Healthcare companies including pharma are challenged with how to build relationships with physicians digitally. They have their direct marketing and, most importantly, their "detail" or sales teams who face increased scrutiny in terms of what they deliver to 'earn' doctors' attention.
Conversely, the most interesting social media innovation for physicians are private communities like Sermo that restrict how marketers can interact with the doctors in that community. How do you engage physicians onlne and in social media? And don't make the mistake of thinking your healthcare pro isn't online:
"Over 77% of online physicians used one form of social media or another to create, consume, or share medical content.
51% of online physicians forwarded useful content (eg – email, video, etc.) to a colleague".
Source – Jupiter Research, “Direct-to-Physician Online Marketing” - 2008
Deliver Useful Content
What's a marketer to do? Well, if you have a OTC product for, let's say, skincare or weight management, you might try being of-use to the doctors who serve patients with that condition. ("Skin Disorder" and "Weight Problem" are the #1 and #7 most popular health topic in social media respectively according to Forrester Research, “How Consumers Use Social Computing For Health”, 2007).
Create a Patient Insight Service from Your Listening Post Data
If you have an over the counter product, you don't need to worry about the current issues with adverse events reporting that is stiffling the use of Listening Posts by pharma. You can do what almost every marketer does today - establish a Listening Post to capture what consumers are saying publicly across social media - blogs, message boards, Twitter, Facebook, etc... - in relation to a product or topic.
If you make a skincare lotion, you will listen not just to what people say about your brand but to all the conversations that may intersect with your category and product in some way - "winter skin," "sun damage," or "skin whitening" if you are in China. These are examples of category terms. You might go broader to better understand the context of when people think and act on skincare.
You need to do this for your own efforts. It will affect your marcom effortsin may ways. Why not re-package what you learn and make that available as a service to doctors and dermatologists? You could create a valuable email update that can be delivered beyond simple email - subscribable RSS feed, mobile updates, smart phone application with update functionality (think how your CNN module delivers updates to the main screen).
You need to keep it simple. Think what we have all learned form the emails of the Obama campaign or the updates from Daily Candy - keep it short and simple. That also makes them well-suited to more mobile distribution. Here's an example of a simple insight with a related graph. I am sure given more time and analysis, these bits could become quite valuable.
Distribution and Subscription
Creating a compelling content offer is one thing, getting it to docs and derms is another. But now you would have something valuable to deliver via partnerships, your own Web sites, even your advertising could feature content nuggets that drive you back to the service. There are tons of ways to get this out there and then build up a "list" of physicians.