Archive for January 2009

Online communities for Pharma


I just happened upon a few good examples of social media being used in the pharma industry.  being rare beasts, I thought I’d share the examples and ask - how should drug companies take part in social media?

Pharmaceutical firms have been relatively slow to adopt social media marketing. In large part this is because of the onerous legislation on pharma firms when it comes to making marketing claims. The big concern has to be that someone in an online community might give incorrect advice that is then taken as being instruction from the pharmaceutical firm itself.

As a result there are currently fewer examples of healthcare firms using social networks to drive word-of-mouth and fewer examples of them building their own online communities. I suspect the industry is years away from consensus on how best to take part in social media. Do you have any ideas or expectations?

Social media marketing in healthcare examples

Gardasil - “Take A Step Against Cervical Cancer” is a branded Facebook page that visitors can join, thus triggering news feeds and advocating the brand’s messages. Gardasil is a Merck product and they have chosen to focus their social media efforts at Facebook - it fits their target demographics very well. They have created a Facebook group and over 50,000 people have joined.

As discussed before, Facebook is a great tool for accessing a large social media audience all at once. On the downside, you have to work within the confines of the Facebook tool set, which for effective community management is especially constrained. Perhaps that’s why in Phase2 of their social media strategy they seem to have started bringing together other aspects in a more united online community found on their website. Either way, Merck have done a great job at getting their message out.

AlliConnect - Alli is a weight-loss drug. They have built a support community where people can share their success stories and discuss issues with other community members.

Being Girl - This is not the product of a drug company, however it’s related and a great case study. P&G set up BeingGirl to help them engage with young women as they were going through puberty. The online community has created an excellent and engaging space for open conversations about otherwise embarrassing subjects. It has helped P&G research their market, get to know their audience and build brand awareness.

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Social Media: it’s bigger than you might think


We know that social media and social networks are big and that it is growing. And two reports out this month seem to confirm this for both the US and the UK.

First, in the US, the latest report from Pew Internet on Adults and Social Networks shows that membership of social networking sites in the US has increased over  the last four year. In fact it has increased more than four-fold, from 8% of US adults in 2005, to 35% of US adults in 2008. Impressive growth and a seemingly impressive statistic: more than one in every three adults in the US has a profile in a social network. That’s more than 27 million people in the US using social networks.

In the UK, research from Hitwise reports that social networks account for 10% of UK internet traffic during the Christmas period at the end of 2008. On one day (Christmas Day in fact) 1 in every 22 UK Internet visits was made to just one social network, Facebook, up 69% on the previous year.

Both of these reports are impressive and show the power and reach of social networks, and in particular how traffic and membership has grown rapidly in the last few years. However, I suspect both underestimate the scale of social media, social networking and online communities.

In 2008 we saw a rapid increase in both online communities, and websites adding a social layer - introducing widgets or social media tools. Whilst there has been considerable and significant growth in social networks, there has been a real surge in people engaging on other sites and communities online.

The Pew Internet research, for example, includes the main social networks (and indeed some others) but does not include Ning communities, those using Meetup, Delicious, LiveJournal or even Twitter. Let alone the large online communities such as TripAdvisor, or the more niche online communities such as Nike+.

It’s not that either of these pieces of research are intentionally missing things out, but more that they are looking at just a part of the picture. I think we are missing all the data we need to complete this. We don’t know how many people are taking part in online communities, but anecdotal evidence from the communities that we run at FreshNetworks would suggest that there are a lot of people who join online communities but are not members of social networks. This would mean that the total number of people engaged in social media, using tools and engaging online is much bigger than we might think. Potentially much much bigger.

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Insight from online communities: 4. Rating and voting


We return to our series on getting insight from online communities with a look at how you can get insight from those members of your online community who may not want to begin posts or be regular commenters in public forums. We’ve looked already in the series at the information you can get from profiling data, discussions and the language people use online. Today we want to look at how you can get insights from ratings and votes.

It’s a commonly accepted fact within online communities that many of your community members and visitors will not want to initiate or publicly respond to public discussions. They are happy reading the content and are important as without all these readers, those who do contribute would have no reason to do so. This behaviour is encapsulated in the 90-9-1 rule: in any community of 100 people, 90 will be readers, 9 will edit and add to content and just 1 will initiate discussions or add new content. The best communities find ways to make the most of each of these types of people, recognising that different people behave in different ways and accommodating that.

Most online communities allow people to vote for or rate content - say that you like a certain post or rate a photo or other piece of content out of five. However, too often these tools are overlooked as sources of insight. This is a shame. For those 90 people out of every 100 who are unlikely to contribute to discussions publicly, votes and ratings are ways of letting them have their say. Making this easy to do and encouraging people to rate or vote for content will maximise the benefit you will get from it from an insight perspective.

Whilst such ratings and votings shouldn’t be thought of as representative of the community, they can capture the collective wisdom of the members. If you want to know how important a discussion is, looking at how many people voted for that thread, or at its average rating, is a way of helping you to understand the mass of opinion. If lots of people have voted for it, or rated it highly, then this is a great sign that it’s a discussion you should be reading and digesting.

In a more proactive sense, you can use voting and rating alongside comments as part of a process of co-creation. Getting people to comment on photos, articles, concepts or any piece of content will capture the opinions from a proportion of your community members. Encouraging them to vote too will allow more people to have a voice.

Voting and rating is often used as an engagement tool in online communities, but it can also be a source of valuable insight. See how people rate the different discussions, or the votes that different pieces of content get. You’ll learn something new.

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A history of marketing, advertising and brands (a video)


We’ve started the week at FreshNetworks with a great video from German agency Scholz & Friends as required reading. The video takes a look at how things have changed for brands, advertisers and marketers over the last 60 years. From the advert-focused world of the 1940s to today’s conversation-driven economy.

There are lots of people talking about the “power of conversations” (and suchlike) in social media and online communities at the moment. Very few of them are made as eloquently as in this video. We move from limited choice and impactful advertising to a rejection of advertising and then to a powerful final question for their Brand X: “Don’t you have something interesting to say”.

We find that most brands could and do have something interesting to say, people are interested in what happens inside a brand, in connecting with it and having a more public and human face to their interactions. For me this is really what we’re seeing through the changes the video highlights. There is much talk about a social media revolution (and we’ve written before about why that’s not quite the right word), whereas what we see here is that the shift is in terms of relationship. From advertiser to friend.

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Online communities are all about people (it’s our blogiversary)


It’s almost a year since we started the blog here at FreshNetworks. When we first did it was a way of sharing with a wider audience the discussions and thoughts we have internally, in our team meetings and across the office on a wet Wednesday afternoon. Although I write most of the posts, they actually reflect the discussions, ideas and thoughts that we have had right across the team. Sharing our thoughts on social media, online communities, market research and online research communities and everything related to it.

If you’re new to our blog (or have just been a long-time reader) I thought it would be interesting to reflect on what we’ve written, and after the proliferation of word-clouds for Obama’s Inauguration Speech, I thought I’d create the same for the FreshNetworks blog. Take a look below (thanks to the lovely people at Wordle) and see if you think this reflects what we’ve written and you’ve read over the last twelve months.

For me, it’s great to see the  prominence of two words: people and social. We write about online communities and social media. That’s what we know and what we do. But in doing so it’s important to remember that what we’re really writing about is people and how they interact in a social environment. It’s why we think that we need to focus on how we build and manage online communities. In a good online community, the technology should be invisible, it’s about the people and the way we work together in a social environment than makes the difference.

More of that in the next twelve months.

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