Strategy Setting: A Cautionary Tale

In the not-so-distant past, it wasn't uncommon for a healthcare marketer to embark on a social media journey without an ounce of strategy. This doomed approach was part bandwagon jumping, part ignorance and part skepticism. Fast forward, and the landscape has changed dramatically. More pharmaceutical marketers are starting to realize the benefits of social media, and they are incorporating strategy setting into the process.

However, there's a cautionary tale here: often times, planning is confused with strategy. Establishing a strategy with clear, well-defined and measurable objectives is far different than planning. The planning process certainly involves setting a strategy, but most of it entails laying out the tactical steps needed to reach the desired objective.

Confusing planning with strategy causes many marketers to take a "platform approach" to social media. It's a natural tendency. When you think social media, you think Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, YouTube, etc. As a result, many marketers approach strategy setting by platform -- "what's our strategy on Facebook?" This isn't all bad. Platforms should be approached in different ways -- blanket strategies fall flat in social media. But it's important to remember that Facebook alone is not a strategy. Social media platforms can be thought of as conversation facilitators. As I've said before: conversation and content are the currency of social media.



Moving forward, when you sit down to formulate a social media strategy, resist the temptation to blurt out statements like: "our social media strategy is Twitter." Instead, start with questions such as:

  • Who is our intended community? Does it already congregate online or does it need a gathering place?
  • What are we trying to achieve? Will our presence be welcome and is there an information gap for this community?
  • What can we bring to the table that this community does not have access to currently?
  • Do we have the content, resources and commitment to achieve sustainable success?
  • How will our efforts help the patient? The caregiver? The physician?

Admittedly, this is an incomplete list. But the idea is this: change your frame of thinking when developing a pharmaceutical social media strategy. If marketers continue to mistake planning with strategy, social media professionals will never have a seat at the table with key decision makers.

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