Jinfo BlogInfluence: where next for industry on the social web?

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By Dr Andrew Spong

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Abstract

Social media are tools which facilitate the conversations that matter most to you – and, by the way, you are part of conversation. If you are not part of the conversation then there is no need for you to be using social media except if you want to tick that box on your marketing strategy – tick, we have Twitter and FaceBook accounts. So what – owning those accounts is easy, it is what you will do with those accounts and where you will exert influence that matters.

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Social media are tools which facilitate the conversations that matter most to you – and, by the way, you are part of conversation. If you are not part of the conversation then there is no need for you to be using social media except if you want to tick that box on your marketing strategy – tick, we have Twitter and FaceBook accounts. So what – owning those accounts is easy, it is what you will do with those accounts and where you will exert influence that matters.

The number of followers you have on social media is no longer impressive, but rather it is your level of sociality and levels of trust in your opinions that count.

I have just returned from DigiPharm where the power of influence in the social world was one of the main themes of the conference for this digital content event. This month Andrew Spong contributes a snapshot of the ideas around influence and some metrics tools such as PeerIndex and Klout.

-- Joanna Ptolomey, Use Contributing Editor

 

The past five years have marked what may be described as a social turn for enterprise. The emergence of social technologies such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have encouraged both users and companies themselves to perceive the relationship between vendor and customer as being characterised by discourse rather than pronouncement. Two way communications designed to elicit a response, and thereby nurture both interaction and interest, are replacing broadcast messages intended to do little more than provoke a reaction or make an impression.

This reorientation has proven to be less daunting for consumer brands than for heavily regulated industries such as financial and legal service providers and the pharmaceutical industry. The latter in particular is only reluctantly laying aside its desire to control the pitch and tone of the messages associated with its products. However, the pharmaceutical industry is coming to acknowledge that, regardless of whether it elects to participate in the conversations that take place across the social web regarding both its drugs and its reputation, the dialogue will continue with or without them.

Consequently, it has become commonplace for those who advocate pharmaceutical industry engagement to propose that the most effective way for companies to manage their online profile, and develop the sort of engagement with communities of interest that they desire, is to be proactive within social environments. Issues remain regarding the supplanting of promotional messages with appropriate, approvable information and educational content that respect new media etiquette and user expectations. Whilst some companies have made an unsure start, others are beginning to gain credentials at least in part as social businesses. The growing roster of pharma industry presences on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube with comments enabled speak of the leading industry participants' commitment to availing themselves of the opportunities that the social web presents to strengthen existing relationships and build new ones. (See the Digital Pharma Directory for more detail.)

In the interim, however, the social web continues to evolve and the regulated industries’ journey through the social web is far from over. New challenges emerge on a regular basis, the latest of which resides in the form of influence metrics. Startups such as Klout and PeerIndex aspire to provide reliable measures of influence and authority which they represent in a number of novel ways, but which are ultimately expressed numerically.

Whilst these measures may appear superficial, as social networks expand and attention becomes ever more diffuse and attenuated, so simple, trustworthy sources of ranking and rating sources of information may come to augment peer recommendation and the serendipity of individual user search. From a healthcare perspective, as the conversational economy develops and social business evolves, patients and consumers alike continue to seek authoritative assessments of the reliability and quality of the publishers of the information they encounter. Few pharmaceutical and life sciences companies have registered their profiles with influence and authority metrics to date. However, regardless of what they actually measure, if rating services such as PeerIndex and Klout come to be perceived as reliable indicators of influence and authority then the ratings they provide have the potential to affect patient, consumer, healthcare professional, and even investor perceptions of pharma through their synecdochal “big number” assessments.

In much the same way as it has become a staple of social media guidance to the industry to observe that conversations take place on the social web whether enterprises elect to be a part of them or not, so platforms such as Klout and PeerIndex are rating the influence of pharma companies whether they elect to create and maintain accounts on them or to ignore them entirely. As this realisation spreads through regulated industries, it is to be anticipated that pharmaceutical companies will begin to take an active interest in the curation and cultivation of their presences on these platforms, and turn their attention to the ways in which the content that they publish, and the manner in which they deport themselves on the social web, impacts upon their ratings.

Additional reading

Pharma Influence: Tactics and Metrics for Klout and PeerIndex by Andrew Spong, September 2011

Fumsi Report: Folio on social media for research: http://web.freepint.com/go/shop/report/1891

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