*Why are so many companies so slow to integrate social media into the marketing mix?*
Why are so many companies so slow to integrate social media into the marketing mix?
As conference season ramps back up, I expect to hear many discussions and see many more presentations around social media in pharmaceutical marketing.
In the US, it has already been an interesting year in pharma social media.
Sanofi-aventis battled a Facebook taxoterrorist.
The FDA stated it was on track to deliver social media guidance by the end of the year.
Social media policies were drafted and published, tweets were tweeted, online communities were created, and many other social apps and games were launched.
And most recently, the FDA issued a letter to Novartis addressing its Facebook sharing widget, adding even more confusion to the pharma social marketing world.
Personally, Im glad to see some pharmaceutical companies testing social media marketing and experiencing some successes, even if there is some learning along the way.
But I think the reality is that many many companies are still very reticent to integrate social media into their marketing mix.
And there are a number of very real and legitimate reasons for that.
Heres a roundup based purely on my observations.
Social media is still new, and there is a lot to learn.
Any marketer could spend all day, every day reading, learning, and attempting to holistically understand this beast called social media.
Who has time to do that on top of everything else?
Social media is a moving target.
Just when you think youve learned a little bit, everything changes.
Facebook gets rid of boxes and adds a location-based feature.
The FDA letters are issued and guidance is looming.
New platforms emerge. Who can keep up with it all?
Social media is not simple.
Many pharma companies express interest in participating in social media, especially when it seems as simple as setting up a free Facebook account or Twitter feed.
But many are realizing it isnt that easy, it isnt that simple, and participating in social media requires time, resources, and a long-term commitment.
Social media requires headcount.
Perhaps not initially, but once companies dig into the opportunities and possibilities, I believe they see an infinite time-suck that will eventually require full-time people to manage.
Even social media monitoring takes time, never mind developing response protocols and staying on top of correspondence.
And adding headcount is a difficult sell in an environment of layoffs by the thousands.
Content development is a challenge.
The idea of starting and maintaining something like a blog can be overwhelming.
But its difficult for companies to meaningfully have a social presence without content.
And content development, again, takes time, resources, and commitment.
Social media requires SOPs.
On just about every how to get started with social media list out there, setting up policies and procedures is towards the top of the list.
Many companies still do not have this governance in place and find it daunting to consider tackling it.
Or in some cases, theyve started the effort and its stalled.
Either way, the nonexistence of the policies is a roadblock to many initiatives.
There are not enough, or too many, social media champions.
Not enough champions means it wont get anywhere.
If there are too many champions, often they have competing agendas.
There is no clarity on ownership.
It feels like some pharma companies are still figuring out where digital should fall within their organizations.
Should they create a special entity to handle digital marketing, leave it up to marketers who are more comfortable with traditional media, or hire new marketers?
Now throw social media into that mix.
Corporate teams, brand teams, US, global everyone and no one wants a piece of social media.
Its free (or its expensive, or its somewhere in between).
But it does cost money.
And if its difficult to prove direct ROI, it can be difficult to secure funding.
Which leads us to
Social media is difficult to measure by traditional means.
The ROI question does exist.
Is that something pharma companies hide behind, or is it a real barrier to commitment and funding?
I think its both.
I could actually come up with more than 10 reasons pharmas arent participating in social media, but that felt like a good place to stop.
In my next post, Ill talk about some ways pharma companies can work to overcome these barriers.
How do these compare with your experiences? Anything you would add to this list?
Wendy Blackburn is executive vice president of digital pharma marketing agency Intouch Solutions
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