Last month I wrote about how the pharma/biotech professional should begin a social media campaign, and although many professionals are engaging in the social landscape, many are not fully utilizing their accounts as tools for networking and lead generation. Instead, they’re automating posts and talking at people, not communicating with them, inviting dialogue, sharing and responding.

For the people who think social media is just a bunch of online noise, just be aware that if you’re not playing in the orchestra you’ll never get in front of your audience.

I often struggle when explaining the value of social media in a conversation with my clients. They often push past the conversation when I ask them if they use Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or Facebook to communicate with employees, customers and potential partners. Once I turn the conversation back to traditional advertising and promotion, people get comfortable in their seats again and are eager to talk about promoting their services via traditional marketing and through email campaigning as part of their lead generation strategy.

In truth, people (your target audiences) are on social media, whether it be LinkedIn, a blog, Twitter, Facebook or Google+. They are looking for that nugget of info they missed over the last day or so and it’s in this world companies must dive in and capture their attention. Email and calls traditionally must go on, but you should continue the promotion across all available communication. Social media has made lead generation strategies and the distribution of content and graphics more efficient than ever before.

My work as a lead generation specialist is often not thought of in the same context as social media, so it’s important that I make the link for them. In today’s dynamic world every avenue of communication should be nurtured and utilized to its fullest potential – and social media is that “new” tool for communication that is here to stay.

Many of this world’s brilliant scientists, laboratory researchers and CEOs are missing out on fantastic opportunities to talk and share their studies, ideologies and latest news with the writers, reporters and editors hungry for information. If you’re not online, you’re not part of the conversation. It’s as simple as that. Even if you hire a social media marketing manager to curate your tweets and posts, it’s still essential that your experts are the ones feeding the social media machine. Your tweets are only as good as the knowledge and people who provide your content.

Not every company has to apply its social media plan in the same way, but it should at least be started and maintained daily. This is the stage you should reach out for help to get started. Maybe start on LinkedIn, and then graduate to Twitter. Facebook can always wait till you have a bigger picture/story to share with a larger audience. Along the way, find companies that you admire and see how they handle their social media campaigns. Cleveland Clinic is one of my favorites and they add the human element to all they do, which I love.

It’s a misnomer that social media is merely that fun, feel good virtual place to waste time while at work, home or on-the-go. 56% of American adults are now smartphone owners (Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2013) and webinars, tweetchats and hashtags are now being used to corral the social pharma/biotech crowd, but still many companies are late to the scene.

Social media has serious financial and business potential and should be considered in any lead generation campaign. Companies like Ford, Merck and the Cleveland Clinic have laid their stake in this social ground and others in the pharma/biotech world need to get digging.

Below are some fast facts on social media to get your company on the right track to joining the conversation.

Social media is:

  • Social! It’s you interacting with actual humans who have problems you want to solve. Let’s read your blog where you talk about a problem plaguing your potential lead in preclinical. This is your chance to establish yourself as an expert, offer a (free) service like tips or advice on how to choose a CRO. Do you have regulatory experience? What do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out? What kind of experience can you offer that will help solve the problems of your potential leads?
  • Industry relevant. Let’s see some updates from you on LinkedIn with links to news about changes in FDA regulations or investments bio-pharma is making in India. According to LinkedIn’s own metrics, company status updates with links result in 45% higher engagement than updates without links.* Don’t forget to add your own intelligent analysis on the topic. After all, you’re the expert on clinic trials or scientific supporting technology. This is how you establish your credibility when your potential leads are checking you out without you knowing. It’s also how you get the attention of reporters and editors.
  • Interactive. Ask questions and expect answers. They may not come right away, but as you build a following, potential leads and clients will respond to you, which will only help grow your influence. Don’t be afraid to promote others. If you’re in device development take note of those developing new therapies. When you promote that company’s efforts, that drug developer is going to include your social media updates in their feed, giving you the chance to make their followers, your followers.

Without delivering a hard sell, you can use social media to generate more leads. Here’s how:

  • Establish yourself as an expert and show your relevance in the market.
  • Clearly communicate how you can make your prospects’ lives better and their products stronger.
  • Get them thinking about where they should be focused to increase their revenues.
  • Gather information about your prospects’ needs, problems and interests.
  • Speak to those challenges with relevant, helpful content.

If you’re just starting out don’t overwhelm yourself by starting the company blog, taking over the Twitter feed and the LinkedIn page. Start off with your own LinkedIn page and start posting one news link a day with your one sentence analysis on the topic (Remember that stat on how links boost LinkedIn engagement by 45%?).

As you see your connections, interact with your links and you will organically grow your audience (and your confidence). Pretty soon you’ll start to see more interaction, which will naturally grow into more leads and conversations.

Social media, when done right, has classic business and sales roots by building a network of leads and nurturing them through personal social interaction. If you actively use the channels available, you are harnessing an opportunity to deliver your message to more clients, in more ways, more often.

*LinkedIn US survey based Follower report, Jan 2012 and LinkedIn member surveys, Jan/Feb 2012

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