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Digital Pharma: A Year in Digital (1/5)

Published on 09/12/09 at 08:55am
Dominic Tyer

2009 was the year pharma went digital, and the last 12 months have been a time of following, sharing and generally getting to grips with social media.

The open-access model of much social media interaction continues to challenge companies, but some are trying very hard to overcome barriers to using Web 2.0 technologies.

So it's been a year for pharma companies to explore and try out new mediums. Initiatives have included disease-specific and corporate-focused YouTube channels from Boehringer Ingelheim and Pfizer Europe respectively, and new blogs from GSK (More Than Medicine), AstraZeneca (Health Connections) and Abbott France (Maladies Chroniques & Travail).

But it's Twitter that took off most spectacularly. In November 2008 there were only two companies with accounts - Novartis and Boehringer. Now the majority of top 20 firms have a presence on the platform and a number run multiple accounts to give them a geographic or function-specific focus.

Standing out from the digital crowd

So what stood out for me this year? I was impressed by the ambition of Sanofi-Aventis TV and the execution and imagination of Bayer Schering Pharma's cartoon-led erectile dysfunction awareness campaign.

There's been good work from GSK and Quintiles to make more information available to the public, on products and clinical trials respectively, while strengthening corporate branding in the process.

Meanwhile, first Boehringer Ingelheim then Roche and Novartis led the way in pushing European pharma's corporate boundaries on Twitter.

The microblogging platform, which recently added NICE and the ABPI to its users, was certainly one of the two biggest digital stories of the year.

The other? That would be the FDA's social media hearing, the outcome of which is sure to push the US regulator's influences further into the European pharma landscape as its fills the vacuum left by authorities on this side of the pond.

As for my favourite social media initiative of the year, the Health Care Social Media Europe group stands out, for the range of intelligent and informed comment it attracts, the community spirit of participants and, not least, for proving Twitter can be so much more than idle chat.

Over the next week some of European pharma's foremost digital exponents have kindly agreed to share their online highlights from the year, starting tomorrow with GlaxoSmithKline's digital commerce marketing manager Kai Gait.

Dominic Tyer is web editor for Pharmafocus and InPharm.comand the author of the Digital Pharma blog. He can be contacted via email, Twitter or LinkedIn.

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