Obama And Social Media


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Obama And Social Media

  1. 1. Obama’s successful use of social media; lessons for Pharma Rebecca Crouch, August 2009 As our consumer counterparts eagerly lap up the bountiful offerings web 2.0 (social networking orientated internet) has to offer, there is no need for Pharma to shy away in the corner. Gone are the days of awkwardly navigated websites (web 1.0), and here to stay are the second generation of internet-based services facilitating communication; inviting people to collaborate and share information through a plethora of social networking, wikis and communication tools. The truth is that social media, which can take many different forms including blogs and micro-blogging (blogger and Twitter), and social networking (Facebook and MySpace), can be used as valuable marketing and PR tools and there is no reason why healthcare communications cannot jump on the bandwagon. Consumers are talking about our clients and their brands, and it is essential that we become involved in these conversations. The longer we take to engage in these media platforms the larger the risk we take in becoming sidelined. Obama: the rise of a social media hero The biggest success story of recent times is of Barack Obama and how his integrated ‘in line’ communications strategy of both off-line and on-line media, helped to win his place in the White House. Where as previously, it would have been thought that social networking sites were no place for politicians, Obama and his team proved sceptics wrong. By creating an online presence on an array of social networks, Obama managed to widen his audience outreach by tapping into these online communities, across a wider social landscape. The American public was already using these online arenas, not only to discuss Obama’s policies and campaigns, but to also tune in to watch his rallies and speeches. The public were looking for information, actively searching for it, so the Obama campaign team needed only to make sure it was readily available on the platforms
  2. 2. voters were searching on – social networking media. By engaging them through sites like Facebook1, Twitter2 and YouTube3, Obama managed to encourage and empower these new found advocates, using these channels not just to talk to supporters but to listen to them as well, responding to concerns and queries, and also as a means of crisis management. By using the fact-checking microsite www.fightthesmears.com4, Obama was able to clarify policy specifics and opinions, allowing potential voters to check their facts. This enabled Team Obama to manage negative messages quickly and effectively. Social media provided a platform that allowed Obama to seek out potential brand advocates easily, in places where they were already discussing his policies in a positive way, and foster their support into active campaigning on his behalf. It also provided the ideal platform to engage and tackle any criticisms, to listen and make changes. With over 2 million supporters on Facebook and 200,000 followers on Twitter, not to mention the vast number of other supporters in other social media, Obama was able to reach a previously under-exploited portion of the electorate: the under 30’s. A combination of positive brand management and active engagement with the electorate through social media enabled Obama to reach a demographic usually left out of the political process, and who ultimately won him the election. Lesson’s for Pharma The first lesson about social media is that it must not be viewed as a direct revenue driving tool, but as a brand building and opinion management tool. Social media is a way of building online advocacy and brand image and this is where Pharma is falling behind the curve. As Pharma cannot enter a traditional product-to-consumer dialogue (due to MHRA and ABPI regulation), social media could be used to talk openly about specific health issues – risks, prevention and treatments – to raise awareness and educate the public about specific risks, which would help to build a positive brand identity and public image. And in fact, there are some pioneers out there already doing it. Johnson & Johnson’s Marc Monseau has launched Facebook pages5, YouTube Channels6 and blogs7; GlaxoSmithKline have created a ‘More than Medicines’ blog8 and
  3. 3. Twitter account9, stating that they are ‘uninterested in promoting brands and instead [wish to] create conversation around issues facing the healthcare industry in the USA.’ It is important for this to be done openly and in a way that is not perceived as being directly beneficial to the company (e.g only discussing illnesses which you market the treatment/prevention for). Bloggers will see through this immediately, leading to negative PR that spreads quickly online. An example of this is the Twitter feed sponsored by Novo Nordisk, racewithinsulin10. Fronted by Charlie Kimball, a type 1 diabetic, F1 racer and user of Levemir (an insulin detemir) – racewithinsulin was both a risky and brave step for Novo Nordisk to take. It has been greeted by the world of science bloggers with open arms by some and controversy regarding transparency and issues around promotion by others. Although Kimball is said to have ownership of the account, with now more than 500 followers, racewithinsulin follows no one and remains alone; the account is certainly creating noise in the Pharma forums and making an impact by creating some interesting debates and discussions. Consumers are increasingly reliant on accessing information from both on- and off-line platforms and the rise of web 2.0 means that social media has become an integral part of this. Although the social media landscape continues to evolve, the importance of digital reputation and the power of online communities should not be underestimated. It should be welcomed as a means to communicate with key audiences and influencer groups. In an industry based on targeting specific audience groups in exciting and innovative ways, PR practitioners working in Pharma communications would be foolish to ignore the Obama success story. Rather, they should be welcoming J&J, GSKs and even Novo Nordisk’s efforts. ENDS For further information on this, or any other healthcare communications programme, please contact James Harper on james@athenamedicalpr.com
  4. 4. 1 http://www.facebook.com/barackobama 2 http://twitter.com/BARACKOBAMA 3 http://www.youtube.com/barackobama 4 www.fightthesmears.com 5 http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=48741164570 6 http://www.youtube.com/user/JNJhealth 7 http://jnjbtw.com/ 8 http://www.morethanmedicine.us.gsk.com/blog/ 9 http://twitter.com/gskus 10 http://twitter.com/RaceWithInsulin