Meleik Goodwill, Medical Director, Palio
One of the classic definitions of marketing is delivering value in order to capture value. So it would seem that when someone’s got a question about your product, service or organization, you answer it. Your answer delivers value, allowing you, hopefully, to capture anything from a new customer to incremental brand awareness.
So when your organization is asked a question, the correct response – every time – is to answer it, right? The answer, it turns out, is a definite “maybe.”
One of the many things muddying up the answer is the proliferation of question sites – platforms like Quora, Yahoo Answers and others where members can post questions, relying on the collective intelligence of other members for input.
In theory, these are a great example of how enabling technology can aggregate expertise and collectively boost the knowledge available to anyone with an internet connection. And, most of the time, that’s the end result.
But there’s a big difference between 50 (or 5,000) strangers chiming in with suggestions on how to best fry a chicken, versus that same enthusiastic, opinionated and sometimes ill-informed group suggesting the best cholesterol medication, or whether vaccines are, in fact, safe.
Getting back to that chestnut about delivering and capturing value, the marketer’s instinct on things like this is usually some variant of “dive in!” After all, there’s an aggregated audience of people seeking information about your product or service, right? But the answer isn’t that clear-cut.
There’s a lack of clarity from regulators on how pharma should handle social-media messaging, and the very nature of question sites is that their messages have a level of permanence, typically indexed in search engines for future reference in a way that last month’s Facebook update comment is not. Plus, like dinner parties the world over, there are some people who show up just to argue – and a public, search-engine indexed fight with someone who just wants to tear down your brand isn’t moving the marketing program forward.
Does that mean pharma marketers should ignore these sites entirely? Not at all. A solid regimen of monitoring and privately responding to questions (a feature that Quora offers but Yahoo Answers does not) allows marketers to keep an eye on things and offer authoritative information when warranted.
Answers to public questions are not off the table, but as with so much of the online world, context is king – answering with an official corporate response on the popular site Reddit, for example, risks derision no matter how accurate and complete the response is, simply because the community values individual rather than corporate presence.
Question sites are one of the hundreds of new channels marketers must navigate. But whether it’s answering a prospect’s question or making a sales presentation, the fundamental question marketers deal with never really changes: How, with this particular audience and this particular channel or platform, can I deliver value?
Palio is an advertising agency revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing to create experiences that will Never Be Forgotten