Microsoft Announces Minus, New Social Network for Pharma

While high-profile social networks like Facebook and Google+ have recently made splashy announcements to try to gain the attention of the masses, Microsoft has been quietly, and brilliantly, working on a new social network custom-designed for pharma.

Steve Woodruff, the Pharmaceutical Connection Agent, was given an exclusive sneak peak at the platform, dubbed Minus, which is being launched today to a beta audience of one pharma company, one patient, and 25 lawyers. While detailed screen shots were not yet approved by Regulatory, a mockup of the interface was obtained, showing the sensitivity of Microsoft designers to the constraints of pharmaceutical industry communications. (click to biggify —>)

Steve Ballmer, President of Microsoft, beamed as he read a carefully prepared and vetted statement to members of the press, who were not allowed to ask questions or engage in dialogue during the announcement. “Here at Microsoft, we understand legacy systems, bureaucracy, and the need to consider the past when developing for the future. That’s why we’re the ideal partner for the pharmaceutical industry to create a social platform that will reflect how controlled, one-way, non-interactive communications can occur in this modern world of digital networks. This is what social media is all about – MINUS all that social stuff.

“Now, please view these 17 slides of disclaimers, safety warnings, software contraindications, and approved uses for Minus.”

The announcement was hailed as a great advancement for an industry dogged by difficulties participating in the public, free-wheeling world of social networks. “For years, we’ve struggled with how to communicate with the public in a safe, controlled manner that will keep us out of trouble,” said one VP of Marketing, whose identity could not be revealed due to privacy concerns. “Now, we can get our messages out there on the Twitter and the Facebook by using this Minus thing to…to…say more stuff. You know, join the conversation.”

While it wasn’t yet clear who exactly would participate on the Minus platform, this was viewed as no barrier to adoption. “We’ll just pull a Google+ on everyone and make it limited rollout for everyone in pharma who has a Klout score of 82 and above, or who has a value of 1,000 or more on Empire Avenue,” explained Ballmer. “That ought to get us to critical mass in no time.”

To appeal to its target audience, Microsoft enlisted the avatar of ancient Uncle Sam Wilson as the key figure in its marketing campaign. “Old Sam had just the right look-and-feel that we wanted to accelerate uptake of the platform,” said VP of Minus Biz Dev Sam Wilson IV. “Doesn’t he just exude social control?”

Addressing the thorny issue of user-generated content in a regulated environment, Ballmer scoffed, “UGC is so 2009. We’re looking to the future by hearkening to the past. Remember the good old days of DOS? Guess what computing kernel powers Minus?”

Reporters were encouraged to submit questions via an analog “Suggestion Box,” all of which would be reviewed by an approval committee and selectively answered within 3 weeks via a special Minus application using U.S. Mail.

(please do not tweet or share this link without prior authorization from a qualified lawyer. Any harm that comes from using this blog post in a way that it was not intended must be immediately reported to proper authorities. 9 out of 10 regulators surveyed approved this message)

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Recently on Connection Agent:

5 Reasons Why Twitter Might Soon Be Dispensable

Why Google+ Could Succeed

Build Your Own Opportunity Network (free e-book)

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Introvert Networking: Start Here

My good friend and LeadershipChat co-host Lisa Petrilli has a valuable series going on her blog about Introverts Guide to Business and Leadership – she and I share a common bond over this topic since we are both professionals who seek to both leverage, and transcend, our native tendency toward introversion in our professional efforts.

Her post this morning (The Introvert’s Guide to Getting Noticed in Business) sparked a thought about how introverts can successfully build a deep and strong network.

Here’s your starting point: Make Your Own Rules. Specifically, use social networking tools and approaches to change the game to your favor.

You know the standard “rules” that come to mind when you see the word “networking,” right?

  • Walking into a crowded room and wondering how to fit in, and who to talk to…
  • Trying to join in to or strike up a conversation with people you’re not sure about…
  • Exchanging business cards without really knowing why…
  • Lather, rinse, repeat.

There are crowded social parties, artificial networking meetings, noisy industry conventions; and you, as an introvert, look at each of these with some level of trepidation. Because the networking “rules” you’ve operated under – the outgoing are the winners, casual chatter is how bridges are built, the more contacts you make the better – none of that fits you. No wonder it doesn’t feel natural.

So – change the rules. Here’s how:

Use digital social networks to “pre-meet” people. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other networks give you the opportunity to build bridges and engage in one-on-one small talk without those crowded environments so that the beginnings of a relationship are already put in place. Then, find a format to meet that person one-on-one – either over coffee, or during a larger gathering.

How did an initial core group driving pharma social media – who have since, with many others, become great friends – find each other? Twitter and blogs, opening the door to live meetings and collaborations. —>

(hey, Brad, we’re overdue for lunch…)

Introverts tend to prefer a more intimate, in-depth, “safe” environment to get to know people. As Lisa states in her post, we prefer to go deep with a smaller number of people. Using social networks, you can meet new people, AND build deeper ongoing relationships, through the relatively safe and controlled environment of exchanged on-line messages. And, you can be far more targeted and strategic than walking into a big room and hoping you find someone with whom you have common ground.

Digital social networks allow you to find common ground right now, without uncomfortable events, and to start to build a relationship that can later blossom in an ongoing way. Everything you need to find the right people in a targeted way is available through these amazing digital platforms.

And here’s the not-so-secret secret – most people really want to have someone who knows them as an individual. People respond to the introvert way – deeper communication, one-on-one caring, thoughtful planning. Plus, if you take the time and trouble to “feed” the people in your network (something many introverts do quite naturally) with information and connections you discover – you’re golden.

The fact is – introverts have a tremendous advantage. Just toss out the old rules and make your own. Take it from me, the naturally-introverted Connection Agent. If you network your way, you win!

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Twitter Chat: Pharma + Social Media

On Tuesday, Sept. 21, at 12 noon ET, there will be a live Twitter chat about Pharma+Social Media, hosted by yours truly, Steve Woodruff, the Connection Agent.

Please join us! Here are a couple items to prime your discussion pump, esp. if you’re not involved with pharma currently. First, this helpful blog post by Abby Carr sketches out some of the challenges we all face in highly-regulated industries.

Second, this little video I created takes a more fun approach to the upside-down world of pharma social media (warning: if you are sipping coffee, you might snort it out your nose – just saying…):

To follow along (and participate!), you can go here: http://hashtagsocialmedia.com/live

or here: http://tweetchat.com/room/sm78

…starting at 11:55 am or so. Disclosure – if you’ve not done one of these chats before, the pace of information flow will get your blood pumping! Be sure to take your meds…

Thanks to Marc Meyer and Jason Breed for inviting me to lead this chat (this is #78 in their #socialmedia chat series!)

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A New Venture – Impactiviti Talent Network

This week marks the official launch of something I’ve been working on for months – an On-line Job Board tied to Social Networking.

Maybe you can help us get it off the ground? Please read on.

My main money-making business has been in the pharma field – specifically, “matchmaking” pharma/biotech/med device client needs with optimal vendor/suppliers. It’s a wonderful business, being built on trust and networking – yet one of the (welcome) side effects is a constant behind the scenes effort to help people find new jobs, and clients find new talent. I’ve wanted for quite some time to find a way to meet this “matchmaking” need in a way that will build the business and help the most people.

Impactiviti Talent Network

I launched a Job Board (giving credit here to Twitter pal Jeremiah Owyang, who blazed this trail before me – thanks, Jeremiah!), but it was clear that the need was too large for me to take on without diluting the rest of my business.

So – I have brought on a business partner to run the Talent Network. On-line job posting will appear in a large searchable database (and in LinkedIn), AND be promoted throughout my extensive Impactiviti pharma social network. My partner Jan is making calls into the vast pool of organizations who could benefit from this broad and targeted approach to getting industry job listings noticed.

It’s a win-win-win business model, my favorite kind. Here’s the link to the overview and the Job Board.

How can you help? Well, by tweeting the link to this post, for one thing – I want to gain maximum exposure for this initiative. And especially, if you have any contacts in pharma/biotech/med devices HR organizations – staffing professionals who are looking for a recruiting edge – would you please send them the link (http://impactiviti.wordpress.com/impactiviti-job-board/)? There’s a downloadable .pdf file there that gives the basic info needed.

If you know people we should talk to who would benefit, please feel free to send me an e-mail (stevew at impactiviti dot com)

Also, any companies that service the pharma industry (agencies, vendors, etc.), and want to list jobs, can do so as well. And, of course, job seekers can go right to the Impactiviti Job Board and search for new positions.

Thank you in advance for being part of this new venture. It’s social networking being put to work!

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Pfizer unveils new logo!

I haven’t seen any formal announcement, but if you go to the Pfizer home page or look at this news release, you can see that (apparently) Pfizer has updated their company logo.

pfizer 2Pfizer1

The weighting on the letters is more even, the color is lighter – many of the old logo elements are the same, but there appear to be subtle changes.

Thus far, a Google search hasn’t revealed any mention of this…so, I guess you heard it here first (I’ve always wanted to break a news item)!

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“So, Can Your iPhone…?”

Yes, I guess it can.

I was at a conference last week, and someone who is trying to justify, in his own mind, the purchase of an iPhone (go for it, John!) asked me if my iPhone was capable of storing video of an entire presentation.

I didn’t know the answer. So, it was time for an experiment. Could my iPhone capture my entire 50-minute presentation? And, from a distance of ~15-20 feet, would the audio even be discernible?

The results surprised me a bit. While the end product won’t make anyone’s Top 10 List of anything, the iPhone did capture the entire presentation with no problem, and (if your speaker is up loud enough), you can actually hear what I’m saying in this brief clip:

[From a presentation on Pharma Social Media - Where's the Low-hanging Fruit?]

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Your Input? Pharma and Social Media

I’ll have the opportunity next week to speak on a panel at the ePharma Summit in Philly, on the topic of social media in pharma.

In the 4 minutes allotted, my goal is to alert the audience (mainly pharma marketers) to the most crucial “cultural” aspects of the social media community as they consider any initiatives. What is the mindset, and what are the expectations of those who use social media?

I’ve tentatively thought of four, but since this is all about the community, I’d like to ask your help and input. What do you think are the most critical things for a marketer (coming from the healthcare space) to know ahead of time?

Here is my preliminary list, subject to revision depending on your input:

- Immediacy. For better or worse, this community thrives on “right now”.

- Participation. One-way messaging won’t cut it. Communications are multi-faceted, 2-way and multi-pronged.

- Long-term commitment. Don’t get in if you’re not going to participate over the long haul.

- Personality/authenticity. We can find impersonal message-driven communications anywhere. Here, we want a face and some reality.

As social media participants, what do you think? Are these the most important “intro” concepts, or can you suggest others? Feel free to give your input in the comments!

Pharma Web Branding, Part 11 – Genentech

YAYYYY!

Finally, after 10 pharmaceutical company websites ranging from acceptable to mediocre, I arrived at one that I actually LIKED the instant I arrived.

gene-home-sm.jpg

Somebody working for Genentech “gets it.”

Why did this home page get me excited? Because it has immediate emotional and aesthetic appeal. The design is not imposing, but attractive – the prominent (patient) face graphic, the pleasant color combinations, the subtle graphical design, the non-intrusive menu structure…it all just “works.”

In the graphic shown above, I captured one opened-up pull-down menu, but when you arrive at the site, the horizontalgene-nav.jpg menu bar is not open until you roll over it. You simply arrive at a captivating image, with one very cool navigational element I’ve never seen implemented quite this way before – a little box with 3 crucial interest areas (Patients, Science, Our People). Perfect.

When you click on the main categories in the horizontal nav bar, a very nice Flash-based graphic (with more great photos!) replaces the big graphical field, and the sub-menu navigation is easy and intuitive. Once you get into the sub-menus, the graphical design theme maintains its attractive simplicity, and you get into more robust paragraphs of text. Yet the use of white space is strikingly well done.

The patient graphic on the home page changes each time you go to the site, and there is a link to a patient story – lots of patient stories (eleven, to be precise)! Each of these is well-designed and implemented – you get a quick summary, then the opportunity to run a video of the story. Beautifully done.

gene-story-sm.jpg

What else to say? A+. Every other pharma company can learn from this site. Well done, Genentech – you’ve raised the bar!

Prior website reviews (from my pharma Impactiviti blog):

Wyeth

GSK

Pfizer

J&J

Novartis

Sanofi-Aventis

Abbott

BMS

AstraZeneca

Merck

Pharma Web Branding, Part 10 – Merck

Perusing through the home page design of major pharma companies, today I arrived at Merck.com. First impression – visual overload! Lots of links and sections, not much white space, and the overall sense that it was going to be serious “work” to find what I needed here – or even to know what it is I need.

merck-home-sm.jpg

Of course, that’s a common problem with these big corporate sites, but the compulsion to toss everything into an up-front visual salad is, in my opinion, a fundamental mistake in interface design. Initial impression matters, and in the first few seconds, I, as a visitor, should somehow gain a connection to the company. Here, I just feel overwhelmed.

Merck does open up with a theme “Where patients come first”, which is actually better than some of the taglines that I’ve seen on other sites. However, there is a visual discrepancy that is just wrong – the most prominent graphic panel, top/center, has the headline “How patients come first at Merck” – but then the accompanying graphic is of healthcare professionals! If you’re going to talk about patients, reinforce that message with a visual focused on patients! (note: when you first come on the site, the panel is a little slide show making a few different points – reasonably effective, but the graphic above is where it “lands”)

As with the AstraZeneca site reviewed last time, this site is artificially constrained to accommodate least-common-denominator small-resolution screens. Sigh. The inevitable crowding effect, and the smallish font size, make the experience less pleasing.

Once you get past the home page and start navigating through the site, it’s pretty much big-pharma-info-overload-as-usual – tons of links, sections, and details, with navigation elements at the top, bottom, left, and right. That’s a lot of choices to make!

What distinguishes Merck? From this site, I simply don’t know. Yes, a website exists partially as in information repository. But, at the very top-level, it should immediately tell me about the company – make me feel something important. There should be a single, distinguishing message. I don’t see it here.

Prior website reviews, from my (pharma-oriented) Impactiviti blog:

Wyeth

GSK

Pfizer

J&J

Novartis

Sanofi-Aventis

Abbott

BMS

AstraZeneca

Pharma Web Branding, Part 9 – AstraZeneca

This week, it’s time to review AstraZeneca‘s home page, in my occasional forays into critiquing the websites of pharmaceutical companies. I don’t do exhaustive site reviews here; just high-level impressions of the home page and the overall navigation design.

When you type http://www.astrazeneca.com into your browser, you arrive at the home page of the AZ International site. Because they are a global company, this is a reasonable choice on the part of the company. It takes a sharp eye (far upper right corner) to find the spot where you’d navigate to the country-specific sites (they did place a fairly prominent link further down for US visitors).

az-intl-home-sm.jpg

The site design is decent – the use of colors and graphics is better than a lot of the pharma sites I’ve reviewed so far. The width of the site is artificially constrained for older computers, a choice that I hope fewer companies will make in the future. Consequently, the site feels crowded, with a lot of very small text. As with many “Big Pharma” sites, the page is very busy – there are so many categories of information that it can feel overwhelming. However, at least there is an eye-catching graphic front-and-center, with a brief tagline and a reasonably well-crafted corporate summary.

Moving over the U.S. home page, I immediately noticed that the “pedigree” of the site was clearly a derivative of the global site – again, a smart move. However, in this case, because (I assume) the United States user base has a larger percentage of modern computers, the width of the page is increased somewhat, making it feel less compressed than the International site. This site has more variety in the use of graphics, but shares the solid use of color schemes (blue in this case; purple for International).

az-us-home-sm.jpg

Going into the sub-menus on the left, the information presented in the middle and on the right changes intelligently, and the overall pleasant graphical design themes continue. There’s a lot of “heavy” information that healthcare/pharma companies have to present, and AZ uses the best method (IMHO) – a prominent graphic with summary statement, followed by a minimum of overview text, followed by links to various other pieces of more detailed information. I never felt “lost” on this site.

In short, this is pretty good execution. Some of the best look/feel and use of color that I’ve seen so far, and a better-than-merely-functional navigation scheme. All of these huge companies must make trade-offs and compromises due to their diverse audiences (patients, healthcare practitioners, shareholders, regulators, lawyers, employees, multiple countries, etc.) and AZ has done a better job than most making a good impression.

Prior website reviews (from my Impactiviti pharma blog):

Wyeth

GSK

Pfizer

J&J

Novartis

Sanofi-Aventis

Abbott

BMS

Pharma Web Branding, Part 7 – Abbott

In my occasional series on how effectively pharma companies present themselves on their website home pages, today we arrive at Abbott labs (Abbott.com).

abbott-home-sm.jpg

I will admit right off that I’ve never been a fan of the Abbott logo. I find it singularly uninspiring and I wish that a company that has so much going for it would project a more engaging image. And, the first thing that I noticed on this page was the sub-optimal way the logo is treated, in 2 respects:

    1. The main huge “A” (too big, btw) on the top left is crowded way over to the edge of the screen – no visual buffer. This isn’t Internet 1997 – such placements are easy to control, and this presentation is jarring.
    2. The “Abbott” name just to the right of the huge “A” is a different typeface than the one over at the top right. That’s just wrong. Graphic Design 101 – you have one logo, one typeface, one image.

OK, that’s out of my system. Now, on to white space. Interesting, this site has a lot of it – but unfortunately, it is poorly used. It has what I call “scary” white space – disproportionate placement of the elements in a sea of white, so the viewer feels disoriented. The graphic in the middle seems like Kon-tiki drifting in the vast Pacific. There are too many varying shapes and sizes that don’t fit “pleasingly” in the white.

At least there is a tease to view a patient story front-and-center, which is an element I believe is very important for companies in our industry. However, the rest of the navigation scheme is strictly in the ho-hum “list” motif – “here’s a whole set of links to stuff, find what you want.” That doesn’t crystallize, for the viewer, who Abbott is – what is this company about? What is the mission? What is unique? Why should I care? By this, I don’t mean some dry mission statement. I mean a punchy, summary phrase that immediately grabs my interest and pulls me into the Abbott story (note: the first link under Features, at the bottom of the above graphic, could be a great angle – the story of founder Wallace Abbott).

Once you get past the home page, into the sub-menus, the site is quite pedestrian – a very basic and non-engaging design. I would classify this site as firmly rooted in the past – a Web 1.0 “let’s present information” design that hasn’t yet grown up into effective engagement. It’s safe, it’s conservative – it’s there. Abbott can do better.

Prior pharma website reviews (contained on my Impactiviti pharma-focused blog):

Wyeth

GSK

Pfizer

J&J

Novartis

Sanofi-Aventis

Big Pharma Outsources all “Bad Stuff” to Sri Lanka

The Pharma Side, August 30, 2007 

In a surprise move today, the heads of the Top Twenty Big Pharma companies announced that all mistakes, scandals, negative side effects, approval delays, and “other bad staff” would all be outsourced to the tiny country of Sri Lanka. “Frankly, we’re sick of dealing with it all,” said Hank McSpinnell, President and CEO of the new Offshoring Umbrella Union (OffUU)… more

[Having a little fun over at my Impactiviti (pharma consulting) blog...]

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