Biotech and Social Media, Part I

You’ve surely noticed it in other areas–the news is chock full of stories about how businesses are using social media to get ahead. What about using social media in the biotechnology or life sciences industry to help your business to grow? Well, there is good news and bad news. The bad news is that Biotech’s presence is lagging behind other industries in most social media. Searching “biotech” in Facebook and Twitter gives a small number of results compared to other industries, and most of the bookmarking sites don’t even have a biotechnology category (we’ll define these media below). The good news is that now is the time to get active in this media, so that you can get traction now before the competition discovers how useful it is. Besides further engaging your customers (a la Web 2.0), you can also use it to increase your web traffic by improving your search engine ranking.

We plan to publish several blog articles in our Marketing 101™ series on using social media to grow your business. Social media can be described as split up into the 4 C’s: Context, Contacts, Communication, and Collaboration. There is a broad range of applications and a lot to cover, and things change literally daily. In this initial installment, I’m providing the following guide to social media get us started, and you can also check out the Wikipedia entry.

Social Media Category Details Current Relevance for Biotech Future Relevance for Biotech
LinkedIn Professional Network Enter your profile and link to present and former colleagues. High: Networking, lead generation, recruiting, and a lot of capabilities for promoting yourself and business (questions, Ads, groups, polls). High: Inevitably they should allow more focused networking, more functionality for groups, and enhanced profile capabilities (blogs?).
Facebook Personal (mostly) Social Network Enter your personal profile and connect with friends. Low: Very young demographic, many users don’t list professional interests. Medium: Adults are a fast-growing demographic on Facebook. Eventually a large number of your customers will be there. However, targeted social networks are thought to be better for reaching customers (see Ning, CollectiveX entries).
Del.icio.us, Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit Bookmark Sharing Site Enter interesting web pages as bookmarks here, they are available for your contacts and the public to see–used as a way to see “what’s hot.” Medium: Create more links to your site, improve search engine ranking. Use buttons on your site to encourage sharing (see bottom of this post, you may need to refresh). Same
Ning, CollectiveX Social Network Development Create your own topical and/or regional social network. Medium High: Create a network specific to your field; great way to produce leads and get feedback from customers. Can be time intensive.
Nature Networks, SciLink Targeted Professional Network Create a profile, network, and communicate with biotech researchers. High: Good way to reach a large number of researchers. Publications are listed, making targeting even more powerful. Same
Blogs Web Log Devote an area of your website to a "journal" that is updated periodically with company, industry or research news, or application notes. High: Create interest, engage customers more, and create content that will be indexed by search engines. High
FriendFeed Microblogging Service Will display an individual’s activities on a variety of social media/ bookmarking sites. Medium:Create links and interest among readers High: Great potential here as it “takes off,” as there are so many great online resources that scientists can share. In addition, the “rooms” here are a place to share information on a specific topic like this one from PLoS
Twitter Microblogging Service Post status updates and links to news and resources. Medium High: Very powerful to create interest by posting news, relevant reports or research, and links to your site, will be more useful with increased biotech presence.
Wikipedia Open Source Encyclopedia Post description of your company and create or contribute to areas of interest. Medium Same
Flickr, SlideShare Photo and Presentation Sharing Upload/share photos and powerpoint presentations. Medium: Flickr used by BIO2008, SlideShare could become a more powerful resource to disseminate information about your company. Same

Comprendia has recently become active on Twitter, and we have found it to be a great way to keep in touch with the (small) biotech and drug discovery community presence there, and to get people to visit the site. We have also used LinkedIn and Ning to create the Biotech Marketing Group, which will facilitate networking and exchange of information between professionals in the area. The capabilities of the “out of the box” tools such as Ning are growing daily, so you don’t have to build them from scratch. In addition, there is a wealth of biotech news, reports and research available in myriad places, allowing you to leverage the information to create interest in your website and products.

In the coming installments, we will provide tips on using social media to build your biotech or life science business. Let us know if you have any specific questions you’d like us to address. Also, check out our full Marketing 101 series to learn more about leveraging marketing tactics and strategies for biotech or life science business growth. If you can’t wait to get started, contact us about integrating social media into your business and marketing strategy, and you’ll get a leg up on your competition!

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2 Comments
  1. This is a very timely article, and as you state, the Biotech sector is really late to the party. I see two avenues to pursue for businesses, and two issues companies must be aware of:

    Social media starts “at home”, on your own website. Add one or more blogs and give your site that personal touch. Not only do blogs help retain site visitors, they also transform your site from plain old (and boring) brochureware into an engaging destination. You also might consider allowing visitor comments in some areas or articles of your site. If you want to go all out, you can envisage a transformation of your support area from a “one way street” to an interactive site where your customers contribute insight, help each other, and everyone wins.

    Then, as a second step, you can add a presence on the various social sites out there. Which leads me to the potential issues:

    Social media are based on trust. If you intend to use social media as a business tool you have to keep this in mind at all times. Abuse people’s trust just once (even if you didn’t intend to, they might still perceive it that way) and everyone will leave in a hurry. There are plenty of other options available to them on thw world wide web, and if they choose to associate with you it is on their terms, not yours. So keep utmost integrity in everything you do in the social media sphere.

    Social media users are also fickle and your social media endeavors require constant attention. If you aren’t prepared to update your blog on a regular basis over the long haul, maybe you shouldn’t start it or at least not call it a blog.

    Anyway, thanks for a great article Mary! I’ll be looking forward to your next one.

    Christoph

  2. Great article, do you think this has changed much since you wrote it? I am particularly interested in your views on Facebook and twitter. I think the relevance of facebook for biotech is growing exponentially, the number of relevant groups are on the rise with thousands of fans/friends. Also twitter for scientists is becoming much more relevant – its becoming a great platform for sharing papers, findings and testing theories. Would love to hear your views.

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