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Mar 6
Cymfony Says Agencies “Don’t Get” Social Media, Urges Them To “Walk The Walk”

This morning I came across a blog post published on Social Media Insider thatpretender.jpeg caused me to sit up and pay attention.  It focused on a study published late last month by my friends at Cymfony (Disclosure: My firm, Envision Solutions, has partnered with Cymfony on a social media communications white paper and has a business relationship with the company).

Cymfony’s study indicates agencies just “don’t get” social media.  If the title of the AdWeek article on the study wasn’t eye-catching enough, the quotes from people who participated in Cymfony’s study were particularly damming.  For example:

“Clients complained that their agencies -- creative, media, public relations, design and others – typically treat social channels like blogs as traditional media. In other cases, their ideas are not backed up by practical skills in the area. What's more, one client pointed out that his agencies have little of their own experience using social networks or video-sharing sites for themselves.”


Cathy Taylor, writing on Social Media Insider took things a bit further.  She noted that many agencies aren’t involved in social networking sites like Facebook or have infrequently updated blogs.  (Now, I can’t blame people for not posting to blogs frequently.  Recently, I’ve had to cut down on my posting schedule because of some major deadlines I’ve been trying to hit.)  She said:

“The truth is, if you wanted to while away a few hours looking to see if agency senior executives have Facebook pages (besides the digital shops, that is), or MySpace pages, you'd be pretty frustrated. . . . As for blogs, the number of agencies that have them is growing, but overall they're still pretty spotty in terms of technical chops and raison d'etre, and there's at times an embarrassing level of "Gee whiz! We're blogging!" to some posts.”

Yikes.  In many respects I can understand why ad agencies have such a hard time “getting” social media.  It takes a lot of time and effort to learn what’s it’s all about, much less keep up.  In addition,many companies understand that social media is important, but are still leery of it – this is especially true in the health industry.  

I’m not going to cast any stones (after all, I live in a glass house too).  However, if you’re going to provide advice about social media communications, at the very least you have to have experience doing it.  As Cymfony’s chief marketing officer Jim Nail says, agencies have to “walk the walk.”  

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Over 100 pharma marketing professionals inside and outside drug companies -- including agencies -- have used the Pharma Marketing News Social Media Marketing Readiness Tool to Rate their "readiness" for social media marketing. The survey/tool can be found here: and the Pharma Marketing Blog post on this topic is here:

The aggregate results so far are:

REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT (based on answers to questions relating to the internal regulatory climate of the organization -- primarily a drug company): average score is 28.0 out of a possible total of 45 points

CORPORATE CULTURE SHOCK (based on answers to questions relating to tolerance of risk): average score is 12.7 out of a possible total of 30 points

KNOWLEDGE (based on answers to questions relating to respondent's knowledge of social media): average score is 13.8 out of a possible total of 25 points

The overall average score is 40.7 out of 100 possible points (that a score of 40%), which seems like a failing grade!

The knowledge is there and so is the readiness to take the regulatory risks. What's really missing is the corporate culture required to engage in social media marketing.

I will have more to say about this in an upcoming issue of Pharma Marketing News.

» Do You Have the "Legs" to Engage in Social Media Marketing? from Trusted.MD Network
Several speakers at CBI's 7th Annual eMarketing for the Pharmaceutical Industry, which I attended yesterday in Philadelphia, preached to the choir about the importance of pharmaceutical companies [Read More]

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