Pharma social media scan: and hitherto I pledge thee my troth…

Emma D’Arcy

Complete Digital

You may have noticed that there’s been a wedding in the UK since I last blogged. Wedding fever wasn’t limited to the islands, however, but a melee of magic before, during and after the event gathered and gripped a global audience. And for a few hours there was a uniting event that melded a community not separated by borders, language nor difference in beliefs. We waved a sort-of collective ‘good luck’ flag, a global community spirit soared.

So how did this community spirit come about and what activities underpinned it? At Complete Digital Towers we’re asked over and again – “What makes a good social media community”. And it is an exasperating question because HCP communities like all relationships are dependent on the personalities of the individuals and the pledges they make to staying true to one-another. There is no surprise that community and commitment share the same first four letters. So I thought I’d examine and compare the makings of a good community with the troths pledged in the forming of the smallest community of all – the marriage of two individuals – and also give some thoughts from the pulpit about what mistakes pharma might make if they don’t value or stick to these vows…

 

“…it is an exasperating question because HCP communities like all relationships are dependent on the personalities of the individuals…”

 

To love…

The best communities are bound by raw emotion – an authentic, simple, limitless and requited adoration for the subject matter / intention / knowledge sharing basis for establishing in the community itself. It is that ‘love at first sight’ criteria of basic attraction that forms the strongest of communities. Often pharma-originated / sponsored sites fail to appreciate how strong this emotion runs for patients / physicians about the condition they live with / manage and industry needs to consider the words of Laurie Lee about love when building or participating in community sites – “No pair of lovers, like no two snowflakes are ever the same”. This highlights the importance of the courtship phase for pharma – get to know all the foibles, fears and fallibilities of your community partners as well as how good the relationship might look before you elope or before you find yourself citing ‘irreconcilable differences’!

To cherish…

Inasmuch as cherish is a verb, participation in a community is highly active – it requires input, adaption, maturity as its participants experience and use the site. This comes in the form of provision of a treasury of tools that bypasses passivity. A site that is just about information with no options for participation is not a community but a repository. And when pharma ‘creates’ communities where the dialogue is one-way it actually creates an online book that will just gather dust on a virtual shelf. Actively cherishing is transformative for both parties and respects the need to frequently update, review value and generate excitement again about future possibilities. Sites with trackers and tools spark creativity and cherish that change is crucial.

 

“…when pharma ‘creates’ communities where the dialogue is one-way it actually creates an online book that will just gather dust on a virtual shelf.…”

 

To obey…

There are principles of engagement, clearly expressed that will be adhered to – such as appropriate behaviours, user-generated contribution, sharing with others. And then there are the regulations. In the traditional marriage ceremony we hear that if one person agrees to obey then the other reciprocates with an agreement to worship. What is the SoMe corollary of that? If we have to obey the restrictions that the authorities impose then it is necessary for these authorities to at least show signs of liking the medium rather than ignoring its attraction to the 3 million global HCP site participants?

How then might we adapt these relationship vows into ‘Rules of engagement’ in the digital setting to build a community. I volunteer the following as a ‘Good Relationship Practice’ (perhaps the founding of a GPP in the SoMe apace…):

A good community will have the mechanisms to enable members to connect, collaborate and make a contribution to the underlying intent of the specific community. So the vows might be:

To connect…

The community will facilitate peer-to-peer engagements and also provide ways that people can learn from the leaders in the field.

To collaborate…

The community will encourage activities between peers that have a direct impact on how members perform outside the online setting – so ways to improve practices, accelerate development – transformative behaviours.

To contribute…

Perhaps the most important SoMe vow of all – because valuable contributions in any community come from faith that there is transparency and good intent in what that contribution may achieve.

Next time – I’ll apply these vows to some of the pharma communities that are running and see if and how these sites have made it from ceremony to golden anniversary.

About the author:

Emma D’Arcy is a Senior Consult (Physician and Patient Channels) at Complete Digital. For more information please visit www.complete-digital.com.

What do you think makes a good social media community?