It is not enough to stare up the steps – we must step up the stairs

“It is not enough to stare up the steps – we must step up the stairs.” (Dr. Vance Havner) was the opening quote of the EphMRA 2011 Conference program. Sitting in Basel, the Swiss city hosting the 50th Anniversary edition, I get curious about Dr. Havner and I ask Dr. Google who he is or who he was.
The late Doctor Havner was a very religious man and his website includes a section with more of the man’s catching quotes. One we liked a lot: “What do you think of civilization?” “I think it’s a good idea. Why doesn’t someone start it?”
Well, more than one day far in the Conference, there are only 5 tweets online that are tagged with #EphMRA. So there’s a clear need for our industry to step up the digital stairs and clear the way for social media research in the broader health scape. And that is exactly why we are invited here.
Burdened by temperatures of more than 35°C, we were happy to start our first Masterclass on the role of Social Media in pharmaceutical research in the “Sydney” room of the Convention Centre Messe (which we would definitely recommend) on Monday (June 27th).
“1.800.000 visitors on Wikipedia a day; the fastest growing online segment is 55+; more than 60% of consumers is willing to give product development input for the brands they like; 2.500 people liking the new Disney blog the first hour after its launch…” Annelies Verhaeghe puts social media research in pharma in a broader context – as patients, HCPs, and also pharma researchers are most of the time also consumers (!), and this is clearly refreshing.
The workshop participants are also very enthusiast about the practical exercises to support the social media ethnography part of the course. Small groups team up to interpret pictures. Conclusion: no beer in the fridge + yoghurts for kids = a single mum. Common sense is indeed important, but rules of thumb for analyzing visual ethnographic stimuli are clearly required to avoid researcher’s bias. What is central in the photo? Where are the similarities between the images? What can we deduct from the context? Sarah Pink will probably sell some more books the coming days. We should probably consider charging a referral fee. 🙂
The second day we intend to start early (08.30AM), but the first Conference party was clearly a fact (apparently WorldOne is to ‘blame’). 15 minutes (and 3 coffees) later, drop wise 35 people make it into the room. Annelies will introduce Social Media Netnography after I, Magali, further rouse them with a Health Study crash course, setting everyone on the same knowledge level.
83% of consumers have already used the internet for health related searches, Wikipedia is the key source of information (pharma has to step up here as well), 48% is ready interested in consulting a doctor online, 33% of online patients read about the condition in online communities, and 62% is part of social networks. And it is not only the young!
Annelies’ Award Winning ESOMAR paper on aging “And they lived happily ever after” – that was also here in Switzerland, is a story the room can relate with a lot and it clearly shows the added value of Social Media Netnography in the broader neo-observational research method portfolio. It is also a good example to tackle the concerns of the pharmaceutical researchers attending. How can you scope the project management? How do you deal with the ethical concerns? Does pharma generate sufficient relevant conversation volumes? What is the authenticity of the data? How representative is social media content? How do you make results actionable? And – off course, how to apply the Code of Conduct and deal with AE reporting doing such studies?
But probably again the out-of-the-box examples – like the Danone waterworld case, were most captivating and surprisingly easily translated into product optimization of auto-injectable devices, inhalers, and more. We truly hope we inspired the audience not only to fill out the paper and pencil evaluation forms (important!), but next time they’ll also tweet about their Masterclass experience. In the meanwhile, we will J

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