Several speakers at CBI’s 7th Annual eMarketing for the Pharmaceutical Industry, which I attended yesterday in Philadelphia, preached to the choir about the importance of pharmaceutical companies to engage consumers and physicians in social networks.

“Not engaging in the conversation IS a decision,” said Chris M. Scroeder, President and CEO of the The HealthCentral Network. (Chris dressed for the occasion in frumpy jeans, which makes me think he’s doing well enough not to give a damn about first impressions!)

“There is as much risk in NOT participating as in participating,” said Marc Weiner, President of Qi, a CommonHealth Company. He presented a Suboxone case study that I hope to review in an upcoming issue of Pharma Marketing News.

Fard Johnmar over at the Healthcare VOX blog summarizes the chatter about a Comfy survey that suggests ad agencies “don’t get” social media because they don’t have FaceBook pages (see Cymfony Says Agencies “Don’t Get” Social Media, Urges Them To “Walk The Walk”).

Fard says:

“…if you’re going to provide advice about social media communications, at the very least you have to have experience doing it. As Cymfony’s chief marketing officer Jim Nail says, agencies have to ‘walk the walk.'”

Oh, sh*t! Now I’ll have to get a FaceBook page to get my creds among marketers (and lose it among my children).

According to an AdAge story, TNS/Comfy surveyed “60 marketers in North America, France and the U.K. to gauge how they are faring navigating the world of social media. It asked them for feedback on their agencies’ abilities to help. TNS found, in its words, ‘Agencies don’t get it.'”

France and the UK? Okay……

What About Pharma Marketers?

At least Marc’s agency is walking the walk and not just talking! The Suboxone social media campaign included videos on FaceBook pages (comments from visitors were turned off, however).

Some others are experimenting as well.

But before you can walk, you need legs to stand on. No, no, forget walking! We’re talking crawling here. Before you can CRAWL you need to stand and before you can stand you need to have legs!

As far as social media marketing is concerned, you need three legs to stand on:

  1. Regulatory “balls”
  2. Appropriate corporate culture, and
  3. Know what you are doing (aka, what TBS/Comfy and Fard are talking about)

Do you have the “legs” to begin crawling in social media marketing? Use the Pharma Marketing News Social Media Marketing Readiness Tool to find out .

Over 100 pharma marketing professionals inside and outside drug companies — including agencies — have rated their “readiness” for social media marketing using this tool.

The aggregate results so far are:

Leg 1: REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT (based on answers to questions relating to the internal regulatory climate of the organization — primarily a drug company): average score is 28.0 out of a possible total of 45 points

Leg 2: CORPORATE CULTURE (based on answers to questions relating to tolerance of risk): average score is 12.7 out of a possible total of 30 points

Leg 3: KNOWLEDGE (based on answers to questions relating to respondent’s knowledge of social media): average score is 13.8 out of a possible total of 25 points

The overall average score is 54.5 out of 100 possible points (that a score of 55%), which seems like a failing grade!

Lack of Social Media Culture is the Culprit
The knowledge is there and so is the readiness to take the regulatory risks (surprise!). What’s really missing is the corporate culture required to engage in social media marketing. That’s significant because it’s not easy to change corporate culture — it would take at least a generation to do that (ie, the old guard must be replaced with kids who grew up on FaceBook).

I will have more to say about this in an upcoming issue of Pharma Marketing News. Subscribe here and get the current and future issues FREE!