal on tweets about products (at least in this case) and has been left out of the model.

So let’s look at a hypothetical. Let’s tackle a difficult industry: Pharmaceuticals. For this example, we will leave FDA regulations and other constraints on the industry out of the equation. We’ll say that the company runs a Twitter account for a particular drug and tweets links about an OTC medication (again, we’re assuming these are “FDA-compliant” tweets – yes: laugh – conversations around Twitter can be that ridiculous).

We’re going to assume that the labor time for running the Twitter account is based on $50 per hour. Furthermore, we’ll assume that only one hour a day of labor time is needed (for Twitter accounts with a very high volume of tweets, management will probably need many more hours of labor time in practice). But we’ll be conservative.

Here are a few scenarios (pulled the pro forma spreadsheet which you can view here):

1,000 Followers x 5% Clickthrough x 5% Conversion x $5 Margin x 12 Months – $12,500 Labor = ($12,350)

128,000 Followers x 5% x 5% x $5 Margin x 12 Months – $12,500 Labor = $6,700

1,024,000 Followers x 5% x5 % x $5 Margin x 12 Months – $12,500 Labor = $141,100

8,192,000 Followers X 5% x 5% x $5 Margin x 12 Months – $12,500 Labor = $1,216,300

In order to achieve over a million dollars in revenues, tweets would need to yield a ROI of 9,630%! Use your common sense: it’s utterly delusional to think that ten tweets per day over a year would provide that kind of return. Even to achieve over $1 Million, this pharmaceutical company would have to have over 8 Million followers! And each of those followers would have to be devoted true fans. Think of the investment required to generate a tribe of 8 Million followers – the time, the electrifying tweeting style, the power to be loved.

You can tweak any of the variables and crunch new figures. You can input a higher margin, for instance – but you may need to re-think clickthrough and conversion rates and follower counts. Go work up a brute force model for you business or client and see what you get. Just be realistic and understand the properties of Twitter (or whatever other medium you’re working with). That’s one of the problems I think (some) marketers have: they don’t really understand the media out of which they’re seeking to extract value.

I won’t say that you can’t generate these kinds of numbers – but there are weaknesses and paradoxes in this approach which I’ll reveal in a moment. And yes, I’m fully aware of the general effect of positive WOM but that’s not the point of this story. I’ll touch on brand awareness in a bit – wait for it. ๐Ÿ™‚

As you can see, given these assumptions, this brute-force approach to Twitter doesn’t release a lot of financial return (not for larger enterprises with capitalizations greater than $1 Billion). Sure if you run a relatively small enterprise and can cultivate a massive and committed fan-base in the long-run, there’s a chance Twitter may provide substantial gains in line with your revenue stream. Of course, your margins may be larger (but as margins grow, you may encounter diminishing actual conversions). Most importantly: building a tribe of true fans is hard work – very very hard work.

Yes, Dell has claimed it earned $3 Million from Twitter, but Twitter was simply an ancillary service to their wider web presence – and Dell indeed has over a million followers (and a larger margin than in my pro forma).

None of this means, of course, that Twitter has no business value. In fact, I would argue that Twitter can be an essential linchpin for overall web presences: Twitter enables a pliant means to connect various media and web real estate together. It’s also real-time which means you can literally stream your presence and respond swiftly to shifting currents.

But there are paradoxes hidden within the brute-force approach. Let’s take a look at them.

THE PARADOXES OF BRUTE FORCING TWITTER’S WINGS

There’s a sort of Uncertainty Principle underlying Twitter: the more directly you mechanize a given strategy, the more dilute the attention of followers becomes.

For any Twitter strategy to “work”, the tweeting must be remarkable, attention-enlivening, creative. Tweets need to be interesting day-to-day, week-to-week, year-to-year. Annoyance and boredom are easily un-followed. Value and connection and humor are followed more sustainably. Thus, the only way a business can hope to achieve long-term attention via Twitter is to relentlessly be creative and captivating and social and valuable. Tweeting coupons and links to products alone doesn’t work all by itself.

There’s another paradox on Twitter: Promotion of Other is a greater promotional tool than promotion of Self. This is one of the hardest concepts most organizations have to understand.

Retweet your competition.

If you can’t retweet your competition, you probably don’t have the confidence and faith in your enterprise to stand out. If you’re not standing out, just what are you doing with your marketing dollars?

Marketing not only has to be effective but it also has to be respectable. For an industry like Pharmaceuticals, anything less than respectable is unprofessional.

RELATIONAL APPROACH TO TWITTER

I hope I’ve made it pretty clear that achieving a robust Financial ROI of Twitter directly is not a realistic proposition in most cases. If that’s your only enframing, I would suggest you forget Twitter.

I would suggest, however, that Twitter’s pliancy and immediacy and connectivity provide means to many other ends. It’s basically just a telephone for our century. The most valuable enframing of Twitter is in a Relational context.

Building and sustaining relationships are bricks and mortar for all successful businesses. Smart businesses understand the paradox of the un-sales approach to relationships: the more sincere and mature the relationships, the better the conditions for business development.

Sure, we can talk about buzz-concepts like brand awareness. (Of course, you could also stick a finger down your throat and achieve a similar effect.) But I actually think that’s a sub-set of the brute-force approach to Twitter. Once you make that your purpose on Twitter, you lose your followers’ attention. Brand awareness, at best, must be a pleasant side-effect of much more remarkable ways to employ Twitter.

Yes, it’s a cliche but social media is social. If you have poor social skills, you better develop them now. Since relationships operate in non-linear geometries, you’re going to have to learn to think beyond rigid lines. The Web can be an unforgiving creature and will eventually break you if you don’t have the pliancy to turn on a dime.

THE OPPORTUNITY COST OF STRICT FINANCIAL ROI ENFRAMMING

By hoping to achieve financial gain via an inhuman algorithmic enframing of Twitter, you forgo several important and valuable business opportunities. If I were a Public Relations guy, I’d look at Twitter and say: Wow! We finally have a way to re-humanize our communications and how we connect – We can finally go back and re-work those arcane methods we developed when we had only broadcasting media.

The fundamental truth of the Web is that organizations composed of cogs – people with little incentive to shine their talents – simply don’t have the supple musculature demanded of a public sphere laden with real-time technologies.

Organizations must cultivate cultures of creative, ambitious, informed and swift-thinking human beings. If you’re going to invest in Twitter, you better have remarkable people working for you – do it yourself if you have to.

A narrow focus on Financial ROI will enframe a human context within a technological one. In other words, it’s putting the right shoe in the wrong box.

The opportunity cost of enframming the business value of Twitter within fincancial ROI is the larger frame of possibilities which Twitter offers. The most important of these are the re-humanization of corporate communications and the connecting of disparate elements of an active online and offline presence.

THE ROI OF THE TWEET IS…

The ROI of the tweet is elusive.

The ROI of the tweet is what you make it.

The ROI of the tweet is the expression of your daily artistic creativity.

The ROI of the tweet can be mechanized – but at enormous expense and opportunity cost and risk.

The ROI of the tweet is relational.

The ROI of the tweet is conditional.

The ROI of the tweet is contextual.

The ROI of the tweet is human.

How you enframe tools influences what you get out of them. Sales people enframe sales uses around media. Marketing people enframe marketing uses around media. Public relations people enframe public relations uses around media.

The fact, however, is that the Web is Mother of All Media. It not only spawns new media with differing properties, the media it spawns all inter-relate among each other in novel ways. We don’t have a Grand Unified Theory of the Web, but we can at least understand the fundamental properties of individual media. When I get asked how to “use such and such a tool”, what people are asking is: What’s the theory here. But there isn’t any tested theory: at best we have intuition and reason and experience and imagination. Of course, if your lack these then a theory probably won’t help you.

My recommendation to anyone interested in new media’s role in business is to go back to fundamentals. Language like “old media is being replace by new media” can lead you down misguided paths. Marketing is more than messaging, of course, but it’s important for marketers and communicators and public relators to understand Media. Here are some questions to ask yourself and your team about media:

  • What is this medium? What’s is its essence?
  • What are the properties of this particular medium?
  • What are the possibilities of this medium?
  • What category(ies) does this medium fill: social, impersonal, synchronous, asynchronous, unilateral, bilateral?
  • What does this medium enhance?
  • What does this medium obsolesce?
  • What does this medium retrieve?
  • What does this medium reverse? What happens when this medium is pushed to its limits?
  • What happens when a person encounters this medium?
  • How does this medium relate to other media?
  • How might this medium change the world?
  • How should this medium be enframed?

These are simple but difficult questions (I will expand on them in future posts). When was the last time you asked any of these questions? What have you done to acquire an orientation about new media? That’s the purpose of the above questions: to get you to pan back from your accustomed views and assumptions and experiences and re-frame things in clearer contexts.

It’s also important to understand the different kinds of connections between media and people and things. Social isn’t the only connection. People have connections with products and services – but those connections aren’t social. For example, the connection between a customer and a brand isn’t social. It’s something else – knowing what kind of connection binds medium to medium or people to products helps you determine what media you choose.

For instance, by understanding what a medium enhances, obsolesces, retrieves and reverses, you can better compare novel media with familiar media. You can develop insights into what features of traditional approaches can and can’t be ported into new media. If you’re unfamiliar with McLuhan’s Tetrads, you can learn more here.

If you work in an agency – PR or Marketing – you need to answer these questions so that you can equip yourself with the resources to properly view emerging media. It’s no longer enough to “get” Twitter or Facebook or Blogging: you must have a fresh philosophy about media in general because the Web is evolving. You need to hone an intuition about emerging media and these questions offer a good practice for you.

THE LESSON OF THE TWEET

The lesson here is that there is return on the tweet. But before you get to return you must get to re-frame. This is going to be a turbulent century. It’s easy to get tossed about and disoriented. Assumptions and methods which were once effective may no longer give lift. Orienting is itself a skill to be treasured.

Focusing on one narrow objective like financial ROI before fully understanding an asset is not all too wise. Not when your competition has figured out things you haven’t even considered.

I have tried to address the legitimate concerns of “old-school” executives who rightly question the expected returns of social media. I believe they are entitled to an honest accounting about the limits of media. The smart ones will see the folly of attempts to port assembly-line thinking into territories in which it makes no sense to do. The smart ones will also then be able to see things aright and perhaps your organization or client will understand the proper context and enframming needed to be remarkable.

You can go the brute-force method and miss a much larger party. Or you can be something far more interesting and ultimately financially rewarding. My advice on Twitter is to be a Lovable Peacock: someone with the goods worth showing off but with a warm heart for the flock. Many executives won’t like that metaphor. But then, not many businesses here today will be around in 2020.

So, what’s your take? Is my brute-force analysis flawed? Does it help to demonstrate and to admit up-front that Financial ROI isn’t a wise enframing of Twitter? Does it advance the conversation?

Will you re-enframe everything you think you know? Will your Corporate Philosophy take to wing…or fold?

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Do Normal People Follow Big Pharma On Twitter?

Do “normal” people – patients, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, life scientists, etc – follow Big Pharma on Twitter? I’ve long had a hunch that most of the followers (and by followers I mean people who are actually paying attention) of Pharma accounts are primarily consultants, marketers, PR pros, social media evangelists and others interested in Pharma’s use of the Web (including myself).

So I decided to gather the key words in the profiles of a select group of Pharma companies. I used the service TwitterSheep to generate tag clouds of these profiles. This isn’t a purely scientific approach, but it’s reasonable enough to provide some insight into whose following Pharma. My friends Silja Chouquet (@Whydotpharma) and Andrew Spong (@AndrewSpong) each provided great insight into Pharma and Twitter. You can read their posts here and here, respectively.

Based on the tag clouds, here are the top ten key words in the profiles of followers of selected Pharma companies:

  • Pharmaceutical
  • Medical
  • Healthcare
  • Time
  • Social
  • PR
  • Marketing
  • Research
  • Web
  • Health

“Normal” people don’t have words like Marketing or PR or Social or Pharmaceutical in their bios. Now, I don’t think this is a bad thing. Pharma’s adoption of Twitter is relatively recent. But I don’t think that Pharma’s providing the most value that it could with its primary audience being marketing professionals.

Here’s a slideshare of screenshots for each tag cloud of the eleven accounts I examined (if you can’t see the embed, check it out here):

Pharma’s core base – patients and physicians and pharmacists and health care organizations – are the most valuable followers. Pharma certainly can’t do things that non-regulated industries can do. Nonetheless, Twitter does have many diverse business values: dissemination of news, consumption of relevant content, engagement with followers who can spread positive sentiments within the community and many other practical uses.

Currently, it’s not clear what specific goals Pharma companies have with respect to Twitter. Each can have completely different goals – and most of these accounts are maintained by people whom I’ve met personally. But the concern here isn’t so much about how Pharma companies are using Twitter (that’s another discussion). For as much as Twitter is about the humanization of communications and the ability to converse, audience is still a critical thing to build.

I realize Twitter’s still a shiny new toy for some industries (it’s actually a staple of communications for many others), but Pharma needs focuses and purposes and goals as it matures from the unilateral broadcasting skills it honed in the last quarter of the 20th Century towards the pliant, two-way and multi-faceted characteristics of the kind of media which the Web is giving birth to every day. There’s no guarantee that all Pharma companies will learn these new skills and new ways of thinking. There will be winners. There will be losers. Hopefully, it’s the patients who win. (Which is a good thing for the industry.)

What audiences should Pharma focus its tweets on developing, cultivating and engaging? That’s an important question. I doubt the CEOs of Big Pharma companies are terribly interested in dazzling Social Medi Gurus and Marketers and PR Pros. ๐Ÿ™‚

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FDA Changes Position on BPA

BPA
Image via Wikipedia

As a member of Better Health Network of medical bloggers, I had an opportunity to participate in a briefing on bisphenol A (BPA) in December. You can listen to the briefing read up about issues surrounding BPA here. This is an important story which will probably receive more attention as we learn more about the safety of BPA.

On Friday, the FDA changed its position regarding BPA over concerns about the chemical which is used in a wide range of consumer products from water bottles to baby bottles. The FDA is now expressing its intent to seek and fund more studies on the public health safety of BPA.

The BPA story has been a long-running controversy and provides us with a good view of the intersection of public health, scientific rigor, commercial enterprise, government regulation, the spread of memes via social media and the economic consequences of public policy.

If it turned out, on solid scientific grounds, that BPA does indeed pose a threat what would be the economic consequences of revocation and remediation? This isn’t to equate money with life or health – but it is a point about the important role that scientific rigor has in how we produce goods.

In an age of instantaneous propagation of information (either good or bad), how do we filter out the right data from the wrong? Additionally, given that public debates are necessarily human in nature (that is to say, emotional), how do we ensure that reasoning minds appropriately congregate so we achieve the clearest results?

What do you think of the FDA’s change in stance with respect to BPA? Do you think public debates on matters like BPA safety are healthy?

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