My GP has a mug on his desk that says ‘please don’t confuse your Google search with my medical degree’. People are more information hungry than ever, and when faced with a health problem the first instinct is to google it, just like everything else. We are used to finding everything at our fingertips, and being able to converse on any topic at any time.

So there’s a huge health conversation online, but the pharma industry is still largely absent from it, with only a few cases of pharma companies using social channels well. Why? Primarily a lack of confidence in how to manage social media without getting into trouble. But social media isn’t about selling drugs, it’s about having conversations. So surely we can get over this by now?

In the time pharma has been twiddling its thumbs, the social media universe has become much more sophisticated. The longer they’ve been absent, the harder it is has become to jump on board. It’s not about throwing out the odd tweet here and there, a social presence needs to be well considered, and the goals and objectives need to be realistic and defined.

In the end, it’s about being human. Approachable and interested rather than aloof and unreachable. It’s about having a conversation and allowing people to get to know you, engage with you, and to engage with them in return. It means you need to understand who you are talking to, and what they want or need to hear. It definitely takes commitment – if you’re going to do it you need to be confident you’re going to do it properly – which, I suspect, is why so many still haven’t taken the plunge.

Creating a connection with people you’ve never met is normal now, and it’s easy to assume that anyone who isn’t ‘out there’ simply doesn’t care enough to bother. They’re antisocial. The pharma industry has played a significant but silent role in people’s lives for a very long time, and now we have the chance to strike up a conversation. Let’s take it.

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