Healthcare Uses of Social Media

Last week I presented at the Social Media Plus Summit and discussed the importance of understanding the nature of emerging media before just jumping into the latest craze.

Healthcare adoption of emerging technologies (not just new media) needs to be done with a robust understanding of them in accordance with strategic visions. Privacy isn’t the only consideration in healthcare: dignity, content, information and excellence in communication and community-building are just a few of the others.

I wanted to go beyond that typical social media hype and give a deep view of what’s needed in healthcare communications. Included are some slides on how Information and Content related with each other in order to provide true empowerment for patients.

You can view my presentation below or over here (there’s also another copy here).

[scribd id=31944796 key=key-1j7yh6xsmhe6rkumhf1l mode=slideshow]

Too often, organizations and industries attempt to integrate new technologies without delving deeper into their ramifications, possibilities and limits. As a result, they often run into trouble and then back away, leaving internal champions frustrated. Understanding is the first step toward doing. Paradoxically, though, with emerging technologies you need to do a bit of both at the same time.

If you would like to see me speak to your organization or help conduct personalized workshops and bring some perspective and orientation on process design, email or call me: info@CareVocate.com – 484-372-0451.

fPatient – Ethics and Mediocrity in Healthcare Marketing

I’m not a fan of buzzwords: not only do they tire with time but they also constrict discussion and usually end up being the object of unimaginative and disconnected marketing efforts. In recent years, we have seen the emergence of the ePatient. And sure enough, we can now see that the term is beginning to be usurped by marketers. Of course, the ethics and effectiveness of that kind of marketing depends on the quality of execution.

SAY HELLO TO THE fPATIENT

A new service – which I won’t give direct attention-traction to by linking to its website here – promises to deliver revenues to healthcare organizations wishing to market to so-called ePatients. This service employs the use of a fictive patient named Sara Baker who even has a fictive Facebook profile. The bio on her profile (Page actually) discloses that she isn’t real but “represents healthcare consumers like you and me”. She is an fPatient.

Is that ethical? Is it an acceptable marketing practice to build a fake composite social object in order to facilitate the push for a product or service? There are differing opinions on that – some of which were raised on the weekly healthcare social media Twitter chat hcsm.

In my opinion, I think that the ethical standards for marketing healthcare ideas and products and services must be above board. Why? Because healthcare is a continuum, a stream, and when one part of the industry is tainted by fakery – no matter how seemingly insignificant – there’s always the chance that such fakery can leach into the stream.

One could argue that faux patients have been heavily used in traditional marketing: from billboard ads to television commercials. We perhaps can understand that kind of use given the limited nature of traditional media.

But when it comes to emerging media, especially the kind that allows conversation, it becomes critical that those conversations are honest and sincere and free of sham. That’s the key difference here: Sara isn’t conversing with consumers (someone else or some thing is) – and in spite of the tiny disclosure in her profile, there’s nothing in her stream to indicate that she’s not real – other than the fact that her status updates are droll and mechanical.

MARKETING MEDIOCRITY AND CREATIVE ANEMIA

Which raises another question: Is the deployment of fake profiles in Healthcare Marketing even necessary? Marketing not only has to be effective, it also has to be respectable. Why create a fake social object when so much more social capital can be built by simply being honest and truthful and direct? Why not take advantage of direct interaction and feedback?

Marketing in the 21st Century is evolving. The properties of emerging media are different from the properties of the unilateral mass communications media of TV, print and radio. Marketers who fail to understand those differences and invest in the time and resources to acquire the skills and proficiency for remarkable healthcare communications will eventually suffer a creative anemia.

Sara Baker can fool some people and maybe she’ll help her creators deliver some revenues to their clients. But she’s a mediocre and fake substitute for the hard work required to be remarkable in healthcare communications.

Healthcare Marketers: if you want to have a well-paying career in ten years, know that the cost of Dreck is rising. Fakery is Dreck. In today’s world, Dreck isn’t just bad copy or ugly creative design: it’s in poor social design and mediocrity of voice. Do you honestly want your name associated with Dreck?

You can debate and justify the ethics of using the fPatient ad nauseum but you’re better off investing your time in becoming fluent and proficient in conversational media. Otherwise, forget about social media. You still have some time left to benefit from traditional marketing: most of your customers probably aren’t using social media that much right now anyway. But time is running out.

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN ePATIENT

The fPatient raises one final point here about labels and it’s very pertinent to the fPatient marketing.

It’s convenient to have a simple label to convey a message and make distinctions. When it comes to health care, however, language matters because how we use words influences how we think and feel and behave.

Let’s take two sentences to illustrate:

  1. “Tom is a schizophrenic.”
  2. “Tom has schizophrenia.”

By referring to Tom as a schizophrenic, his disorder is overlayed on his person. But Tom is a human being who happens to have a brain disorder. Tom isn’t his disorder. Such labeling can potentially influence how providers and others interact with him.

But by saying that Tom has schizophrenia, we are clearer in our language and aren’t confusing Tom with his disorder. Make sense?

So let’s extend this reasoning to ePatient. By referring to patients as ePatients, we encounter a similar problem of confusing the person with an aspect of their behavior.

When we say “Tom is an ePatient” what does that mean to a nurse or a doctor? If Sally is also an ePatient, does that mean a nurse should treat Tom and Sally the same with regard to their ePatiency (how’s that for a neologism)?

For when it comes to Tom’s and Sally’s use of online media and the way they speak for themselves, they can have different empowerment styles:

  1. “Tom uses various social media to acquire health care information and communicate with his providers.”
  2. “Sally scours PubMed for her healthcare information, prefers to communicate face-to-face with her providers and actively participates in online diabetes forums.”

That added layer of information is more useful to a provider: she has a better understanding of her patient’s behaviors.

How much value is there in telling a nurse or a doctor that Tom and Sally are ePatients? Perhaps some. But ultimately, providers need to know the specific and relevant characteristics of their patients. A general label probably doesn’t help much.

I’m glad that there are movements like the ePatient movement to raise awareness of the need for empowering patients. Patient empowerment is vital to health care. Responsible providers understand this.

But if words become objects in themselves and result in a new filing system, then they lose their value. Healthcare Marketers need to understand this.

WRAP UP

As I said earlier: Marketing not only has to be effective: it has to be respectable.

When it comes to healthcare communications and marketing, anything less than professionalism and excellence and clarity is Dreck. Not only is it Dreck, it can be harmful: the farther away healthcare communicators are from patients, the easier it is to lose sight of the impact of their messages.

Language matters – no less in health care. Usurping words just because they’re in style may have some effect but in the long-run, marketing and communications require innovation and creativity, clarity and honesty.

Too often, Marketers opt for what appears to be the easy road. But in a world where people can talk back and retweet and take snapshots of your work, going down the easy road may turn out to be a nightmare journey.

If you use fakery to get your message out, don’t be surprised if your message gets drowned out by the sound of your competitor’s fans who adore and respect the real patients who love their products and services.

Let’s hear your thoughts!

Note: upcoming post will be on the uPatient: the Unempowered Patient. We need to have that conversation: there are more unempowered than empowered people in the world.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Strategic Questions for Proficient Business Blogging

The Business Process Management Life-Cycle
Image via Wikipedia

There’s all sorts of advice on why and how to blog. Everything about blogging has already been blogged about. And yet, many businesses haven’t even scratched the surface to understand what blogging is actually about and what roles it may play in their overall strategy and presence – on and offline.

But all businesses have different going concerns and goals and strategies. Every media, communications and marketing strategy is different from the other.

While helping out a friend, I offered a bunch of questions for her to answer, figuring that the exercise of questioning may be more insightful and valuable than straight tips. I’m publishing an upgraded version of those questions here because there’s a ton of “expert” advice out there which you can find simply by Googling keywords related to blogging and business. The fact is, however, your business needs to do a deep self-assessment of its goals, culture, resources, tactics and strategies before just following a pre-fabricated set of instructions.

NOTE: when I use the word “blogging” I don’t just mean the publishing of content on a website. No, for me blogging is about proficiency in communications, ecosystem awareness, audience building and dialogue: from traditional to emerging media. Blogging involves a new set of skills which business should acquire and hone, to be overlayed on top of their bread-and-butter marketing and communication expertise. Blogging is a constant learning process. It’s also a way to reveal strengths and weaknesses inherent in organizations, their cultures and their processes – and thus the importance of questioning within the larger context of strategy.

With that in mind, here are the questions.

STRATEGIC QUESTIONS FOR PROFICIENT BUSINESS BLOGGING

  1. What’s the purpose? Biz development? Customer availability? A place to house your industrial expertise and knowledge? A place to create a community where ideas and questions can be explored openly? What value do you expect to provide or extract?
  2. Who is your audience(s)? Are you thinking that your only audience would be end-consumers? Or might they be industry influencers or vendors or the public? Will you be able to track the social footprint of your audience – who they are, where else on the Web they interact?
  3. What kinds of content are you delivering? Is it informational? Editorial? Inspirational? Industrially insightful? Action-calling? How might the kind(s) of content and information you publish influence your audience? Are you willing to let your audience help determine your content?
  4. What kinds of media will you provide on the blog? Text? Video? Audio? Slidedecks? Different media have different properties. Have you thought about the properties of traditional media and how they differ from emerging media? How much of your traditional marketing expertise evolved around the properties of print, radio and TV? Given that new media possess different properties, how might your marketing strategies need to adapt?
  5. Do you know what kinds of assets a blog can build? Leads? A small but relevant community of influencers? Street cred? Search engine ranking? Which do you need?
  6. How will you distribute your content? Have you developed other web real estate – outposts on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Slideshare? Which ones make the most sense to invest in? Can you build a visual map of your entire Web presence and how different Web and traditional presences relate to the bigger picture?
  7. If you successfully build your community, do you know how to leverage it? Will you be satisfied to just have visitors? Or will you engage with your community – not only on your blog but elsewhere? Will you continually monitor your efforts and make the best of the connections you make? Will you develop a system to reach your community beyond your blog – either via email or other media?
  8. Do you think blogging is just putting content on a website – or do you believe it is a spectrum of media skills? What’s your conception of blogging? Might there be more to blogging than what you think you know? What skills may you need to develop or build upon?
  9. Do you have a plan on how to distribute your blog content to traditional media (where else is your audience)? What are your overall communications and marketing strategies? How might emerging media not only play a part, but how might their proliferation impact your established strategies?
  10. How committed will you be? Is this going to be a chore “to be done” or will you intelligently integrate it into your business routine? Do you understand the skills and resources needed to become proficient? When thinking about resources, are you considering time and talent and networks?
  11. Do you have the stamina to sustain your efforts in the long-term? Investing in new media is about sustaining long-term capital. Given your resources, will you create the kind of working environment for your employees to enjoy the art of creating content, conversing across different networks and advancing the company’s objectives?
  12. Do you know how to make it easy (and enticing) for your audience to comment? Will you thank and comment back? Is sharing via email & other sources easy?
  13. Are you willing to fail? More importantly: how do you define failure? This is important to know because if you define failure appropriately, then you’re more likely to know what to do when you encounter it: in fact, you may see it as a huge opportunity.

There they are. Take your time answering these questions because they aren’t just about blogging: they’re about your understanding of how media and your business intertwine.

I listed 13 – which some believe is an unlucky number. So if you’re superstitious, you’ll have to come up with at least one more.

What questions do you think you need to ask yourself?

Tweet This Post

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

All Marketers Are Dopes

dopey and the dwarfs
Image by bijoubaby via Flickr

Do you agree? Do you disagree? You clicked the link, didn’t you? Either because you agreed or – perhaps more so – because you disagreed or were offended.

Did I linkbait you into coming here? Perhaps. And that’s the point: marketers too often fetishize messaging at the expense of deeper, rounder and longer-term marketing strategies.

A catchy or rousing phrase may invoke the attention of your targets, but if that’s all it does, you’ve failed your boss’s investors.

THE SOURCE AND END OF DOPERY

In fact, it seems that the when some marketers declare themselves to be marketers, what they really mean is that they are messengers. But marketing isn’t just about messaging: marketing is about connecting something of subjective value with a subject who values that something (whether they know it yet or not). (Yes, marketing is kinda circular when enframed that way, isn’t it? 🙂

And that connecting is difficult work – it’s something that goes way beyond messaging. And yet many marketers have gotten lost in the practice of messaging – they’ve lost perspective of both the historical roots and the future evolution of their profession.

Marketing evolved over the last 100 years from producing to meet demand, to standing out with quality, to selling and persuasion and sophisticated research, and most recently into what is today called Traditional Marketing.

So what do I mean by All marketers are dopes? Who says that? Why?

Well, that sentence is a sentiment that consumers are increasingly feeling in their gut when they come across Dreck – and today Dreck is tired messaging and attention-screaming and incomplete marketing with no human quality.

EVOLUTION VIA WEB SELECTION

And what the Web is doing is providing marketers with a chance to re-evaluate the Why’s and How’s of what they learned from the start of their careers.

Unfortunately, most have gotten stuck in one phase of Marketing’s evolution, and unable to take the lead towards its next.

They’ve gotten lost in the assembly-line mentality of segregating and dividing labor and tasks: Research, Creatives, Advertising, etc. It was a necessary way of doing things in an economy where scaling required standardization of operations – things needed to be predictable and repeatable at the lowest possible costs.

But the Web is mothering novel media, with emerging properties that didn’t exist in the traditional staples of mass communication: print, radio and television.

Marketing isn’t dead, any more than desire or hunger or business. Marketing is just in the transitional phase to something more complete – a chance to build communities where the right messages can be delivered at the right time in the right context with the right processes.

Evolution is typically a merciless process – species who once reigned and ruled can be ruined without notice, while the tiny prey emerge stronger and more fit to deal with the new ecology.

ARE YOU A DOPE?

Too bad marketers are dopes. Or are they? If you’ve gotten this far, you’re probably not one of the dopes and I sincerely wish you nothing but success as you create a more human – and effective – Marketing.

A dope is someone who, once has learned a certain way of doing things, doesn’t know when to unlearn that particular way when it no longer works.

Are you a dopey marketer? Or are you someone who wants to change the world by connecting values that matter with people who need and want and (perhaps) crave what you have to offer?

Please be at the exception that proves the rule.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

8 Stages of Social Media Psychosis

Even though it’s 2010, the talk and hype orbiting around social media cintinues. In fact, it seems to be getting louder. So I put together a Prezi: 8 Stages of Social Media Psychosis (some language may be harsh).

For those of us who’ve been at this for a long time (my experience with social networking goes back to 1978 – that’s a whole other story), it’s startling to witness the level of web literacy in many imprtant, well-financed organizations.

So, unfortunately, due to this web illiteracy I’m sad to say that the talk will go on for some time.

That’s dismaying because there so much more that we can talk about.

Overcoming Pharma’s Social Media Anxiety Disorder

There’s been an ongoing discussion about how the Life Sciences industries can face and integrate recently evolving media which the Web has been and continues to sprout.

Remarkable as they are, the discussions are endless and most loop back into themselves without generating sufficient voltage to power an army of macrophages. Additionally, Pharmaceutical companies – beset by a myriad of constraints – are anxious about flipping on social connection switches which the Web furiously creates every day.

We could say that Pharma has a sort of Social Media Anxiety Disorder. What to do?

The answer isn’t in social media. It’s not in what the FDA decides to do. It’s not in echo chambers found within Twitter or blogs or conferences.

It lies in simple, basic economic truths. It lies in radical acceptance and in brave recreation. It lies beneath the proverbial nose of obviousness. It lies far beyond any discussion about the meanings and promises and purposes of new media on the Web.

Pharma’s Social Media Anxiety Disorder is merely a peripheral symptom of deeper pathologies. Let’s assess the patient.

NOTE: If you believe social media is the cure of business ills, this post may not be appropriate for you. See your doctor if you’re addicted to social media before acting on the information contained herein.

DEEP CONCERNS AND PERIPHERAL RISKS

Social media is nothing – an oxymoron at best: media are simply media, incapable of being at all social. People are social. Information isn’t social either – but it is everything. So let’s talk about information and why it matters in every nook and cranny of Life Sciences’ media challenges and wider business fundamentals.

Nobody doubts that the ultimate concern surrounding the the development, production and marketing of molecules and medical devices is their safety, efficacy and effectiveness. From production to marketing to administration/application, every step of the way involves risks: tiny flaws in R&D methodologies; overlooked nuances of human physiological processes, genetic mechanisms and anatomical structures; manufacturing and engineering oversights; misinforming marketing messages (unintended or otherwise); and administration error (provider or patient related).

At the core of all these risks lies information, which is the coherence of relevant data that helps to make decisions in light of risks. Any information indicating danger during any point of the entire pipeline can retard or terminate production or marketing or dispensation of a product.

Furthermore, the media through which information conveys its meaning determines its interpretation. Therefore, any discussion concerning the proper delivery of product information must base itself upon the most complete understanding of media possible. Few media are alike in properties, possibilities, limits and pliancy of re-purposing. Not all media can be used for the same purposes as other media. Twitter may help Dunkin Donuts move sales, but that doesn’t mean it would for Pharma.

And it’s this understanding of media which is at the heart of the circulatory system of discussions and decisions with respect to the Web’s place in Life Sciences. It’s one thing to say Let’s start a blog, tweet like sparrows, set up Facebook Pages and create forums. It’s quite another to do so remarkably without addressing both the deeper nuances of human communication, social interaction and individual psychological responses and their peripheral risks.

The order of complexity that arises out of the tasks involved in creating and cultivating safe and engaging environments for patients, doctors, pharmacists, employees and all other publics grows with every added layer of interaction.

It sounds hopeless – in fact it is anxiety-provoking. But it isn’t hopeless and it doesn’t need to be an unstoppable source of anxiety. But the reality is this: Life Sciences has far too many variables and concerns to tie together to ever completely satisfy everyone and everything when it comes to social media – certainly not right out of the gate. The Enterprise considerations alone are almost impossibly daunting.

It’s easy to see how most Pharmaceutical companies suffer from a sort of Social Media Anxiety Disorder. What will the FDA do? What about Adverse Events? What about them lawyers trawling for our mistakes? What about abusive flash mobs? What happens if 4chan decides to play pranks on us on Twitter or Facebook?

What’s the anxiolytic here? Simplicity: do what’s simple and simply do it.

More on that in a moment, but first a necessary but pertinent side trip off the path of new media onto the economic principles upon which any exploration of the uses of social media in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.

NATURAL VERSUS UNHEALTHY RATES OF RETURNS

Let’s take a quick pan-back for a moment from social media to mention something about Capitalism and economic fundamentals because it’s the central economic context in which modern pharmaceutical marketing arose. An inquiry into the economic ramifications of a fast-changing world must the the foundation for any exploration into the role of media. And this will lead us to why simplicity is Pharma’s best prospect for long-term viability. Bear with me on this excursion. Why? Because if there’s no industry, who cares about social media?

The rates of return for the pharmaceutical industry over the last twenty years have been quite remarkable. After the industry radically transformed itself decades ago from a primarily scientific endeavor into a marketing Juggernaut, the stock prices of publicly traded life sciences companies soared. Blockbusters made careers. Fortunes bloomed. Investors beamed.

We could say that co-morbid with Pharma’s Social Media Anxiety Disorder is an addiction to quick hits of Blockbusters and above-average rates of return. As we know, co-morbid conditions are often the hardest to treat.

But the fact is, these rates of return were not natural rates of return. Sustainable long-term rates of return for industries in their natural states is on the order of a paltry two to three percent. Why? Because the resource-inflationary pressure of high returns inevitably leads to downward pressures on sustainability. When rates of return exceed rates of regeneration, eventually capital systems collapse in on themselves. Sooner or later, pendulums swing back – the higher the summit, the more momentous the tumult.

To most pharmaceutical executives, the very thought of rates of return that low could cause chuckles or perhaps induce suicidal ideation. But eventually Pharma will face major reversals of fortune in the coming years. Here’s why:

  • The disruption of traditional marketing coupled with the infiltration of the Web into consumers’ lives will dilute their effectiveness;
  • The mis-coordination among the various international regulatory agencies and the industry will hamper innovation in customer outreach;
  • The internal weaknesses, complexes, inefficiencies of out-dated infrastructures will continue their pressure to reduce costs at the expense of development, resulting in positive feedback on tightening concentric loops of cost-reduction and market contraction;
  • The pool of bright young talent will flow to tech and other sectors while flowing away from an industry who’s public reputation has suffered years of traumatic wounds (many self-inflicted).

Furthermore, the revealing essence of media technologies will continue to illuminate fundamental truths about the industry and bear novel stresses on it:

  • The proliferation of social media will continue to shed light on weaknesses inherent within organizations: information about organizations will increasingly leach into the public sphere.
  • The raw scapegoating potential of new media will fuel public relations fires like never before seen and their financial impacts may be enormous, and their recovery will be slow and painful. Perhaps not in the immediate future (contrary to some of the hypers of the “power” of social media) – but as new media proliferate, the peripheral costs and risks associated with maintaining communities will rise considerably. (See Dennis Howlett’s excellent piece on how Nestle’s Facebook problem had no significant impact on its share prices.)
  • Worsening depressive global economic conditions will likely usher forth political demands for tighter regulatory controls. When people are hungry, they cry for blood.

Therefore, the industry must undergo a radical realization and acceptance that their fundamentals need serious attention. A critical dissection of assumptions and traditional business thinking will need to take place. The harsh realities of the 21st Century’s upending nature must be faced without fear. The marketing models which were co-opted from the Cereal and Automobile industries will be tough to break down and replaced with fresh perspectives on the ever-shifting ways in which people consume their information.

Meanwhile, the social engineering foundation of modern marketing ushered forth by Edward Bernay’s will continue to falter. Unless, of course, a few geniuses emerge who will discover some magical formula to mechanize social media into standard operating algorithms – as was done with traditional media. Not impossible, but it was much easier to do with unilateral oligopolies of mass communication.

There are times in our lives when incredibly hard and frightening decisions must be made. The same applies to companies and industries – entire countries in fact. And it’s always those simple decisions that must be made and are most often the most difficult to execute.

Pharma’s simple way out of its coming dark ages is nothing less than the task of utterly re-vamping itself into an entirely new industry – one which will be supple and cleaver and ethical enough to win the attention and social capital so critically necessary to hold sway in the coming world. It’s not social media, stupid: it’s The Capital.

Here are a few simple things Pharma can right now to inject true hope into its future:

  • Invest in education. Where will the next generation of molecular biologists and geneticists and engineers come from? Set up a consortium of education which extensively funds captivating educational programs which spark the attention of a youth easily distracted by the temptations of the Web. The Web is a perfect medium to extent in-real-life educational experiences, even while it opens up new temptations for distraction. The Web’s disruption of education means we must dovetail new media technologies with the traditional disciplines and rigors of learning about what matters. The public and private systems are becoming increasingly vulnerable in this regard, which implies opportunities for industrial talent to avail itself of its knowledge and expertise.
  • Shift capital-flows from over-marketing back to R&D. Wait? What? If we don’t invest in marketing we won’t have sales, which means we can’t develop products. The retort: the future of traditional marketing is bleak. Accept the losses now. A robust portfolio of novel pipelines for products – in conjunction with re-designing public relations with valuable social propositions – will lead to healthier long-term prospects for capital accumulation.
  • Begin the process of re-designing infrastructure and process from an assembly-line basis into info-social ecosystems. Capitalism is in the process of transitioning from deriving value through mechanized re-allocation and transformation of resources towards creating value out of the informational synergies of social connections. As the cost of technologies shrink while their powers expand, the opportunities to more fully realize the power of ideas and experiences expand. How many more discoveries and advances in molecular genetics be made if businesses were based upon social designs instead of mechanical rigors?
  • Extract value from the innate experiences of human capital within the enterprise. Building on the previous investment strategy, there is an entire sub-industry within the Pharmaceutical industry which has never been tapped. The collective wisdom-power of doctors, nurses, engineers, geneticists and other key players is an enormous source of business value. Entrenched stiff organizational structures have buried the collective values that can be derived from the vast array of product and service ideas inherent in these collective talents. Investing in re-designing business towards info-social ecosystems will develop the platforms necessary to yield the potency of human creativity and innovation.

Of course, maybe it’s already too late for the large pharmaceutical companies. If that’s the case, then the smaller enterprises have an open opportunity to gun for the future – especially if they refuse to be subsumed into the Juggernauts, which anymore are more like Holding Companies than actual creators and producers.

If 20th Century Capitalism taught us anything, it’s this: Juggernauts often jeapordize their long-term sustainability by assuming their ways of doing business are eternally solvent. They aren’t: Technology brings forth into world both opportunity and obsolescence. It reveals the status quo even while it destroys it.

THE SIMPLE TRUTH

If the industry is to be what it aught to be – a leading creator of technological solutions to biological problems – then it will have to abandon the now false hope of generating unnatural rates of return via outmoded mechanisms, processes, strategies, tactics. Because if it continues to believe its industry is an exemption from the eternal laws of supply and demand, of resource and allocation, and of creativity and innovation, then it will perpetuate a belief system that will continue to funnel its efforts into practices which forgo richer long-term prospects.

This is not only a matter of industrial health: it’s a public health urgency. A bankruptcy of novel bio-molecular advancement would be catastrophic for health care.

Connecting points of suffering with points of care. That’s the simple going concern of the Life Sciences industry.

This connecting is what marketing is all about. All efforts from idea to development to production to consumption create the ribbon of presence which is marketing.

BACK TO THE WEB OF CONNECTIONS

It’s not that the Web doesn’t matter – far from it. But the basic economic principles outlined above are the priority for all companies curious about how to integrate Web media into their enteprises.

There are places for new media within Life Sciences but the industry needs to be very basic in its approach.

For one, companies won’t get very far with “social marketing” efforts until executive leadership actually has hands-on experience with new media and a working comprehension of their properties.

No, the only way things will move is when middle and executive managers start using these media personally (none of it is hard). They need to go through this process before clear-headed strategies can be well formulated. Here’s how, in order:

  1. Executives must gain Web Literacy (this is a limiting agent).
  2. Then they must step back and re-frame everything they think they understand about media.
  3. After that, they need to imagine the re-purposing possibilities of the various media.
  4. They need to put together small packs of champions who – with permission – can go forth and lead the way with small steps.
  5. They will have to initiate the system-deep integration of social design into their companies (and Enterprise versions of Facebook ain’t it).

Once they understand how to use these media themselves, only then will they see the potential and pitfalls. They will realize the importance of accumulating Social Capital. They will see more clearly what it takes to create content and communities and the safe connections which engender markets where information can be safe and effective.

The economics of life science products and the realities of emerging shifts in the properties of adopted media dovetail each other over time. Perhaps not immediately, but it won’t be too long before the industry sees the need to change. That’s why the previous discussion about Capitalism is so important and relevant to any discussion on social technologies. Social media are merely revealing the deeper needs to re-vamp the industry’s microecnomic and enterprise schema.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR INSTEAD OF A DOG

The Web decentralizes centers of information. It rewards erratic volume at the expense of disciplined silence. It atomizes the world’s data while it connects disparate sources of information.

The Web is seductive. It promises Democratization. Unfortunately, seductive promises usually break.

And so it is with Pharma’s relationship to social and other media. In lust for easy returns by the promise of cheap media, fundamentals are easily forgotten. Longevity of industrial health is put at risk. The savviest get-rich schemes don’t sound like get-rich schemes. And yet, most of the talk about “social marketing” does in fact possess within it the underlying pitches of get-rich schemes.

Pharma will have to get back to fundamentals in economic design and collaborative networks. It needs to bring the life scientists back to front-and-center as pioneers of not only innovation but also creativity (and not in the way David Ogilvy abhorred the word). It will have to develop new ways to work with doctors and nurses, patients and the public.

It will have to answer, continually, questions such as these:

  • What is the effect of the Web on the health of human beings, from birth to death?
  • How does the Web affect collaboration? What about culture in general?
  • How can those with expertise create music that shunts the attention and interest of consumers away from the cacophony of charletons or from well-intended but misguided people? After all, a little knowledge can be more dangerous than complete ignorance – life science and health care aren’t always intuitive.

It will need to propound into the FDA’s collective head the one eternal truth of the web: On the Internet, nobody knows your’re a dog – but they may think you’re a doctor.

The imperative for leaders in life sciences businesses to understand the emerging roles of emerging media has never been more important. Moreover, the enframing of these media must line up with a fresh perspective on the nature of Capitalism in an age where social currencies emerge as substantive elements in the Capital System at large.

Pharma: Give up false hope in a Social Media Utopia. Overfed Utopian desires always end up backsliding into disasters. Get back to the science of life and the art of being a hero. Re-examine the fundamental meaning of marketing. Remember that marketing is about Presence. Realize the costly long-term error in mistaking Messaging for Marketing. History will hate you if you abandon your duty to be spotlessly heroic.

If you’re going to integrate rapidly shifting new media into your efforts, keep things simple. Don’t aim for marketing gold – you’ll not only miss the pot, you’ll ruin your reputation forever because the Web is your last hope, even if it’s your biggest fear.

Find what’s simple and simply do it.

It’s that simple. But like life itself, simple is rarely easy.

Tweet This Post

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Conversation Is Not A Strategy – Video

I don’t agree with the first thesis of the Cluetrain Manifesto which asserts: Markets are conversations. There’s a measure of truth to it, but it’s an assertion that can lead marketers down a narrow path that obstructs a larger view of the possibilities of media. If markets were indeed conversations, then we all could get rich just by conversing. No, leading an audience is what gets things done – conversation is simply a bonus feature of a two-way Web.

I need to make my point in the flesh. So here I am, presenting an elucidation of my thesis: Audiences are strategic imperatives [link to video if you can’t see the embed is here]:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/philbaumann#p/u/0/cYwjaW2xR5A]

Investing your talents into inspiring and conversing and leading your audience is one of the most challenging but important things you can do with the Web. If you don’t have an audience, you don’t have a business.

If you spend yourself being everywhere, you’ll end up nowhere.

Know where audience needs to be – and that isn’t on dozens of un-monetizable social networks.

Tweet This Post

If you enjoyed this post, save yourself a trip and just subscribe to future ones here.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

The Vaporization of Marketing

Nuclear weapon test Romeo (yield 11 Mt) on Bik...
Image via Wikipedia

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. 🙂

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.

Tweet This Post

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

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. 🙂

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Marketing Is Technology – Insight for the Perplexed

An ancient spoked wheel on exhibit in the Luri...
Image via Wikipedia

This post is the first in a series focused on revealing the essence of Technology.  These aim of these posts is to spark inquire into the nature of Technology and to provide some fresh insight for Marketers, PR professionals, technologists, bloggers, doctors, nurses and everyone else. It’s important that we understand the essence of Technology; to understand our relationship with it; how it influences our perceptions and feelings and actions; and how and why it’s critical to all of us to re-frame what we see and do in terms of a panning-out from our accustomed ways and habits. You can get these posts delivered to you by subscribing here. I’ve also started the blog Technescan: Revealing the Essence of Technology – you can subscribe to TechneScan’s Posterous here and follow @TechneScan on Twitter.

WHAT IN THE WORLD IS MARKETING?

What is Marketing? Is it an Art? Is it a Science? It’s possible to attribute characteristics of Art and Science to Marketing of course. In its essence, though, Marketing is neither an art nor a science. Rather, it is part of the domain of Technology.  And we must understand Technology before we can understand Marketing. Let me provide the first installment of what I mean.

WHAT IN THE WORLD IS TECHNOLOGY?

The essence of Technology is not just tools and gadgets. That may be how most people view Technology but that’s an incomplete understanding of Technology. A definition of Technology is very difficult without understanding its essence. Define Life – it’s not easy: and yet, like obscenity, we know it when we see it. Similarly, Technology is a difficult thing to define. The difference, however, is that we don’t always see or recognize things as Technology.

The root word of Technology is Techne. The ancient Greeks’ conception of Techne was not just tools or craft (in the sense that we conceive). Techne for the Greeks was a way of knowing and being – a way of understanding our relationship with the world around us. For them Art and Technique were bound up together into a way of interacting with the larger environment. It is this angle that can rescue us from our narrow conception of Technology which will reveal deeper insights into its essence. NOTE: This is a much harder task than one may think at first. You can read the philosopher Martin Heidegger’s works on the matter: but it’s very heady stuff.

Examples of Technology include but are not limited to: Culture, Law, the Internet, Capitalism, Democracy, Reading, Writing, Twitter, Politics, Civilization and Humanity. Think about the world you live in – the one which influenced your personal and professional history: it’s utterly bound up within the contexts and influences of Technology. Kevin Kelly is right to assert that Technology is the Seventh Kingdom of Life.

When we do things with Technology – say build telecommunications networks or cars or medical devices – the effect of our use is something beyond our initial perception of the technology. Technology offers us a new view of things: it reveals what was hidden to us before. Twitter, for example, has revealed a social construct which always existed but we just never realized. We didn’t know how much we could learn about each other in just a few bursts of 140 characters; nor did we know how far we would adopt Twitter and incorporate it into our daily communication and news gathering and sharing behaviors. If you were told four years ago that millions of people would be messaging each other en masse in 140 characters, you just wouldn’t believe it.

Thus: Technology is a Revealing influence.

MARKETING IS A REVEALING

So what does all this esoteric babble have to do with Marketing? Well, when marketers seek to solve problems such as getting the word out (WOM) or Branding or positioning or distribution, they are enframing their solutions within a Technological context. What technique shall we employ here? What metrics will we measure our success or failure? How can we engage our base? These are technological frameworks.

Oh yes, many professionals will respond: Well, what we’re doing is a human activity – we’re reaching out to humans and we engage in person-to-person communication. And this position is becoming increasingly popular in light of the emergence of a two-way Web. But even here, marketers who are just awakening to the conversational nature of modern Marketing are asking themselves technological questions: How can we properly use social media to reach and engage our customers?

How is a part of Techne. And that’s not to say that Marketing can’t be Human – it should be. But Marketers can easily confuse a Technological engraming for a human one.

So Marketers need to ask themselves what their efforts reveal. They also need to pan back from their day-to-day operations and re-frame what they’re looking at, so that they can reveal the essence of what they’re doing.

HOW MARKETERS CAN GET UNSTUCK

…if you’re not present, you can’t persuade.

Marketers often get stuck in certain ways of thinking and often over-focus on tools and tactics and techniques and algorithms. This explains why so many traditional marketers are struggling with “Social Media” and the shiny new social software and gadgets that continue to pop up. Even those who understand the need to dovetail traditional efforts with conversational ones maye risk forgetting the role Technology plays within the context of person-to-person communication.

If Marketers understand just how big Technology is, what it is in its essence, how it influences our daily perceptions and conceptions of the world around them, and what it might reveal, then they will find themselves with freshened perspectives and important insights into the essence of Marketing.

Marketing, just like Technology, is about Presence. Some marketers believe “all Marketing is Persuasion”. The fault in that mantra is simple: if you’re not present, you can’t persuade.

Technology reveals what is present in our world. Marketing reveals what is present in an organization’s or individual’s realm of possibilities. If you don’t understand Technology, you aren’t realizing the potential of Marketing in its fullest and most human form. After all, that’s the proper goal of Marketing: to transcend technique towards sincere human relationship.

Confused yet?

It’s OK if you’re confused by this. It’s a completely new way to view the world. That’s why I’m devoting a series (and a blog) to this topic. I hope you follow along, contribute in the comments and even contact me (Phil /at/ PhilBaumann /dot/ com or on Twitter or by phone – 484-3726-0451.)

If you enjoyed this post and what to keep up-to-date at your convenience, subscribe here.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]