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Marketing in the Social Media Stream: The Solution is Personal


Charles Benaiah, CEO of New York's watzan, tells Pharm Exec that the key to effective social media marketing is personalization.

There is no question that social media can increase the reach of pharma marketers. Among the biggest networks, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter and Snapchat have hundreds of millions of active users. Facebook has almost 2 billion.

But putting your marketing messages on a network of millions is no guarantee that it will be seen by millions, even less that it will be seen by the people that you really want to see it. As the social stream gets more crowded, retaining visibility gets more difficult. Having a presence is just the first step-getting the attention of the people that matter is the second.

For some marketers the solution is to work the channels harder, build out skills and strategies unique to every platform. But there is an argument that the answer to effective social marketing lies, not in the channels, but in the content.

“There is a lot of talk about channels, but at the end of the day people want content, not channels,” says Charles Benaiah, CEO of New York-based technology business watzan.

The focus for watzan is improving customer experience through social media and personalization. The company developed the mapt. event-based social network for clinicians, to aid content discovery and networking at healthcare conferences.

The solution is personal

Benaiah has a history with content personalization, launching ‘personal-media’ business, Sequence a decade ago. Sequence was a technology to curate printed magazine content, where readers chose the topics for their magazine on a business reply card-remember them? The Sequence technology connected with the publication’s content management system to curate a content package just for that reader.

The entrepreneur says he learned a lot of lessons from the Sequence project before selling it to Chicago based print and communications company R.R. Donnelly in 2011. Top of the list was that relevant content increases engagement-up to seven times more tha print according to a study done for Sequence – and that marketers really value that.

Looking at today’s digital marketing landscape, Benaiah says that marketers are missing the fact that personalization can open up social media. “People still don’t understand this,” he says. “Social only works when people opt for or engage with content.”

Like Sequence, watzan’s newest product sets out to address that issue. The feedkast app compiles articles using reader preferences to create content feeds relevant to them. Benaiah likens the app to the old-school business reply card. “Tell us something you want, we’ll bring it to you,” he explains.

Asking the right questions

Described by Benaiah as Google Alerts meets social media, feedkast offers users a way to find stories they want. He says this relies on asking the right questions on registration, to know if the reader wants information on safety, efficacy, KOLs, MOAs or patient savings. And he stresses the importance of getting profile information up front, at the point of registration.

“A co-founder of Uber said recently, ‘you can get 500,000 people to download and app, but only 1 percent will come back’”, he explains.

At set up, feedkast also learns about the reader from their own social graph on platforms they already use-Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn-and from the people they already follow.

“At a minimum, we can use that to send you stories and feeds that you might like.” But, he explains, “We continue to learn… If you read a story in the app-it’s logged. If you read a story from the email-it’s logged. We use both parts equally to build your profile.”

Content challenge

One of the biggest challenges with personal print was that it needed access to a lot of content to create publications that were truly unique to thousands of readers. In 2007, Benaiah solved this problem by turning to open source journals.  In 2017, he’s turned to social media, specifically Twitter.

“We layered feedkast on top of Twitter,” he says, “It has an incredible amount of content.”

The bigger challenge now is distributing that content in a way that maintains its relevance and for Benaiah that’s a mix of new and old tech, mixing the mobile phone app and good old fashioned email.

He acknowledges that email can be tough for marketers. “It’s not interactive - you have to pick the content that your consumer might want. And, the risks are pretty significant. If you get it wrong too many times, they unsubscribe.”

But he believes the next wave of marketing will be the personalization of the inbox. “It’s the last un-channeled channel. It’s about the content.”

Benaiah explains that email-as a channel-is not aggregated. People have a direct relationship with the source of the content, meaning brands can reach their targets without going through a middle man.

Taking out the middle man

With strong audience profiling, publishers and marketers can pick the right content and put it in front of the target audience. “If you get all of that right, you deliver right to your customer with no middle man. It’s no contest,” he says.

Personalization creates the opportunity for brands to target individuals with content they have chosen. Relevant marketing messages can then be interspersed through content from the social stream. But for Benaiah, it’s important to package the marketing specifically for the profile - the ‘packaging’ is about integrating brand.

“If you are reading a feed on ‘healthcare marketing’ rather than say, ‘email marketing’, we would include a company’s case study on healthcare marketing, not a whitepaper on email marketing.”

Describing feedkast as a sort of turnkey content marketing solution, Benaiah says it gives brands the opportunity to curate content, integrate it with marketing messaging and deliver it to their customers. “Instead of using native content on a social site, a brand can speak directly to its audience.”

He believes a few brands are starting to think differently. “One leading oncology brand told us last Fall, that they wanted to be a ‘publisher’. In the broadest sense, they are right: Offer more content that can be consumed in more ways.”

Benaiah says the power is in the direct delivery of relevant content. He imagines a marketer being given the opportunity of a 30-seconds promo from the number-one KOL. He wonders what the marketer will have them say: “I guarantee you it’s not, ‘Can you pass along or read them the package insert’.”

“They want ‘real’ content,” he says. “Find me a video with a KOL talking about the efficacy or the article that explains the recent Phase 4 trial. I’ll watch or read those.”

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