Enterprise 2.0: where to begin (part 1 – does your boss know social media?)

René van den Bos


Social Media in pharma, it still a hot topic and main subject of most of the marketing and communication conferences that I attend. And like in any industry, and with every innovation, some brave pioneers try to cross the borders and push the limits. Take Marc Monseau, John Pugh and Alex Butler who started to explore Twitter on behalf of their employers Johnson and Johnson, Boerhringer Ingelheim and Janssen-Cilag. Take the JNJHealth channel, Bayer’s InBedStory series and Janssen’s Living with ADHD campaign on YouTube. Take Facebook initiatives by Pfizer. All of which are grassroots initiatives to test the social media waters. And these aren’t all.

But where is the pharma industry really when talking about using and implementing social media? Does pharma really understand it? Is it mostly useful as a marketing tool? Or does pharma know how to live social media?

One thing is clear, social media has become a major channel for the consumer, for the patient and for the doctor. But pharma still struggles how to get involved – bound by regulations, afraid of mention of adverse events and scared of patients (and doctors) talking directly to us – pharma hold themselves back from this high visibility that social media provides. Even the FDA has no clue how to deal with it, referring to the radio-silence since the public hearing in November 2009.


“If Twitter is just useless twitter, why does it have close to 200 million users?”

That’s not all. That’s just finger-pointing to the outside world, referring to influences we do not control. But when looking in the mirror, what do we see? We see enthusiastic and passionate marketeers and communication specialists, eager to explore the great opportunities of social media. And we see the thick brick walls they encounter on their way to the decision making units, the boards of management, the legal departments and regulatory affairs. What’s the benefit of getting involved? Where is the ROI? What positive impact could it have in our business?

The opportunities are beyond their imagination. But in order to get that message across, we need to convince them of a few things. So let them know the following:

Unaware makes ignorant

It starts with understanding what’s happening around us. If Twitter is just useless twitter, why does it have close to 200 million users? Why are almost 600 million people using Facebook? Understanding social media starts with becoming aware of what it actually is, why it is so big and why it has such impact. As said, we as marketeers and communication professionals are aware, sure. But what about our managers, our board, our lawyers? Force them in a room, lock the door for half a day, explain to them and they will leave the room enlightened.

Control lives in Utopia

One thing that you need to let go immediately in social media is control. There is no control. You cannot control what your customers, your patients and your doctor say and think of you. You cannot control the response to the message you send out. What you can control is your interest in them, your care and how you may be able to help them. Your products and services are there for them and not the other way around. Connect, build up a dialogue and offer help to make their lives better. Don’t push, don’t sell, but listen and respond.


“You cannot control what your customers, your patients and your doctor say and think of you.”


Think before you act

I know, it’s very tempting. Once you see the power of social media, the urge is to start working with it as soon as possible. But beware, first understand where your customers are, how they use social and new media, then think about how to get involved, make a plan and only then think about the technology. Take the POST approach: People. Objectives, Strategy and Technology.

Learn by mistakes

You cannot learn without making mistakes. So when you start using social media, allow people to make mistakes. Learn from them. Making mistakes makes you better at things.

Start in shallow water

But making mistakes in social media can have serious effects. So, when you immediately start in the ‘big bad world’ outside, anything you do is visible to anyone. And that can be potentially harmful, even if it’s unintended. It’s the same with swimming: if you jump in the deep, chances you’ll drown are high. Therefore you learn it in shallow water. So, why not start experimenting with social media in a safe environment? Why not start using it internally, within your own organization? With that you kill at least seven birds in one stone:

• it improves internal communication

• it improves internal collaboration

• it stimulates innovation

• it leads to knowledge sharing and retention

• it increases productivity and efficiency

• it leads to higher motivated people

• it’s fun

Meanwhile, you learn how social media works (and that’s bird number eight).

This is what we call Enterprise 2.0: Social Computing in a business environment. A necessity for any company that wants to lead by innovation, that wants to attract talent and keep them inside, that wants to share and retain knowledge and harvest the potential that’s within the organization.


“Don’t push, don’t sell, but listen and respond.”

Most of you are probably familiar with all of this. But again, what about the layer above? What about the managers that make the decisions? Are they aware? Do they realize that standstill is regression? That it’s a form of ‘ostrich politics’? There are always higher priorities, so there is no reason to postpone the experiment. And if you do, then tomorrow, while taking your head out of the sand, you feel as if you’ve been left behind in the Stone Age.

In the coming months we will publish various articles on Enterprise 2.0. How do you start? What are the requirements, the do’s and don’ts, the pitfalls and the opportunities. How do you manage your community and more.

In case you have specific questions or experiences you’d like to share, please feel free to leave a comment.

Part 2 of this series will be published on 10th May 2011

About the author:

René van den Bos is a New Media Architect, specialized in Enterprise 2.0, a video-producer and co-founder of DigiRedo. René is a trained veterinarian with experience in private practice and the pharmaceutical industry. With DigiRedo, René advises organizations how digital media, including new and social media, can improve communications, both internal and external. His philosophy is clear: listening, interaction, authenticity and an open mind for feedback are essential for effective communication.

René is an enthusiastic trainer and passionate speaker. He regularly speaks at conferences and corporate meetings. René is a blogger on his own blog at DigiRedo, but also on Marketingfacts, the leading online marketing blog in The Netherlands. René lives in Utrecht on a houseboat with Marcela and their son Felipe. You can follow him on Twitter.

What’s your experience of Enterprise 2.0?