Social Media for Life Science: Something Old, Something New


I see enormous potential for life science companies to use social media to engage their customers and grow their business. Sometimes when I talk about it, however, the concepts can come across as being somewhat foreign. Some people wonder how tools like Twitter can help them to grow their business, and are perplexed by the jargon and ‘special world’ that social media marketers seem to live in.

However, social media can be seen as an extension of tools life science companies have been using for years, such as newsletters, posters, and guides. Realizing that social media is really a natural progression of these resources helps to better understand how to create new tools and how to fit them in with your traditional marketing strategies and tactics.

Social media is about stepping beyond your product line and offering customers with resources that apply more generally to their daily ‘pains’ or interests, and allowing them to interact with you and other customers in the process. These resources could be blogs, forums, or groups set up with customers in mind, you can see examples on our compilation of life science companies using social media. While many of these companies are just getting started, check out the Promega or the 23andMe blog for good examples.

While these new tools are more interactive, taking advantage of ‘web 2.0’ principles, many of the ideas are similar to educational materials life science companies have been putting out for years. Calbiochem, now EMD Chemicals, has long provided signal transduction pathway diagrams and reviews to help researchers understand complex phenomena such as apoptosis and angiogenesis, and was also famous for its detergent guide (a favorite of mine). Invitrogen/Life Technologies (past & present!) have distributed several different newsletters over the years, one dating back to 1978!

What’s the take home message? Sell social media to your management as an extension of your existing tools with the added benefit that web 2.0 tools will help you broaden your customer base while collecting more metrics, often in real time.

How do you get started? Use existing content and themes to bootstrap a social media program. If you’ve stopped putting this useful material on the web because you’re putting it in newsletters or fancy flash animations, put it back into your web content as it will help customers who are seeking the information you’re providing to find you (and improve search engine optimization or SEO). Social media is a tool to help you engage your customers more, but realize that it is a natural extension of what you’re already doing. Employ those closest to the customer, such as customer service and sales, to help you devise a plan. Integrate social media with your existing marketing plans–you might even say that you should marry the two…

Yes, there will be some adjustments you’ll need to make when thinking about using new media. You’ll need to think about policies and strategies to chart a course for success. Need help? Comprendia is the only company with extensive social media experience specific to life science, let us help you develop a social media charter so you can hit the ground running with the tools you already have in hand.

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  1. Thanks for pointing out our corporate blog. We work really hard to create a resource that scientists will find useful, informative and fun. We genuinely want to engage in conversation with researchers about science and the topics that affect scientists and their research. One of the most important characteristics of corporate blogs is that the voice of the bloggers must be authentic–the blog posts can’t be “canned” material written by committee.

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