November 17, 2010

YDMV Writes Stuffy

I'm in a grad school class and this week the task was in part a discussion of social media and Roch's social media guidelines.  Awesome - I get to write stuffy prose and to stick friend in footnotes. That's just strange. Here's a draft.

“Like a 7th grade dance.”

Individuals comparing the aches and pains of health experiences surely goes back prior to recorded history. In that sense the use of social media for health care dialogs is an extension of long common conversations into new technology. As Boulos et al more formally state, “Web 2.0 and its conceptual underpinnings do not indicate a sharp break with the old but, rather, the gradual emergence of a new type of practice that is evolution rather than revolution.”1 Roche’s guidelines for social media reflect this stating that social media’s, “basic aspect remains constant and is similar to traditional ways of communication: to engage in dialogue, provide and exchange information, and build understanding.”

Roche published their guidelines in August 2010. By that time Roche had sponsored two summits directly engaging health care social media writers. I was a participant at both events. Todd Siesky, Roche Public Relations Manager presented a case study on those summits at the Healthcare Social Communication Leadership Forum September 23, 2010. On a presentation slide titled “Your gonna need a bigger boat,” he states that the June 2010 event generated 50,000 Impressions with a reach of 1.25 million readers.2

To achieve those results Roche practiced some of the key behaviors they later codified in their guidelines. Among this was a long term approach. Their guidelines state, “Engaging in social media is not a one-off activity.”3 and “commit to follow-up over a longer period of time.” At the first event the initial interaction of social media and Roche was described by Dan Kane, Roche VP Marketing as being, “Like a 7th grade dance with the boys and girls awkwardly sitting on opposite sides of the room.”4 Before Roche could earn the impressions and readers that Siesky wrote of they needed to earn the trust of social media participants. In part this has been accomplished by investing time to stay engaged. For example Roche host quarterly phone calls with the summit participants.

Siesky’s presentation at the Healthcare Social Communication Leadership Forum lists the lesson Roche learned at the first summit including:
• Enter with valuable information
• Don’t only talk about yourself
• Be transparent and honest
• Keep it real
• Actively advocate for the patient community
• Help the community amplify its voice

A weekly Twitter chat for people living with diabetes takes place under the hash tag #dsma for Diabetes Social Media. The chat averages 100 participant weekly, a few of who were attendees of the Roche Summits. A recent chat focused on pharma participation in social media. Participants stressed that pharma needs to approach social media as a two way process, to listen and and respond not simply push product. Roche was repeatedly cited as a company who was participating in social media the right way. Said one post, “I've learned from Roche, and I know they've learned from us. I respect their efforts.”5

Beyond the the summits Roche has stayed engaged with social media. In doing so they found opportunities to work with the patient community. A specific case in point is the Big Blue Test video at It was produced by Manny Hernandez of the Diabetes Hands Foundation, David Edelman of and Riva Greenberg, from and Huffington Post. All attendees at the Roche summits.

Greenburg wrote, “For every view the video receives Roche is making a donation to assist the Life for a Child program and Insulin for Life. With 100,000 views, Roche will give the Foundation its largest donation - $75,000.”6 The video received over 100,000 views by the deadline adding to the impressions and reach Siesky cited above. 

In “The ROI of Social Media Is Still Zero,” Augustine Fou says,”Social media is not media - people’s conversations cannot be purchases, nor should they be purchases.”7 That is a issue for participant at the Roche summits who are deeply concerned about being seen as selling out. Most feel that being transparent is a key part of maintaining credibility. A Google search of Roche Social Media Summit returns 75,000 pages. The first dozen pages of the google search are dominated with blog entries about the summit in part to provide that transparency and in doing so providing reach and credibility to Roche’s efforts.

I suspect that as the dance between social media writers and pharma continues Fou will be proven wrong about the ROI of Social Media. It is not zero.

Full disclosure: I participate in Roche’s Social Media Summits. I join their quarterly Social Media calls. I actively supporte the Big Blue Video campaign with twitter messages and Blog post at and here

1 Kamel Boulos, M. N. and Wheeler, S. (2007), The emerging Web 2.0 social software: an enabling suite of sociable technologies in health and health care education. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 24: 2–23. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-1842.2007.00701.x
2 Siesky, Todd A. "Healthcare Social Communications Leadership Forum." Web. 17 Nov. 2010.
3 "Roche and Social Media." Roche - We Innovate Healthcare. Aug. 2010. Web. 17 Nov. 2010.
4 Mendosa, David. "Roche’s Social Media Summit." Diabetes Developments. 24 July 2009. Web. 17 Nov. 2010.
5 Thill, Lee Ann, “#DSAM Chat November 4” Twitter Web.
6 Greenburg, Riva. “Save a Child in Less Than Two Minutes.” the Huffington Post. 3 November 2010. Web. 3 November 2010.
7 Fou, Augustine. “The ROI of Social Media Is Still Zero.” ClikZ 14 October 2010, Web. 14 November 2010

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