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Crossing the Chasm of Pharma Social Media Adoption

Posted by | 9:26am on Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Standley Chasm, Australia
Standley Chasm, Australia

pharma’s social media adoption is growing geometrically – we’re in the Tornado 

At the end of last year, I predicted to anyone who would listen that we would cross the chasm of social media in the pharma marketing industry in 2010. Unfortunately, I didn’t make time to do a blog post about it then and now it’s come to fruition. Nonetheless, it’s important to assess where we are (and I want to get this post out of my head).

Back in the go-go days of the Internet bubble (mid to late 1990s) a must-read business book was Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers by Geoffrey Moore. Moore’s basic premise was that high technology product companies could begin to grow rapidly by selling to a small base of visionary customers but that the market would then flounder in reaching the mainstream as those customers have vastly different reasons for buying and would therefore not be influenced by the early adopters.

Technology Adoption Life Cycle

Moore carefully charted the psychographics at work along the bell curve of technology adoption, including the Chasm where many models would falter and fail. Those of us in the business building of web-based technology solutions saw this principle in action as DotCom companies were bid up beyond any reasonable value and the bubble burst as many of them hit the wall with business models that mystified Main Street.

Technology Adoption Life Cycle

The Early Web
Right about this time, pharma marketers (Pragmatists and Conservatives generally) began to discover the internet and at first there was much talk about eMarketing but not much action beyond a few static, brochureware web pages. Medical and regulatory teams didn’t have FDA guidelines, didn’t know how to review interactive media and projects got stalled indefinitely. E-business teams were created to focus online and these folks tended to be more visionary and technology oriented than their brand counterparts, but they usually didn’t control the budgets. Scattered pockets of eDetailing pilots were launched and everyone chattered incessantly about them, but few brands got programs off the ground. Endless ROI analysis brain surgery was performed. The average brand marketer was still skeptical that their customers were going online or that their physicians used the internet.

Crossing the Chasm of Social Media
That kind of thinking sounds quaint and antiquated now and yet that’s exactly where we were on social media last year. According to the Dose of Digital Pharma and Healthcare Social Media Wiki, as of February 2009 there were five Twitter, four YouTube and one Facebook pharma initiatives. There was much groaning and gnashing of teeth at conferences about all the regulatory barriers and what couldn’t be done. And suddenly the chasm was crossed. The wiki count is now approaching 600 as pharma’s social media adoption is growing geometrically – we’re in the Tornado. The danger for us now is social media tactics in search of a strategy. Clients must have a social media presence yesterday because the competition has one.

As we help our clients innovate, the challenge is to hold our ground on bringing trust, authenticity, and value to the patient and physician conversation and make sure that we don’t get caught up in the windstorm. Your thoughts?

This post was contributed by Frieda Hernandez, Vice President of Business Development at Siren Interactive. You can connect with her on Twitter at @friedah03.

(Image courtesy of robertnyman on Flickr)

About Frieda Hernandez

Frieda leads Siren’s business development, marketing and alliance activities. She has a reputation for developing innovative marketing strategies and building mutually beneficial client partnerships with biopharmaceutical executives. She advocates for authenticity and transparency in creating trust relationships online and is an avid participant in industry conferences and social networks to stay abreast of all the current issues.

View other posts from Frieda

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