After a considerable amount of hype and attention the FDA Social Media hearings are now history (http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0Ape8GYHoQ7q7dFZZdUFNUW5FVUY5YjBnMWNMSDZadkE&hl=en ). Personally, I am not surprised that very little has emerged from the actual meetings. There were plenty of tweets and even links broadcasting the actual event http://is.gd/5h0Vx
But what is next? My experience tells me many pharma marketers will do nothing out of fear that some draconian regulation, or even worse, the possibility a vague ruling will leave many still perplexed, bewildered and directionless.
Waiting for an FDA ruling is short-sighted. The landscape is changing rapidly and smart marketers will take advantage of the opportunities to deliberately experiment and learn. Consumers have new tools. They are freely connecting and sharing with each other. At the very least those in regulated industries can and should be listening to what is being said about their brands. There are many ways to connect with consumers. It isn’t easy and it requires a combination of leadership and skill. By clearly setting consumer expectations and steering clear of marketing hyperbole pharma companies can interact with consumers to gain insight and encourage influencing behaviors. This kind of effort requires cooperation in addition to internal and external partnerships.
Most observers believe the FDA may take up to a year to provide any comments. That is a lot of time in the rapidly evolving marketing landscape where case study after case study illustrates the fact that consumers are demanding a voice in the marketing process. So the question is do you wait for an uncertain FDA ruling or do you find ways to experiment and learn from consumers?
Here are 3 things I would recommend:
- Listen – There are plenty of tools that are available, some are free (http://wiki.kenburbary.com/.
Understand what is being said about your brand, category.
Observe the conversation style and exchange of information.
Listening will teach you a lot about social media cultural norms.
- Learn – Figure out who is using this media by answering questions like:
- Are there communities or other online activities attracting and engaging your consumers/customers?
- Are there particular consumer segments attracted to communities?
- What about healthcare professionals and their need for support and information?
- What does constituent behavior say about value?
- Collaborate – Establish a dialogue with other stakeholders in your organization.
Form alliances with legal, risk, regulatory, PR and others who may have important roles to play. Understand their concerns. Build relationships by involving these individuals through the building process.