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Out of order: Just being social
September 2018
by Randall C Willis  |  Email the author
SHARING OPTIONS:

As some of you may have noticed, DDNews has been seriously more active on Twitter this year.
 
Last autumn, at Neuroscience 2017, our publishers and I conversed over dinner about the organization’s miserable presence on social media. Bravely, they asked me if this was something I would be willing to take on, knowing my life largely exists online.
 
I gave it some thought and eventually came up with a proposal that contained one vital understanding: Social media is about being social, not being promotional.
 
Wonderfully (and not really surprisingly), my publishers were good with that.
 
Can social media lead to sales?
 
Can it lead to service agreements?
 
Can it lead to partnerships? Collaborations?
 
Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. But the operative word there is can.
 
What many people fail to understand is that social media—much like life itself—is more about listening than talking. It is more about engaging as a community member than about providing solutions to customers.
 
This is true whether you are an academic bench jockey, a marcom manager of a biotech or an account executive of a supply company.
 
And because of this fact, social media is a job, not something you do between phone calls. It is an investment, not a distraction. And if you do it right, it is passive, real-time market research.
 
What you will see if you visit—and hopefully follow—@DDNewsOnline is me directing you to new company initiatives in pharma, biotech and diagnostics; published research that I believe impacts our community; and conversations not just between DDNews and the community, but excitingly between community members.
 
What you are significantly less likely to see is specific reference to DDNews itself, unless it is about upcoming editorial or a story we published that offers more context than is possible in 280 characters.
 
And, when we engage in an existing conversation, it is to add context and alternative perspectives to that conversation. Hearts (“likes”) and retweets (RTs) are nice, but they are the barest minimum in terms of engagement.
 
So, what’s happened in the last eight-plus months?
 
Every week, we get more followers. I couldn’t tell you how many, however, because the numbers don’t matter. We also get plenty of hearts and RTs, for which we are grateful.
 
Much more importantly, however, people are talking with us, sharing their insights, experiences and perspectives. We are building a community; not a customer or reader pool, but a community, a tribe, a social network (thank you, Aaron Sorkin).
 
And importantly, you can, too!
 
In posting items, I do my best to link the Twitter accounts of the active players, down to the individual researchers or executives when I can find their accounts. What I quickly discovered, however, was how few organizations have a social media presence.
 
I get it. Twitter in particular can be a scary place, filled with anarchy and animosity. I won’t deny that.
 
And the return on investment of social media presence doesn’t generally show up as a line item in a quarterly report.
 
But the Twitterverse and its ilk are filled with communities—and with individuals—looking for connection with others who share their passions and their interests, their challenges and their victories.
 
So connect!
 
Not just through your public relations, communications or marketing groups, but through your R&D department, customer service offices and even sales team, as appropriate and within your risk tolerance. But make sure you engage as individuals, not as brands or corporate identities (i.e., okay to have a company Twitter tag, but let your people be people).
 
Maybe twice a month, let one of your employees or research group take over your Twitter feed, and announce that to your community.
 
If you’re at a conference—as an attendee, exhibitor or both—tweet what you see and hear, share exciting learnings.
 
If your group has a blog that is more than a promotional flyer, let us all know when a new entry is published, and engage people to figure out future topics of interest. Goodness knows I do.
 
[By the way, I am positively shocked by how many PR and communications agencies are NOT on Twitter. Just seems antithetical to what they do. If nothing else, how do they know we just posted something about their client?]
 
As a heads-up about future editorial content from me:
 
October’s Special Report on Cell Biology will examine efforts to improve and broaden biologics production from bench to manufacturing to clinic.
 
November’s Special Report on Molecular Diagnostics will discuss non-invasive prenatal testing using cell-free fetal DNA.
 
Have thoughts or experiences in either of these areas? Feel free to reach out. I cannot guarantee editorial coverage, of course, but I am excited to learn more and have a conversation.
 
In the meantime, if you’re on Twitter, please come and say hello. If you’re not on Twitter, give it some thought and maybe stop by via someone else’s account (with their permission, of course) and see what we’re talking about. You’ll find us @DDNewsOnline most days of the week.

Randall C Willis can be reached by email at willis@ddn-news.com

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