The Second Annual Digital Pharma ExL Conference began today at Bayer-Schering headquarters in Berlin, Germany. It has been a great experience for me to see where Europe is compared to the U.S. and I hope to share that in postings that get put up here on Eye on FDA this week.
During the first day, there was a very good morning presentation from Roche's Sabine Kostevc, the Basel, Switzerland Head of Corporate Internet and Social Media (Twitter feed @skoko) who tweets for roche (@Roche_com) was great and informative to see how a global company has considered and proceeded. Her presentation was bifurcated – part one was a discussion about the important role of the Web site in reaching consumers and part two was about their experience with the @Roche_com Twitter feed.
First, Sabine took time to remind the audience that the Web site is something that should not be forgotten. She stated that many tend to expect that social media has presented a kind of "if you build it, they will come" mentality among many who are then shocked when they create a social media tool and find that people may not be terribly interested. But in fact, she stressed, there are a lot of people who have indicated an interest in your company – they are the people who come to your Web site and that means that there is already a built in audience where you can engage patients, rather than necessarily creating new vehicles for doing so. Therefore, engagement with patients might in some circumstances be more appropriate to house within the context of the Web site. It was a compelling point of view. She was not advocating that company Web sites replace social media efforts, but stressing that as a tool, it shouldn't be forgotten.
She then shifted her comments to Twitter. She handles the Roche twitter feed out of Basel which now has 3308 followers (as of March 29) and is listed on 273 Twitter lists (one of them on Eye on FDA!). She had some interesting insights, including the fact that when Roche began tweeting data announcements, and links to their press releases, what they noticed after a time was that there was greater interest in Tweets that referred people to useful resources that were outside the company. They also took note of the various hashtags that were started around the company. The company expanded the Twitter offering, but limiting it to information from the public domain, broadening the appear beyond being solely an outlet for company news, but effectively placing the company more in the role of active participant.
She also revealed that Roche is thinking about other ways to utilize Twitter, particularly to engage regionally or on language appropriate levels. That was highly encouraging because it is more innovative planning than one normally sees where there is a policy environment that is underdeveloped, which in turn tends to have a chilling effect on creativity.
She, like some of the other speakers of the day who were involved in social media in Europe, did not validate the fear that adverse events would flood those who begin to work with social media communications tools. Like those in the U.S. who have been active, that has simply not been the experience.
Here you can see Sabine speak for herself.
If you subscribe by feed and cannot see it in the interview in that context, you can view it right on the EyeonFDA YouTube channel.