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Social Media in the Life Sciences

This week, social media in the life sciences loomed large for me. On Monday, the April 1 issue of Genetic Engineering News arrived (late) with an article on social media by Comprendia‘s Mary Canady Ph.D. That same night, I attended the Science Writers in New York roundtable on Social Media in the Next Decade.

I’m working with a new client to launch a social learning tool. Another, is working with me to strategize the best ways to use social media to reach his target of media, investors and partners. I’m mentoring a job-seeker on the use of social media in a job search.

[Anecdotally, another client admitted they got a lead when a pharmaceutical company asked (via Twitter) if anyone had any experience with e-sampling. Their response lead to a phone call, which lead to a meeting, which lead to a pitch.]

I tweeted the Science Writer’s meeting (search for the hashtag #SWINY), so, I won’t repeat what I learned here, but I think it’s worthwhile to summarize a few key points from Dr. Canady’s article (my comments are in italics):

  • When used correctly, companies can leverage social media to build relationships for marketing, business development, and corporate/investor relations.
  • Social media tools allow us to ‘embrace a new way of thinking about how we communicate and gather information.’
  • [Social media] allows companies to strengthen their brand by developing stronger relationships with their customers and gaining more feedback from them, as more lines of dialogue are opened.
  • [Those that don't engage in social media] run the risk of spending more marketing dollars for less effect, and at the same time becoming more out of touch with customer needs. This point is especially relevant for startups. You can demonstrate your expertise, market your company through multiple channels and gain a following for (almost) free. Perhaps, this is one of the reasons why we are seeing so many startups these days.
  • [Social media] allow smaller companies to do more! I’ve been saying this for at least 4 years. Based on news or other developments in the marketplace, small companies can engage their constituents faster than large companies who might have to run everything up the food chain. This is a huge marketing advantage. Dr. Canady cites her own example in building San Diego’s Biotechnology Network (SDN) and MO BIO Labs, which runs a blog that engages scientists.
  • Social media monitoring (using tools like Google Alerts and specialized tools like Tweetdeck and Thwirl) allow companies to gain useful feedback from customers that they can respond to or use for product development.

Dr. Canady concludes her article by saying, “[Social media] is a natural progression from the ways scientific companies have communicated for decades.”

Mary also mentioned (her client) Sigma Life Sciences’s social media effort, which had 1,600 Facebook and 500 Twitter followers on the day it launched back in March. In a sidebar to her article, David Smoller, Ph.D., president of Sigma-Aldrich’s Research Biotech business was ‘designed to raise awareness of enabling technologies… [and] drive communications within the scientific community.” I’m sure other life sciences companies are watching Sigma’s efforts to see how they turn out, while others regret Sigma did it first.

During last week’s Interphex show, I asked nearly every vendor what they were doing with social media. Most of the people I spoke with said, “Nothing.” One company said they were “experimenting…” Another asked, “Does that work for business to business?”

I’d say the above examples all point to a resounding, “Yes.”

I’d also suggest you start thinking how do you make it work for your clients and target audience(s).

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  1. [...] requires writing skills. A few week’s back, I blogged about Mary Canady’s article on social media in the life sciences. In that article, she mentioned MO-BIO Laboratories, a small company that runs a blog perfectly [...]

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