Will social media work to connect with patients?

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Remember what happened with websites in the 1990s? It seemed as if corporate marketing went from “Exactly how do they work?” to “Wow, we gotta have one,” overnight. Perhaps the same thing is happening today with regard to the hot topic in marketing, social media.

By my count, almost every brand marketer is under pressure to use the social media channel as part of a marketing strategy. Everyone is “buzzing” about Web 2.0 and customer engagement and no one wants to be left out. 

How does your company decide what to do? Here are three principles worth consideration:

Start with the basics—Brands should not have a Facebook strategy, a Twitter strategy or even a Social Media strategy per se. Instead, they should have a clear, well-articulated marketing strategy which might include any of these tactics to deliver the right message to the right target at the right time in the right way. (Yes, Marketing 101 still rules no matter how many people are watching more YouTube than NBC or CBS.)

Focus on your audience—Social media audiences do not go to social media sites to be hyped, pitched, prodded or promotized (yes, that's a made-up word). They go to connect—with friends, with acquaintances, with topics that interest them. The way to their hearts and wallets (eventually) has to be based on appealing to their individual interests. Luckily for pharma marketers, health is a huge interest. And remember, people over the age of 55 are a fast-growing group in social media.

Patients do the talking—When Hologic created the Voices of MammoSite social media campaign, we figuratively handed the microphone to our volunteers. They talked to recently diagnosed breast cancer patients all across the country, sharing experiences, answering questions, spreading hope. We engaged with them around a topic which galvanized them to action: making sure that women everywhere know their options in breast cancer therapy.
They spoke more eloquently, and more credibly, than the best corporate marketer you could name. And they spoke directly to those women who most needed to learn about MammoSite therapy.

Social media isn't mass media: it's “we, the media.” 

Marketing will never be the same again and it's time to decide how to engage, change and get involved.

Mary Pietrowski is director of marketing at Hologic, Inc.

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