A lot of Pharma people often ask about the ROI or Return on Investment of new media, including social media. The reality, though, is that it's a lot more complicated than that.
Because the value of any marketing or sales channel is more than just push marketing and measuring the impact on various metrics. It's about building strong relationships in time, rather than investment in money. My friend Rory Murray calls this "return on relationships".
Think about the experienced sales reps who have been seeing the same doctors for years, have built a network of relationships and generally hate marketing stuff. They don't sell successfully from detail aids, they do well because the doctors have formed a relationship and like and trust them.
The same thing happens in marketing and managed care.
Remember those KOL's? The brand that builds solid and strong relationships with the academic experts has more influence than the one that doesn't. Doctors often buy on emotion, not logic. Those who have good channel relationships in appropriate managed care areas do considerably better than those who don't, as Lilly found out to it's cost with Effient recently.
If you put all of those aspects together, you can see that a launch success or failure is almost predicted from the start.
So how can social media help?
Well, think of it as a way of strengthening your online reputation; if you push stuff out there but don't engage, what does that tell customers and consumers about you? Ultimately, that approach will weaken your image. However, if you appear engaged, authentic, helpful and sincere then inevitably, people will have a more favourable impression. This is why I like the way some Pharma Twitter accounts such as Roche and Boehringer interact with people. They answer questions, provide information and generally do a nice job of being cheerful and responsive without being pushy.
With others, though, it's like getting blood out of a stone. They don't seem to listen or interact and constantly push out stuff in a semi advertorial fashion; it's all about them, not the consumers or listeners. Of course, that approach has influenced my opinion of the company and its products more negatively.
Rory recently posted a short presentation, which I highly recommend. Take a quick look at what he has to say:
In an increasingly networked world, we can see that the new currency is becoming time and relationships, rather than money and investments.
What do you think?