Bengt Mattson

The pharma news letter Pharma Online organized a conference yesterday about the use of social media within the pharma sector ("Sociala medier inom läkemedelsområdet" - join the Linkedin group with the same name and/or view comments on twitter with hashtag #lmsocmed).

Over 60 participants, mostly of course from pharmeceutical companies gathered to listen to

- Hans Kullin from Eklips (the social media guru at the conference),
- Rikard Pellas from LIF, the association of the research based pharmaceutical industry in Sweden (the expert on how to apply the LIF's ethical rules to social media),
- Elisabeth Eklund and Henrik Bengtsson from Delphi (lawyers who could explain at least what shouldn't be done...),
- Myself, describing three different experiences Pfizer have had with social media ("can you feel my pain", Dizza Tobak, and this blog), and
- Hanna Brodda, editor of Dinamediciner.se

As you can see, a fairly broad selection of speakers. But the conference would not have been as good if the audience would not have participated the way they did. Really good discussions!

Some reflections from my side include the very clear message that social media grows enormously fast, e.g. Facebook has over 800 million users today, only last year 100 billion pictures were uploaded on Facebook, and there were more than 1000 billion showings of videos on YouTube during 2011. It is difficult to really understand the huge possibilities and both positive and potentially negative consequences of this...

I have written blog posts on social media use before (see for instance the 2011 posts Oct 26 regarding Worldfavor, Oct 6 regarding some Pfizer experiences, Aug 24 on the use within health care, April 5 on stakeholder dialogue, and from 2010 Nov 24 also on stakeholder engagement). You know that my opinion is that Social media is not really something that dramatically changes what "we can and what we cannot do" when it comes to communication. The same rules apply to these communication channels as to the old ones. This was also clearly stated by both the lawyers from Delphi and by Rikard Pellas. The difference however is of course that everything is much faster: It reaches out to everyone, and everything once posted on the net seem to be there forever. So although the same rules apply our own culture and our internal guidelines for the use of social media have probably not been able to develop as fast as the social media platforms have. It was good to see LIF's guiding document how the ethical rules should be understood in the social media world (see this link for details).

Potentially due to the lack of the internal guidance documents, the pharma industry have been very careful (some would say scared and slow) in starting to use social media platforms in their communications, marketing, and CSR strategies. Some companies have however slowly started to adapt to the changing media environment and I feel proud that Pfizer is one of the leaders in the industry. See for instance our Corporate Facebook page, and follow us on http://twitter.com/pfizer. And by all means, go to the Facebook page of our initiative Can You Feel My Pain, or view some of my favourite uploaded contributions from teenagers involved in the Dizza Tobak project (for instance "Love this way to die").

So although we may feel unsecure in the new media environment, and especially how to manage issues such as reporting of adverse effects, it should be obvious for everyone that the development cannot be stopped... And if we had not understood that previosuly, I think Hanna Brodda's presentation based on her personal experiences and experiences from running the site Dinamediciner.se made it clear. Our final and most important stakeholder, i.e. the patient, have dramatically changed his/her behaviour the last years. They are out their on the social media platforms and they discuss illnesses, medicines, individual doctors, alternative treatments etc. We may not like all those things and we may disagree on several issues, but we just have to understand that it happens and we need to manage that. And yes there are several reasons to be scared of the development, but on same time there are several positive things and great opportunties with the revolution as well!

Bengt Mattson