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Device Marketers Not Left to Their Own Devices When it Comes To Social Media

Submitted by on June 9, 2011 – 6:56 pm4 Comments

Nearly 80 top medical device industry marketers gathered in Boston June 1st and 2nd for the Medical Device and Diagnostics Executive Sales and Marketing Commercial Excellence USA, and a panel discussion on “The Future of Social Media: Where Should It Factor in your Marketing Mix” provided plenty of food for thought regarding partners and tactics which might
prove helpful.  Larry Weber, Author and Chairman of Racepoint Group (and the founder of Weber Shandwick, a leading
global public relations agency with offices in 74 countries) led the panel, an excellent choice due to his national prominence in marketing and PR and recently published book, Everywhere: Comprehensive Digital Business Strategy for the Social Media Era. I was asked to participate due to my role as EVP at HealthCentral with a focus on device firms, and was joined by co-panelists Dana Rashti (VP, Marketing and Communications for Harvard Pilgrim HealthCare), and Robyn Whalen (Marketing Director North America for Kimberly-Clark).

Mr. Weber kicked off the panel with a very distilling–and humbling–comment from his teenage daughter. When she noticed he was discussing whether a tactic was online or in traditional media, she laughed at the use of the term “online”. When he asked her what her and her friends call “going online”, she
replied, “We’re not on or offline–we just ARE.”  All on the panel agreed that the distinctions between media choices are now blurred to the point that marketers need to be accessible anywhere and at anytime.

Mr. Rashti spoke about how important social media is to the health plan, both in terms of keeping in touch with its members and in ensuring that
their member’s maximize their healthcare via sharing with providers and payers.  He also spoke of how the Mindfulness movement, a psychological quality that involves bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis, is of increasing interest to his firm, and that social media is one component patients can use to assist in with that focus.

Ms. Whalen brought tremendous expertise around how a global consumer packaged goods player is using social media to develop brand loyalty with consumers. She also shared information regarding online tactics like webinars, including some recent efforts which successfully managing thousands
of simultaneous attendees.

HealthCentral shared insights regarding the importance of the device industry turning to quality partners who understand the value of social media, compliance sensitivities, and how best to leverage long-tail search strings when seeking highly specialized patients. We spoke of how using online media to create engagements which meet and supplement your existing, customized goal is critical, rather than doing social media or online marketing merely for the sake of “being on online.” We also discussed our research which found that Empowered Patients can activate mainstream patients to become more involved in their health, and opined that Facebook’s size may not overcome its limitations in  being the right environment to discuss sensitive medical issues in a safe environment (When someone shares, “I have just been given a terminal diagnosis,” hitting “LIKE” hardly seems the appropriate response)!

This was MDDExec’s 3rd annual sales and marketing meeting for the device industry in the United States, with prior events being held in Boston in 2009 and Minneapolis in 2010. With AdvaMed far more focused on the regulatory and general management issues facing medical device firms, those in the audience expressed a real appetite for cutting edge, marketing-focused information for the industry.

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