There’s no question that the powerful surge of social has conquered the marketing and communications departments of pharma companies. Social networks have become an established channel in the marketing arsenal of most pharma brands.

But what is the next stage in the evolution of using social channels or physician networks to start discussions about trial data, products, and disease awareness topics? One trend gaining more and more traction in digital communications is social conferencing. In fact, research by Frost & Sullivan estimates revenue of the global web conferencing market to rise from $1.8 billion in 2012 to $2.88 billion in 2017.

What is social conferencing?

Social conferencing is a somewhat loosely defined term. It’s commonly used to describe online communications between anything from a small to a very large number of people that include a very strong social element, typically enabled by special social conferencing software. But for marketing purposes it can be viewed quite broadly to include things like virtual events and events that build a strong socially fueled online offering around it.

Examples of social conferencing

Leading the charge, The Daily Telegraph launched Europe’s first and only virtual motor show in 2013. The show took place entirely online and featured web chats with car experts, webinars about car-related topics, virtual networking lounges for participants and virtual tours of exhibition stands. Participants were also able to vote for their favourite cars across different categories, with the winning cars being unveiled at a live-streamed event.

Looking at pharma, the ESC Congress is a good example of social conferencing. The organisers built a vast element of social around the event, including an online TV channel, ample social media activities, and all year access to digital resources – what the organisers call ESC Congress 365.

How pharma brands can leverage social conferencing

Like with so many things in the world of pharma marketing, it is once again events that offer a golden opportunity here. Social conferencing offers a unique way to enrich interaction with target groups around events. Using social conferencing software, special online chats could, for example, generate a lively discussion about trial results presented at the event. Particularly for those who can’t physically attend, virtual engagement via social conferencing with representatives at the event can be a good alternative. A complete mini virtual conference, potentially hosted on an existing website, could further serve to engage with virtual attendees.

Social conferencing techniques can also be used to assist the salesforce in their dialogue with HCPs. A good example is M3 Messages, which engages physicians through specific content seen as coming from a sales rep. HCP engagement with the messages generates data-driven insights for sales reps, who can then custom-tailor their approach to individual physicians.

In essence, social conferencing has the potential to help pharma marketers create a richer dialogue with stakeholders and engage them in a new way.