In The Year 2018: Planning Your Marketing For The Next Seven Years (Sort Of)

On Aug, 15, Facebook rolled out a significant change to its platform that many thought would be the death knell of pharmaceutical Facebook pages. Until that point, Facebook allowed pharmaceutical companies to disable commenting on their pages through a "whitelisting" process. In a reverse of course, Facebook now only allows that functionality for pages that are solely dedicated to a drug -- no exceptions.

Leading up to the change, many thought this would spell the end of Facebook engagement for pharma. While some did flee the platform, most stayed the course and remained. (For a complete list of which pharma pages remained active after the Facebook policy change, check out my colleague Matt Snodgrass' blog post and Google Doc.)

The panic that ensued put on display an interesting problem -- far too many people are still focusing on the channel. That will get you into trouble in a big way. It's not about the channel; it's about the content. It's not about the platform; it's about the underlying principles that are driving the need for the platform.



If companies had jumped into Facebook because they were looking to engage with patients, provide a forum for feedback and embrace the shifts in today's communications landscape, the changes would have been a mere blip on the radar. Yet for some, Facebook is nothing more than an extension of their Website. That's not embracing change; it's extending the old way of doing things to new channels.

There is no guarantee that platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will continue to dominate five years from now. Focusing on developing strategies around the platform is a path to irrelevance. Instead, build strategies around the driving forces of these platforms: the consumer's need to connect directly with brands, the desire for relationship building as opposed to an adversarial relationship and the demands of transparency. These are the pillars that are supporting the explosion of social networks.

I was recently watching "Meet the Press" and Thomas Friedman, the author of The World is Flat, talked about the idea of connectivity in today's global business environment. He wrote the book in 2004 and contends that we have since moved into a world of hyperconnectivity. Think about it: when Friedman wrote his book, Facebook was just emerging on college campuses, Twitter didn't exist and LinkedIn was just getting off the ground.

That was only seven years ago and each of those are now well-established platforms. If we were connected 2004 without those platforms -- we are certainly hyperconnected now. In 2018, we will undoubtedly be clamoring about something that hasn't even been dreamed up yet. But 2018 won't look as different as one might expect because the driving forces will remain the same. Start worrying about why these platforms are so popular and forget about which ones.

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