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Liquid Lock Dear Pharma

Dear Pharma. Life is tough. Get a helmet. Branded Community Dos and Donts

It’s always really interesting to ask a head of marketing what they “think” their consumer is saying about their brand(s). My personal favorite reactions are those that cringe instinctively, like you chucked something they didn’t have time to dodge. But some stipulate they’ve no way of knowing, and others feel no matter what their consumers think, it can’t be compared to what the company actually does – so as an executive their personal input isn’t a relateable point of reference when addressing consumer engagement.

/chucks something again

I’ll start by addressing that any executive who feels their personal opinion has no bearing on the impact of their brand (whether influenced by a lack of understanding social media – or completely evading it) is either in denial or avoiding a larger issue (or both, cause’ it happens). It’s best to be open at this point of the conversation, because the easiest way to find out what consumers are saying…is to ask.

Healthcare brands in particular are starting to pick up the pace on social media through community development – but their strategy (and content) sometimes falls short of their target audiences. Which means the message going out isn’t concise, so the message coming in is even less concise. And it’s not even relatable because…you’re not asking the right people.

Super simple stuff. So where do we start? Branded communities. Grab your helmet and read on for some do’s and don’ts (bit of a long blog today folks).

Tip #1:  Stop selling stuff

I see this all the time in the healthcare space – ads ads and more ads of buy buy buy and no value.  It’s a problem – your consumers are immediately turned off. Remember the adage: no one wants to be sold, but everyone wants to buy.

Rather, give your audience unique content; something of value that they can share, comment on or connect with that leads to action.  When a community generates more awareness and more engagement on behalf of your brand, you know you’re on the right path. People will ALWAYS talk/share/comment on what they like.

Tip #2:  People will talk REGARDLESS

You want consumers to talk, but if you’re not sure they have positive things to say…buckle up. If you’re blasting ad after ad and your products aren’t up to snuff, consumers will sniff you out and take you to town. Therein lies the silver lining of social media: transparency. You can’t get away with selling low quality products, just like you can’t fake real conversation.

You can’t expect the whole of the conversation to be positive, but again, therein lies golden opportunity as well – consumers want brands to engage with them. They want to bring value in their own way, contributing to the development of higher standards,  greater reach, and overall impact. Being afraid of a few negative posts shouldn’t bar a brand from dipping their toes in online talk.

Tip #3:  Pain is temporary, suffering is optional

Most importantly, develop your messaging and strategies around highlighting value and outlining pain-points. Real value can only be generated by acknowledging that which consumers are both happy and unhappy with (and ultimately what’s relative to them). You cannot avoid the evolution of the digital consumer in this area. Branded communities sometimes fall short here, because the branding itself often creates hesitation, or fear of backlash for airing dissenting opinions (despite your attempts to encourage it). But the data behind their engagement is absolutely essential to understanding their impression of your brand. Effectively navigating the psychology barriers of your consumers opens the floodgates for conversations that build the greatest rapport imaginable.

Tip #4 : Data is your friend – but only if it works for you and makes sense

If your campaigns and communities flop, it means the data you collected included values that fell outside the scope of your intended strategy. It also means you didn’t act on it and re-align your metrics to reflect the change. While that may be a problem for the experts to ferret out – it’s INCREDIBLY important for managers and execs to know what it looks like BEFORE the campaign/community fails. These efforts cost real money and time, and can absolutely wipe out a marketing budget.

So to sum all that up, it’s certainly not easy to build, structure, and maintain a increasingly efficient branded community that continually pulls meaningful data. But as a head of marketing, what you “think” your consumers are saying can often be more disastrous than if you outright knew, because it affects your entire approach. Very few executives I’ve spoken to pony up on their brand having terrible outlook, but most simply just don’t know. And honesty is important here, because getting in the weeds on the implementation of their digital strategy isn’t their first priority. It’s the results that matters to them, so they can relate upwards to their SVPs and CEOs the data that moves and shifts the brand as a whole.

But those results can be completely mangled by poor execution of a strategy that doesn’t acknowledge (or know how to acknowledge) the consumer FIRST.

If you’re online – you’re in their territory now. Be prepared for incoming fire.

Yours truly,

The guy that chucks things occasionally while simultaneously selling helmets,

Christopher Warden

Chris is CEO and Founder of Liquid Lock Media, where he specializes in paid social, community, and persona development solutions for healthcare and biotech brands

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