April 4, 2016

SERMO Offers New Social Capabilities for Pharma Marketers

As every sales rep and pharma marketer knows, reaching physicians beyond the sales call is no easy feat. Given their busy schedules, it can even be difficult for physicians to get together with peers to discuss concerns, share information, seek advice, or learn about the latest clinical trials or treatments on the market.  Yet we know that peer interaction and influence has long been a critical component of the way physicians make treatment decisions.

Since 2005, one place physicians have been gathering to talk is the doctors-only social platform, SERMO. According to SERMO, more than 550,000 physicians around the world regularly use the online community to discuss real-world medicine.

Until recently, marketers could engage with physicians on SERMO via sponsored posts, banner ads, brand pages and a few other “engagement solutions.” Most physicians prefer to remain anonymous on SERMO, so marketers who visit the site are only able to see unidentified posts and comments about diagnosis and treatment. There was no way to follow up or engage with the physicians communicating on SERMO.

While physicians’ personal information will continue to be anonymous on SERMO, there is now an opportunity to have meaningful dialogues directly with doctors in near real-time fashion. How is this possible?

SERMO recently introduced a new offering called Pages to provide a forum for healthcare-related companies to interact directly with physicians by showcasing brands, sharing news and marketing messages, listing educational opportunities, and soliciting physician participation in clinical trials.

Now, with SERMO Pages, health-related companies can “provide … a brand, business, association or group with an ongoing presence and voice on SERMO to help you showcase your offering and connect and engage with physicians.”

For example, a pharmaceutical company can set up a Page about a particular disease state or brand, post content there, and seek physician interaction and input on the spot. Companies also can create multiple Pages and manage how each is viewed based on their location and presence (i.e., U.S. or global).
The layout and size of the Page allows room for companies to clearly present important content such as important safety information when applicable.

SERMO Pages appear on the SERMO community’s homepage, where they are visible to doctors.

Upon our initial review of the offering, it seems SERMO has provided functionality upfront that largely addresses a number of potential regulatory concerns:

  • Draft — Allows users to edit the Page before making it live
  • Preview — Lets users see the Page the way doctors will see it
  • Publish — Makes the Page and content live on the platform
  • Un-publish — Takes the Page down so it is no longer seen
  • Geography — Limits Page access by country
  • Draft Posts — Lets users add posts and edit them until ready before publishing
  • Delete posts — Removes posts from Page
  • Delete individual comments — Allows users to apply their rules of engagement for applicable monitoring and moderation of conversations
  • Delete — Removes the Page and content from SERMO

For now, when a healthcare company or brand establishes a presence on SERMO, other healthcare companies/brands cannot see or engage with those Pages.

In working with our SERMO representative, Intouch has learned that additional features will be rolling out in coming months, allowing for even wider content variety and engagement opportunities:

  • April 25
    • Notifications — Lets users set up email notifications of new posts or comments
  • May 31
    • Video — Allows users to embed posts from YouTube
    • Polls — Lets users host polls directly on the Page
    • Private — Allows users to create Pages for specified, invite-only users

Along with the Pages themselves, which are free to set up, SERMO offers media placement options to drive traffic to the Pages, including:

  • Network posts
  • Promotional ads
  • Access to newsletter and other SERMO tools

While not visible to participating companies, we learned from our SERMO contact that there has already been a positive response to Pages by association, medical device and physician services verticals, with some pharma companies preparing to be live shortly.

We see SERMO Pages as an interesting new option for pharmas seeking the opportunity to engage with HCPs in a more real-time fashion, especially on HCP-preferred networks and devices.

Companies should be prepared to consider regulatory concerns carefully. We recommend applying existing social media best practices through predefined rules of engagement and workflows. Intouch Solutions also sees this new engagement opportunity as a means to further physician involvement in marketing research by inquiring more directly with physicians and targeting content for their specific interests and needs in a more timely fashion.

For more information about how SERMO Pages fits into your marketing strategies, contact your Intouch Solutions representative.