Social networking docs write more scripts: eMarketing

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Physicians involved in social networking communities online tend to write many more prescriptions than other physicians, according to a presentation given yesterday at CBI's 8th annual Forum on eMarketing.

Even so, Craig Edfort, senior manager, e-marketing, relationship marketing, strategic business development at Novo Nordisk, said that “selling management without hard ROI is a difficult task,” so digital marketers must be prepared to justify paid executions in the social networking realm. Edfort added that Sermo, the largest online physicians' network, is “allow[ing] pharma to participate in a very structured role.”

Also, physicians that currently use social networks, or are interested in doing so, are primarily men, explained Bonnie Southcott, interactive producer at Toolhouse Design Company.

Of the physicians using social networks, 68% are male and 32% are female. Seventy percent of male physicians say they are interested in using social networks, compared with 24% of females, said Southcott. Incidentally, podcasts audiences are currently skewing toward young men, noted Southcott.

In a separate panel, Thomas McDonnell, director of marketing for Shire's ADHD treatment Intuniv, acknowledged the importance of social networks for physicians, but said that pharma should not be providing the networks themselves. “I don't think it's a business proposition for pharma,” said McDonnell. “It's not our role to provide that forum. Our role isn't necessarily to facilitate the conversation [between doctors]. We listen to it, but we should be making sure that physicians have top quality information.”

Glen Butcher, director, global online channel strategies at Merck, agreed with McDonnell, and emphasized the importance of offline support, in the form of accurate, up-to-date drug information.

CBI's eMarketing Forum was held in Princeton, New Jersey, March 10-11.

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