While applauding Duff McDonald’s effort to cast a light on structural ethics problems in business with his Nov 27 Vanity Fair article on the Miseducation of Sheryl Sandberg, I take issue with his placing the blame on the Harvard Business School (HBS). There is more at work here regarding individual choice and overall culture. The school actually makes an effort to drive ethics into business leadership. The author appears not to have attended, and knows little about what actually goes on there. He has cherry-picked examples to support his thesis.
I did attend the Harvard Business School and have a sense of what goes on there. There was and is an emphasis on ethics and moral leadership in the curriculum, along with a stated concern that business people often—too often—fail on this score. I actually got an A in the ethics class (Look Mom, yay me!). I recall the professor saying, “Your paper didn’t warrant an A, but I awarded you the grade because of your passionate and well articulated position in class that being a business leader doesn’t excuse an ethical tradeoff. Rather it demands an even higher adherence to being ethical and setting an example.”
He went on to say that all too often business leaders don’t hold to this. The school was worried it was turning out leaders who were not genuinely inclined towards ethics, but just giving it lip service. HBS felt an obligation to do something about it, which is why the course was created. The ethical dilemma cases that McDonald references are in the curriculum precisely to make a point of ethics. I recently attended an HBS reunion. An emphasis on ethical leadership was present from the dean’s keynote and throughout the program. A key theme was and is that business leadership is not just about profits and shareholders. Although it has a ways to go, the focus on ethics was much stronger than when I was in school.
While some graduates of the school have gone on to practice ethical failures, others have demonstrated ethical leadership in their actions and words—ranging from driving positive, ethical company cultures and actions to all kinds of community and government service. I have one classmate who created and leads an effort to fight human trafficking, specifically bringing his HBS learned skills and life experience to attacking that awful problem. This isn’t to say the school is perfect; it can do more. Certainly those who come through without a moral compass are better at their game than when they arrived—as are the good ones. Business is in large part about money. I expect business schools attracts a disproportionate number of people who put money above all else.
The article also runs with the recent media hyped assumptions about Facebook’s overall lack of ethics. This theme fails to understand the underlying issues involved, how they developed, and what measures Facebook has actually taken—some right, some wrong. I provide some insight to this in my recently released (and free) eBook, “Is Privacy Dead In The Digital Age? And What To Do About It.” Facebook has made some serious mistakes and done some things wrong. But to say they don’t care about user privacy, and in turn are unethical, is simply a bum rap.
I find completely off base the notion that an ethical leader wouldn’t write the apology posts that Sandberg has. Does that excuse the bad stuff? No. But a critical part of moral leadership is to come clean, identifying failures and problems, acknowledging and taking responsibility for them, and charting a new course. Everyone makes mistakes. Sweeping them under the rug sets the referent example that it’s okay as long as nobody knows, or you dilute and deflect attention, or get away with it. Calling it out, apologizing, and taking action is saying, “It was wrong,” “I was wrong,” “This is not how we want to be,” and doing something about it. That’s the kind of leadership sorely lacking in our world, especially in business. Sandberg is under a lot of pressure, but she didn’t have to do that. Sadly, most businesspeople wouldn’t. She deserves good marks for doing so.
Another hole in the article is the suggestion that Zuckerberg, having attended Harvard, also makes him a function of the Harvard Business School. Indulge me a bit of alumni snobbery. These two schools are separated by a river and have little to do with each other.
Still, there is a serious ethical leadership issue in the business world (as well as in our politics). I attribute this to:
1) The individuals. Ultimately all individuals have to make their own choices, often under great pressure. That’s the essence of leadership. Some make ethical choices; some don’t. All of them must be held to account for the choices they make—moreover, the mix of choices they make over time.
2) The rise of short-term profit and short-term shareholder value as the pre-eminent and all encompassing priority and culture in much of the business world and at the expense of other business purposes, values, and constituencies. Such other purposes and values include serving clients, employees, community, and country—contributing to all of these, including with ethical leadership, even if it doesn’t maximize short-term profits and stock price.
While the business world has always had its villains, this current dynamic was not always the case. It really came to the fore in the 1970s and 1980s, abetted by a bunch of government policy and deregulation. The much-used refrain is, “A business’s first obligation is to maximize shareholder value.” (And everything else, such as our social fabric—and for some, ethics—is a long distance second.) Then that theme turned into short-term stock price value, which subsequently became compromising everything else, including the long-term sustainability and value of a business. The altar of maximizing shareholder value at the expense of all else is just an opinion, or even a rationalization, that sometimes supports questionable decisions.
Certainly shareholder value is important; but one can define this as building lasting value in a business for clients, employees, and the community—including non-financial aspects. Further, one can easily make the case that shareholder financial value is more a function of the long term, rather than short-term gains. The short-term financial focus is a more recent priority and definition, and arguably a false value. One of our early venture capital investors and a personal mentor, Barry Weinman, always counseled, “Take care of the customers right and then the employees right. If you do that well, then in the long term, shareholder value will follow.” On the other hand, another investor’s attitude was, “to hell with all that, get some short-term growth, get the stock price up, and get me a profitable exit.” Let us note that the two most valuable companies in the world, Apple (another of my alma mater) and Amazon, got that way in part due to leadership that eschews focus on short term profit or any aspect of stock price.
3) Our US conspicuous consumption culture that elevates selfishness to a value. “Greed is good,” said Gordon Gecko. Mass media spread this further; and the Internet—for all its good, including the positive effects of the democratization of media, connecting people, and new economic opportunity—has also democratized, distributed, and intensified the tools for greed. As more people feel they can get rich quick on stocks and speculation, without really working for it, the culture is more susceptible to doing so without regard for ethics.
The Harvard Business School can certainly do more on all this. But to lay the blame on it ignores the school’s focus on this issue and its positive impact—and more importantly, misses the real dynamics at hand.
Our company’s official stance has been, “We are a highly ethical company and we care about the people we work with and for.” We will sometimes make decisions on that basis even if it isn’t best for our short-term financials. We sometimes get a lot of heat for having said that, and for doing it. We’re not perfect; but we stand by it. We made that choice. Our country would be better if more of us would make that choice as well.”
Last week’s election victory by Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez has been widely reported as a stunning upset in part due to her aggressive use of social media. Did she win just because of social media? No. Did social media take her from self-professed goals of impacting the dialogue with a 30-40 point showing to a 57% win? Yes, a BIG YES. But what does that actually mean? All politicians use social media; but only some win with it. How did she use it and why did it work? Let’s look at her campaign through the brand marketing lens our company, LiveWorld, uses to analyze and create successful social media programs for the largest brands in the world.
Ocasio-Cortez is indeed new to being a candidate; but by no means is she a neophyte to social media. She is a digital native of a generation raised on social media, and a master of its language, forms, and emotional energy. Her social program, pushing her over the top, is a near-perfect execution of the social marketing playbook we recommend to brands—but few have the understanding, focus, and will power to do.
A social first campaign by a digital native
Social was the essence of the Ocasio-Cortez campaign—baked into its core. Her campaign really lived along with her, walking in the streets and through neighborhoods where she and her voters (and their emotions, aspirations, and disappointments) live every day. Fully integrated with everything else Ocasio-Cortez was doing, the campaign used social media channels distinctly in the way each works best. The team wasn’t just cross-posting content; they created organic content designed for each specific channel. It was clear that Alexandria wanted to connect with people, not just broadcast to them. Her team built apps (for a local election!) that helped connect volunteers to work, share content, donate money, and mobilize for events.
The Ocasio-Cortez campaign reflects the political paradigm shift happening today. In previous times, candidates would plan their campaign strategy around the predominant media of the day—holding events to take advantage of publishing cycles for newspapers or TV. Social media is today’s predominant media, so campaigns need to adjust their thinking to account for the unique characteristics of social compared to broadcast. For Crowley, like most politicians and corporate brands, social seemed just another add-on channel through which to communicate pre-canned, sterile, low-risk messages; control the narrative; mitigate risk; and redirect interactions out of public view. Ocasio-Cortez speaks in the language of social media—authentic, emotional, sprinkled with emojis, and in short sentences with great meaning.
And she stays in the channel with the courage to actually engage and talk to her constituents live and in front of everybody. Most politicians fear social media, seeing it as a venue in which they are easily attacked and can’t control; they are not native to it at all. To them it’s a foreign country, and as such they come across as disconnected from their constituents. Even the numbers reveal how much more Ocasio-Cortez lives on social media than does Crowley:
Authentic, not political speak (corporate speak for brands)
Ocasio-Cortez is transparent, authentic, driven by passion/emotion, and a digital native who intuitively knows how to use these platforms to communicate. And she comes across as a very earnest, passionate person, not as a politician or a brand. She speaks in the language and form of social media with short, direct points, sprinkled with emojis and toned with emotion. This compares to Crowley, who comes across very much as establishment, with a neutral, bland voice, befitting the decorum of a Congressman. The voters can feel Alexandria; at most, they can intellectualize Crowley. People buy things based on emotion, and then use information to justify their purchases. They vote that way too.
To begin with, Alexandria herself is clearly is doing most, if not all, of her social media posting. Many politicians and business executives alike have staff do their posting with generic content and generic effect. Nuances of one’s own life don’t come through that way; people can sense it. And it makes huge difference in programs like an election, where it’s critical that voters identify with the candidate.
Ocasio-Cortez speaks to who she is as a real human being, just like you. Her viral video, The Courage To Change, which she herself wrote and narrates, begins with “A woman like me isn’t supposed to run for office,” communicating that she comes from the people the establishment no longer represents. Her message is that it’s time for the people to stand up for themselves, which means one of us, which means her. Images throughout the video show that she’s an everyday person. She takes the subway, passing by the houses of everyday people. My favorite is one that every woman I know in New York City will recognize: While waiting on the subway platform to take the train to work, she changes her shoes.
She’s real and readily speaks to what she doesn’t know, as well as what she does. She converses with the people of her district, rather than talking above or at them. In one Twitter thread, some voters get into an intense debate about parking issues in the district. She starts to participate, but realizes it involves more than she knows. She neither talks past it nor deflects, as a typical politician would. Instead she says, “Alright y’all. Obviously this is a heated issue. And I don’t even own a car.” That post was not written by a staff member (or if it was, that staff member walks in her shoes). It’s frank, honest, and acknowledges the issue. But she doesn’t leave it there. She demonstrates the way she likes to engage: “Perhaps we do a sit down at my office on federal transportation policy. Open to all & I’m more than willing to learn and grow.” Then she ties it to one of her campaign themes: “That’s the benefit of not taking special interest funds.”
She takes issues head-on in social media—embracing, challenging, diffusing—but always addressing. Her approach is what we call “3 Is,” meaning Inspire, Involve, Imagine—versus a traditional brand or political approach of “3 Cs,” meaning Command, Control, Contain. As the incumbent, Crowley rarely mentioned Ocasio-Cortez, and didn’t give much focus to her in this race. She attempted to engage him several times on Twitter and replied to some of his tweets, but we didn’t see any cases where he replied to her posts.
Perhaps most emblematic of their different approaches is this exchange each candidate had with voter @MelissaMythical, who posted a question on Twitter. Both respond the same day, both try to be personal with the voter and show they care, but what they say, and the impression they leave, is quite different.
Melissa @MelissaMythical Hi there, @Ocasio2018 and @JoeCrowleyNY! I’m a Bronx resident & undecided voter. I’m doing my research and getting informed, but I’d like to hear from both you both. Could you please tell me (in as few/as many tweets as you need) why you deserve my vote? Thank you!
Congressman Crowley responds, deflecting the subject off-channel (a customer service worst practice in business)—perfectly nice, but nonetheless typical political speak.
@ JoeCrowleyNY Hi Melissa -would love to talk about the Bronx and issues you care about most. Can you DM a # so we can connect?
Ocasio-Cortez engages and directly answers Melissa’s question in front of the world.
I’m the only candidate who doesn’t take money from corporations.
I believe in Medicare for All, Housing as a right, CJ reform, & tuition-free public college.
I’m brave enough to call out corruption in NYC (I also reject luxury developer $).
I actually live here.
We, not me
The entire tone and content structure of the Ocasio-Cortez campaign is about the people, rather than about her—how voting for her is voting for yourself, your family, and your community. That approach is classic in politics; but traditionally it’s accomplished by refined messaging. In the social media age, it’s accomplished through authentic personal dialogue with and among voters—starting with always focusing the conversation on the “we” rather than the “me.” In her video, throughout her content, and most importantly as she actually talks with people on social, she always comes back to this focus with phrases like, “This race is about people versus money. We’ve got people, they’ve got money,” and, “It’s time for a New York that works for all of us.”
Our analysis found that Ocasio-Cortez again and again used words like “we”, “our,” “together,” “your,” and “us” with her hashtag-turned-meme, “#oneofus.” Her entire feel is that she’s talking with you.
Content mix focused more on the voters than on her
Most corporate marketers want to talk about themselves and their products. After all, they want their customers to know all about them and the products so they’ll be convinced to buy. This has been their game plan for decades of the TV mass marketing age. It’s the same for politicians. But it’s exactly the wrong approach in social media, where the content should be a mix of the product (the candidate), the subject matter (the issues), and the customer (the voters). Whereas most brands and candidates dominate social media with the product story, the best results come from dominating it with the customer story.
The poster child campaign of social media, and crowned by Ad Age as best of the 21st century, is the original Dove Campaign For Real Beauty. Our firm created and managed the social side of the program, cause-based and focused entirely on women telling each other their personal emotional stories related to body image and self-esteem. In the same vein, Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign was cause-based and about “we,” not “me,” but still quite personal. She told stories—and got people to tell their own stories—not just about policy, but what policy means to ordinary people like her and her neighbors in the district. She focused on constituents’ stories and why their emotional currents led to her positions and candidacy—not “hear my political position on the issues and why that should matter to you.”
And she didn’t wait for the stories to come to her. As a digital native, Ocasio-Cortez was very good at being concise in her initial posts, and using them to spur more in-depth conversation. She gave her followers lots of content assets to share, while praising the power of grassroots activism—and sure enough, she got a lot of her content shared. That’s really big for a campaign that doesn’t have a huge amount of money to spend on a media buy. Ocasio-Cortez speaks four languages and all her materials went out in different languages, customized to the social and cultural norms of the language. Nothing says “we’re about you, not me” like making sure the cultural context is that of your customers/voters.
Invite people to participate
While this social media axiom seems obvious to digital natives, most brands and politicians ignore it. Politicians tend to define “participation” as “donation.” Ocasio-Cortez not only persistently asked for engagement and feedback in her posts, but she also asked people to share content, she shared a LOT of content from others, and she had easy ways for people to participate. They could join the phone bank (whether they lived in the district or not), show up for town halls and protests, and share their experiences at events. And they did.
Socialize to mobilize
Ocasio-Cortez brilliantly used social to mobilize people to action. Her web/mobile-based app allowed *anyone* to work a phone bank from their own device, so that when people on Twitter would say something like, “Love and support Ocasio-Cortez and wish I could vote for her but I live in ATL,” Ocasio-Cortez replied immediately with a link explaining how to help the cause. She mobilized people in real time to show up at protests and town halls.
Tap into popular energy that already has momentum
She tapped four energy sources: the rise of women in the face of being treated second-class, progressive issues, populist anti-establishment feeling (especially for democrats who feel their party’s leadership is out of touch), and in her district, anti-Trump sentiment. She pulled in many infrequent voters, inspiring first-time activists, and thus changing the vote mix in her favor—Bernie 2.0! Indeed she was an organizer in the Bernie Sanders campaign.
What about her opponent, Joe Crowley
Long-time democratic incumbent, senior member, even heir-apparent of the Democratic caucus, and boss of the Queens democratic machine, Crowley had a social presence typical of any disconnected corporate or political brand—not much activity and not authentic. He tried, but it was always, “look at me and my leadership, the things I’ve done for the district, what I think about issues, and how I take stands against Trump.” This is okay content, but classically political, and not about the emotions and lives of the voters.
Adding it all up, how social worked for her
Ocasio-Cortez used social to effectively amplify herself, such that she was not simply a candidate, and certainly not one of those disconnected politicians. She became a movement of “us” against “those who don’t really care about us,” and against those who “don’t live here, don’t drink our water, or breathe our air.” By hitting fundamental life needs, she connected all her positions to them and set up her opponent as someone who simply didn’t understand, did not care about, and certainly couldn’t represent us. The more Crowley acted, spoke, or stayed back, the more it reinforced her message and the emotional reasons people should vote for her. She mobilized people to action, inspiring donations from across the country and get-out-the-vote supporters walking across her district.
Like any marketing program, an effective political campaign has to achieve specific goals. For a new candidate, it’s much like a startup business: raise money and get people to buy the product (which means vote). Social went viral, enabling Ocasio-Cortez to raise $400,000 with no corporate contributions, amplified by an even larger amount of free news coverage. She won 57% of the vote, far beyond what her team ever imagined.
The lesson here for all candidates is that effective social media can level the playing field for money and votes by changing the rules to authentic, transparent, conversational, and emotional—“we,” not “me.” And there’s an advisory too. Watch out D.C. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is coming to town and she’s not alone. She’s a digital native using the full power of social media to bring her people and their cause with her. She is bringing we.
Quarterly reviews are recommended for Pharma Marketers
Social media is an incredibly powerful way to connect with your customers, learn more about them, and engage in conversations that become brand experiences that can drive product awareness, increase transactions, and boost loyalty.
In fact a 2018 study by Nielsen confirms that social media is ranked as the most important and most effective of digital media channels for marketing professionals.
With weekly changes in the social media landscape, new channel features to assess, and evolving needs of the business, pharma marketing professionals are constantly evaluating and testing new social strategies, tactics and capabilities. Rapid advances by Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the myriad of messaging apps require digital marketers to re-examine their choice of social channels, test social ad campaigns, and ensure programs are still performing and meeting business objectives.
To understand what updates or modifications should be tested and implemented, one should take inventory of what changes have occurred across a series of factors, including
Have you inherited a social community or program?
Has your community has gone stale?
Is performance is lackluster and not achieving your goals?
Has there been a change in target audience or social media property?
Have you had a change in the business that would impact your strategy?
Have you launched a new product or program?
Or perhaps you need to create a social media strategy from scratch.
Any of these scenarios will prompt a social media strategy re-evaluation, or signal the need to create a net new plan from ground up.
Evaluating and planning social marketing strategies can be challenging. Sometimes the hardest part is not knowing where to start. A good place to begin is to consider the specific outcomes you want your program to accomplish within the context of a larger marketing plan. The single biggest point of failure in social media programs is not having them tie directly to business goals.
To help you think through and redesign your social media marketing plan we’ve organized a series of charts, processes, journey maps, sample scorecards and structured question sets that will guide you through the planning process.
Download your complimentary copy of the Social Media Strategy Workbook from LiveWorld, designed specifically for pharma marketers. Enjoy and happy planning!
As patients continue to discuss their health on a growing number of platforms, including social media, chatbots, messages apps, and various Internet of Things devices like Amazon Echo, it becomes increasingly difficult for life sciences companies to report adverse events in a timely matter. Companies can combine automated solutions with human agents to ease the burden of event reporting on marketing teams and open them up to focus on other things.
There’s no question that the digital world provides pharmaceutical marketers with a wide variety of vehicles for 1-to-1 patient communications. Between social media, chatbots, and messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger, Kik, WhatsApp, and Telegram, there are no shortage of options to connect with personalized conversations.
The universe expands even more for pharma marketers considering using next-generation conversational channels such as Amazon Echo, Google Home, telemedicine, and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices. IoT device adoption is growing at astronomical rates. According to CNBC, Amazon could have 500 million active customers globally by 2020. Pharmaceutical companies will want to take part in these voice-activated channels for the 1-on-1 connections they offer. In a recent article, USA Today speculated, “Could U.S. consumers one day find themselves logging in to Amazon Healthcare Prime, or asking Dr. Alexa—Amazon’s popular Echo home assistance device uses a digital voice answering to the name Alexa—what they should do about their cough?”
New Tech’s Impact on Adverse Events Reporting
These channels are opportunities for medicine brands to strengthen patient relationships, but how do pharmaceutical companies report adverse events in a timely manner across so many diverse channels? How many people would it take worldwide and around the clock? So, how does a pharma marketer scale adverse events management of these marketing channels? Oftentimes, an adverse event monitoring program can cost as much as the digital program itself, and it can be difficult to justify the resources needed to monitor for adverse events across a large array of social media platforms and multiple chatbot and messaging app channels.
To overcome these challenges, and monitor these channels, marketers need scaled solutions made up of adverse events reporting software and a team of human agents. We found recently, with one of our healthcare clients, that through a combination of human agents and automated software, overall response rates for the client increased by 66% across all the healthcare provider’s major social channels. Day-to-day workload for their marketing team was reduced by 43%. Ultimately, the program also enabled higher quality engagement, with customized responses addressing the needs of patients.
Human agents can especially assist pharma marketers with the subtleties and nuance of language and conversations that automated software alone typically cannot detect and address. For example, a team of trained and skilled moderators can tag and capture social media comments that may simply state “me too,” in response to an adverse event in a flow of comments and responses, something that may be missed by programmed software solutions.
Making Social Media Adverse Event Reporting Easier
Pharma marketers shouldn’t have to exclude using social channels due to onerous brand response and adverse events management, and the fear of non-compliance. Over time we’ve found that our clients see resounding results through the automation of lower level tasks in social media, like automated tagging, acceptance, and rejection of social media comments. This can even include the automated tagging of adverse events in social media according to business rules and workflows. By automating lower level social media tasks, it frees up the marketing team for custom response and insight gathering. Social media and direct insights from patients on these channels not only has the potential to provide inspiration and direction for new product development, but they can also improve marketing, maintain product loyalty, and much more.
Using these platforms for pharma marketing makes even more sense when marketing to millennials, a sought-after audience who use these channels to make healthcare decisions. In fact, more than 75% of Americans use social media to research their symptoms. While, 90% of people ages 18 to 24 say they trust medical information shared on their social feeds, according to PwC Health Research Institute. This suggests that medical and health information isn’t simply being shared to spur conversation. Millennials, or the always-connected generation, sees social media as a trustworthy source for medical information.
Utilizing these conversational channels and maintaining FDA adverse events reporting compliance may be easier than brands ever thought possible. There are scalable social media pharma software solutions that can detect and triage adverse events in social media comments, or in chatbots and messaging app conversations, and with the addition of human agents, provide the compassion required in the healthcare space.
Combining Humans and Automation
The combination of FDA adverse event reporting software to scale detection and response, and human agents to decode language nuances and add humanity is very powerful for medicine brands. Software alone can never overcome the subtleties of language, sarcasm, slang, graphical content, use of emoji, and more. Humans in coordination with software are required. Ultimately, software solutions and human agents can free up a brand’s marketing team for more strategic decisions and pressing marketing campaigns.
Pharma marketers should supplement the standard off-the-shelf SaaS solutions used by other industries for social media publishing, and seek specialized enterprise software used in pharmacovigilance and AE reporting that are specifically engineered and targeted with FDA compliance and adverse events management in mind. Going that route not only enables brands to manage social media and messaging, but also handle adverse events and the reporting and archiving required by the FDA.
Social media represents a huge opportunity for pharmaceutical marketers to improve patient engagement, whether it be through healthcare communities, or 1-on-1 conversations in messaging apps. Pharma marketers should be nurturing those direct conversations between customers, patients, and their brand. With new enterprise-level pharma industry specialized adverse events services and software, pharma brands can ensure their FDA compliance and start creating relationships that have a positive impact in the lives of patients.
Bumble and Tinder are at war. In addition to competing for customers and market position, the two are firing accusations at each other—with Tinder actually filing a lawsuit against Bumble, claiming violation of two of its patents. Bumble accuses Tinder of trying to buy it, intimidate it, and copy it—and now of filing an unfounded lawsuit. Moreover, Bumble has fired back with a brilliant social media salvo. This article doesn’t take a position on what’s true or false; nor are we taking sides. We are, however, analyzing Bumble’s brilliant social media handling of the crisis involving a competitor lawsuit.
Bumble and Tinder are each online dating services—in this respect, a subset of the overall social media industry. Each is mobile based, with users swiping left to reject a possible dating match and swiping right to indicate interest. If the swiped-right person also swipes right, it’s a match. The two interested parties are notified, and then have the opportunity to connect, first via chat and then in person, if they want to. Tinder is the behemoth of mobile dating apps, acquired by IAC/Match Group, the corporation that owns match.com and other such services. Tinder has been around longer, has many more users (reported at 50 million in 190 countries, plus users on other Match Group services; 20 billion matches to date and 1.6 billion swipes/day*). Bumble positions itself in this context as the entrepreneurial upstart, claiming 30 million users (other stats: 850 million matches, 48 million swipes/day*). Bumble was founded by two former employees of Tinder on the basis that they are women creating a service that is more supportive of women, with a safer, better place for all. It has a unique twist called “ladies first”: The woman in the match has to initiate the conversation; if she doesn’t, there is no further contact.
*Data Sources: Bumble number of users: Bumble per their March 20, 2018 email. Tinder number of countries: Match Group web site. All other Tinder & Bumble stats: DMR Business Statistics.
Crisis Management vs. Social Media Crisis Management
Traditionally, crisis management was a PR matter, with best practice being to avoid, contain, control, remove—just make it go away. But in social media, such traditional approaches are not viable and likely to backfire. On the Internet you can’t make a crisis go away; it will just keep popping up like a whack-a-mole game. As counter intuitive as it may seem, best practice is to acknowledge and embrace the crisis. Even let yourself get beaten up on your own pages. Then seek to diffuse, manage, and—in the best cases—flip the crisis to your advantage. After all, most brands want attention—although not usually via a crisis. But as long as you’ve got it, see if you can make good use of it.
But before a crisis happens or you even have the slightest inkling of one, the first best practice step is to establish a social cultural presence in which you build loyal brand defenders who come to your aid when needed. The first rule here is “You don’t make friends in the middle of a crisis.” But if you make friends ahead of time, building loyalty and relationships, when the crisis comes those people will rise as your brand defenders.
Having set that context in advance, when a crisis does come, first identify who’s involved in it and who you care about. On that basis, decide what to do.
Is this a loyal enthusiastic customer who is disappointed with something and complaining? This can be good trouble because she’s loyal. She may appear to be your opponent, but is actually a loyalist you should listen to and meet part way.
Is this a general complaint by a generic customer? Again, this is someone to constructively win over.
Or is this a competitor attack? Here you are not going to win the attacker over, by definition. Rather, you need to be concerned about the impact of the crisis itself and your approach to it on your customers and influencers.
Or is this an organized activist? It’s also unlikely you’ll win them over; but this is tricky. Whether the activists are justified or not, some or many of your customers and influencers may identify with their cause. You want to win over your customers and influencers, but have to be extra careful to not antagonize them.
Generally our framework defines four levels of crisis ranging from mild (DEFCON 4) to extreme (DEFCON 1). While most crises are in the middle of the range, most brands under- or overreact, treating them as mild or major.
Let’s take a look at Bumble’s counterattack when Tinder sued it, exemplified by this email Bumble sent to its users on March 21, 2018, and posted online.
Bumble email and online post
Dear Match Group,
We swipe left on you. We swipe left on your multiple attempts to buy us, copy us, and, now,
to intimidate us.
We’ll never be yours. No matter the price tag, we’ll never compromise our values.
We swipe left on your attempted scare tactics, and on these endless games. We swipe left on your assumption that a baseless lawsuit would intimidate us. Given your enduring interest in our company, we expected you to know us a bit better by now.
We — a woman-founded, women-led company — aren’t scared of aggressive corporate culture. That’s what we call bullying, and we swipe left on bullies. Ask the thousands of users we’ve blocked from our platform for bad behavior.
In fact, that behavior? It only fuels us. It motivates us to push our mission further — to work harder each day to build a platform, community, and brand that promotes kindness, respect, and equality. That’s the thing about us. We’re more than a feature where women make the first move. Empowerment is in our DNA. You can’t copy that.
So when you announced recently, in another attempt to intimidate us, that you were going to try to replicate our core, women-first offering and plug it in to Tinder, we applauded you for the attempt to make that subsidiary safer.
We strive every day to protect our nearly 30 million users, and to engineer a more accountable environment. Instead of swinging back and forth between trying to \ buy us, copy us,, and sue us why don’t you spend that time taking care of bad behavior on your platforms?
We remain focused on improving our users’ experience, and taking our mission worldwide, until every woman knows she has the power to make the first move, to go after what she wants, and to say “no” without fear.
We as a company will always swipe right for empowered moves and left on attempts to disempower us. We encourage every user to do the same. As one of our mottos goes, “bee kind or leave.”
We wish you the best, but consider yourselves blocked.
Here’s what Bumble has done here step by step, or perhaps better put, swipe by swipe: Best Practice #1: Establish a cultural context and make friends before the crisis happens.
First, well before this happened, Bumble built a brand presence based on a cultural sensibility and context. Their dating product’s core premise is a nice environment in which women drive the interaction and thus can avoid and prevent unwanted advances and harassment. Men who participate are effectively buying into that premise (and by the way, most just love the notion that the start the conversation burden is for once not on them). But it goes beyond that core feature to the brand’s overall positioning, voice, vocabulary, design, and enforcement of standards. Many even suspect some algorithmic magic that, more often than other apps, first presents you with dating opportunities most likely to interest you. A short review of Bumble’s social presence shows a constant celebration and engagement of positive experiences and safe environments. This experience builds engaged, loyal users.
An example of their anti-bullying social presence using similar metaphors
And then the headline post version of their email.
Best Practice #2: Identify who the crisis involves and who you care about.
Clearly this crisis involves a competitor that Bumble most likely won’t win over. But Bumble certainly wants to win the approval of its customers and influencers. In this case, the opposition, while extreme, is not an activist or a cause; so the risk of alienating customers by taking on the attacker is lower, depending on how you come across when you do it. Bumble clearly went for a frontal assault on Tinder, but did it in a way that aligns with their brand positioning, customer loyalty. They called to their customers and influencers to stand for good versus evil with a clever approach that garnered significant media attention for its side of the story.
Best practice #3: Acknowledge, embrace, and diffuse.
Rather than minimize attention to the issue, Bumble has promoted it with emails to its users (and other venues). Not only that, but they recast it in dating service vocabulary set against their own cultural context: “We swipe left on Tinder.”
The immediate core issue is a lawsuit by Tinder against Bumble. Bumble diffuses that by blurring it with Tinder’s overall attack on them (per Bumble, Tinder trying to buy, intimidate, copy, and now sue them). Tinder is cast as the bully on the online world, representing everything that Bumble and its users stand against. By resetting the context to this greater battle, Bumble actually diffuses the attention on the legal issue. I’m not suggesting Bumble is avoiding the legal part—just they are diluting it as the main event, and instead raising it to a broader and more important concern for customers and influencers.
Best practice #4: Flip it.
And then, in what I can only call masterful, they flip the entire matter back on Tinder. First using the swipe left metaphor, which—in dating app land—is the act of rejecting a presented dating prospect. Second, by elevating the battle to the entire difference between the two companies, as Bumble sees it. Bumble presents itself as the positive, safe environment for its members. To them, Tinder is a negative, unsafe environment in which women can be harassed—just as Tinder is now harassing Bumble and its women co-founders. Bumble appears the innovator, the quintessential entrepreneurial company. Tinder is positioned as an arm of a big bad corporation that doesn’t like losing the business battle, so resorts to bad tactics. Bumble is cast as good, a brand you want to swipe right on. Tinder is cast as evil, the brand you swipe left on.
This is a great flip. Bumble has taken a serious business/legal problem (regardless of which side is right) and recast it in the minds of users and influencers as a battle between good and evil that reflects the values of the respective companies. At this point, the more Tinder battles Bumble, the worse a bully Tinder seems.
Implications for brands. Bumble’s handling of the legal threat and its greater battle with Tinder is just a super example of crisis management best practices in the social media age—well done and a lesson for all brands. Handled with social media savvy instead of traditional PR command and control methods, even a crisis is an opportunity to express your brand values and win customers and influencers.
To learn more about how marketing pros handle social media crises, read chapter 8 – Turning the Social Minefield into Opportunity in Peter Friedman’s The CMO’s Social Media Handbook.
Credentials & Disclosures: I have been a user of each service and others—not only for analysis, but for dating. I am familiar with their features and relative market positioning as reference for this analysis. As an early pioneer in social media and head of a leading social media software and services firm, I have overseen social crisis management dozens of times for some of the largest brands in the world. Our company, LiveWorld, has developed and deployed a strategic and operational framework for social crisis management. Neither Bumble or Tinder are or have been clients of LiveWorld, nor were they involved or asked for comment on this post. We did not perform a full social audit on either brand—just enough of a review to support the content of this article.
While Facebook has the best advertising and targeting platform, the recent changes limiting the ability to target consumers by condition or symptom might limit the use of Facebook by healthcare and pharmaceutical marketers in 2018.
The Power of Influencers
With these changes, pharmaceutical brands should consider using influencer campaigns on Facebook, which has new tools for brands to boost posts by influencers. Influencers, whether a celebrity spokesperson or a fellow patient, have relationships with their followers that are based on trust, value, and constant exposure. Boosted influencer posts make it easier for big brands to reach their influencer’s followers, without having to create more content.
Proper Community Participation
Medicine brands can also participate in existing Facebook communities that have previously gathered your targeted audience to focus your efforts. With community owner permission, brands can provide the education, compassion, and support that patients seek in communities, and in turn also increase their credibility with patients.
Solutions for Adverse Events Reporting and Management can keep Brands FDA Compliant
Pharma brands shouldn’t delay their use of social media due to the risk of adverse events reporting. Patients regularly use social media. In some cases, patients seek input and answers from social media before they visit their doctor. A recent survey of doctors by Cello Health Insights revealed 69 per cent of their patients look up their condition online prior to a consultation. While, 62 per cent of patients arrive to the doctors with a diagnosis they researched online. The research revealed that 40 per cent of patients ask for a named drug after having diagnosed themselves online.
Whereas, research findings among the public portray a similar viewpoint:
91 per cent of community members said online health communities play a role in their healthcare decisions, according to Wego Health.
Despite these behaviors and preferences, many pharmaceutical companies have been hesitant to establish a social media presence, ultimately because social media presents challenges for the pharmaceutical industry due to FDA regulations for adverse events, and adverse events reporting.
There are several reasons that make the case why medicine brands should take part in social media with patients and offer brand channels online. Pharmaceutical companies need to be proactive at managing consumer perception and the reputation of their brand. By monitoring their own social media and online communities, and comprehensive adverse events reporting, companies are less apt to be caught off guard by negative social comments or adverse events.
This monitoring can even be used in new channels like messaging and chatbots. For example, when a chatbot or other automation receives a user response that mentions key words that alert the brand, those words can trigger a message to a human agent at the brand or partner to review the content and submit it as an adverse event to colleagues in MedReg or pharmacovigilance.
It’s important that the technology and adverse events reporting tools brands utilize for adverse event management in social media and messaging maintain the company’s compliance with the FDA, can escalate chatbot adverse event conversations to humans, continually monitor and act when adverse events occur, as well as report and archive conversations for regulatory compliance.
Using FDA compliance software tools and human interaction that ensure compliance, pharma companies have much more they can gain by developing marketing, social and messaging campaigns. After all, Facebook’s Messenger platform has more than 1.3 billion monthly active users. Facebook-owned messaging apps send billions of messages a day. If you’re wondering how these chatbots and Messenger could help your brand derive value from social media, here are a few use cases to advance communications utilizing these channels:
Identify concerning symptoms — Users may be able to ask chatbots personal questions about their health. The chatbot can then offer responses from the brand’s vetted resources based on keywords from the user. And ultimately empower the user to have a more valuable conversation with their physician or health care provider.
Help find providers — By providing a zip code, chatbots can accurately link to or provide a patient with a list of appropriate healthcare professionals or specialists nearby their location.
Offer useful information — Chatbots can provide users with information on a variety of topics, such as how to respond to inquiries on certain health scenarios, the correct way to use a medical device, a complex drug procedure, or track exercise and eating habits.
Automate your FAQ – Medicine brands can automate their most frequently asked questions. The brand can replace what would normally be a cumbersome website navigation experience with chatbots and automation to deliver these answers.
Healthcare is already Realizing Tangible Benefits from Social Media Conversations
Many healthcare companies are using social media, in-app messaging, and chatbot experiences to work for them in a variety of ways, and with great success. With that in mind, here are a few examples of how these channels could empower brands to improve processes, engagement, and better meet the expectations of patients:
Social media–based research could help life sciences companies understand the patient journey for a condition better and identify specific points along the journey where the patient needs help.
Social media listening during a medicine or medical device product launch could help understand patient and caregiver expectations for value, access, and pricing.
Social media analytics could help a pharmaceutical manufacturer see the demand patterns of new medications.
Pharma Chatbots that Engage, Educate and Monitor on Social Media
Messenger enables pharmaceutical companies to have conversations and share information with consumers worldwide. One of the most well-known chatbot examples and human interaction, is HealthTap. HealthTap is an interactive health company that has developed a Messenger chatbot, which allows patients to quickly find out what they may be suffering from and how to talk about their possible condition with their healthcare provider.
If the answer isn’t part of the chatbot’s scripted response, a patient can submit questions to more than 100,000 doctors in the U.S. The patient can expect an answer within 24 hours or request a live consultation. By partnering with Facebook Messenger, HealthTap immediately increased their reach to more than 1.3 billion users that already have Messenger installed on their devices.
Using Messenger’s social media presence, there are innumerable ways that pharmaceutical brands could use chatbots in the messaging platform to streamline business operations, while enhancing the patient experience.
Doctor Discussion Guide: Provide patients with a natural experience to help them communicate more effectively with their doctors.
Benefits Verification Support: Simplify the complexities of the perplexing benefits verification process.
User Registration and Savings Card Distribution: Drive user registrations, building CRM opt-ins along with the distribution of a Rx savings card.
Customer Support and Content Delivery: Offer a more accessible and engaging method of communication and content delivery for patients on medications.
Filling out forms: Chatbots can be implemented midstream in a Messenger conversation when a repetitive task comes up, like regular questions, scaling your workforce, and making your team more effective.
Although pharma brands are highly regulated, chatbots and Messenger can help marketers accomplish their business objectives in new ways. Chatbots may never be able to replace human interaction, but they can help pharma marketers scale ordinary regular tasks.
Organizations can now confidently leverage social media and messaging platforms to market and share content such as disease-specific educational information for consumers, the latest details on new drugs, devices, or to create patient support groups and online communities. With modern FDA adverse events monitoring software and human agents, and adverse events reporting, these channels can help marketers identify the unmet needs of patients, innovate, and figure out where marketing dollars should be spent to have the greatest impact and satisfy patient needs and demands.
Now you can leverage Instagram for Customer Service
Social media is nothing new for organizations wanting to engage with customers for sales, marketing and customer service, but until recently, Instagram was limited in its capacity. It’s inability to scale left it out of the mix.
With Instagram’s API update, organizations have a new channel they can leverage to reach their audience. And why not? Over half of the 600 million active Instagram users check their feeds daily. Sales and marketing can add Instagram to their existing social platform to attract and retain more consumers, yet the most benefit may lie with social customer service, at least if it’s fully optimized.
Customer service organizations are eagerly trying to figure out Instagram and its full potential. Their new API, however, means brands can improve the user experience for Instagram fans. The LiveWorld platform includes a workflow to enable customer service reps to rapidly resolve issues on the channels customers prefer, including Instagram.
Liveworld’s workflow to rapidly engage users on Instagram
The key to exceptional customer service is twofold: fast resolution and relevant personal engagement. Social media empowers organizations to do both, at scale. Social media, with all its benefits, can have a dark side as well.
Consumers are free to publicly post negative comments that attract attention. Some of these disruptive comments give companies the opportunity to improve, but they can also be used maliciously to damage reputations rather than provide constructive feedback. In either case, organizations must be aware of any comments that need immediate attention.
The LiveWorld platform gives representatives more control and enables them to include it in the same platform with the other social media channels without adding risk. Combined with the automation capabilities of the LiveWorld software, processes can be setup to monitor user comments on your Instagram account, engage users, escalate problems to your customer service team, and even protect your brand by deleting or hiding those less acceptable user posts.
The new features can be applied to your organic content and your paid media on Instagram. Use a single tool to monitor comments on your posts on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and other social properties, and then engage those users, resolve issues and even moderate comments. All of this data can be integrated with existing enterprise data from the CRM system, giving organizations a more complete view of customer behavior and interactions.
Greater Coverage for Pharma – Adverse Event Monitoring on Instagram
Social media has traditionally been challenging for pharmaceutical companies to use due to inconspicuous adverse events consumers sometime post. Posts that contain adverse events (AEs) are typically difficult for pharma companies to find. Despite this, drug makers must still maintain FDA requirements that AEs be fully archived and reported. As a result, many medicine brands determine it’s not worth the risk to allow consumers to post comments on their social media pages.
There is a better way. Pharmaceutical companies can have the best of both worlds: enjoy the benefits of customer engagement on social media, while also maintaining FDA compliance.
In addition to offering customer service teams the capability to personally interact with Instagram users, LiveWorld offers pharmaceutical clients a solution to monitor Instagram posts in order to improve adverse event management for FDA reporting requirements. LiveWorld software eases the process of finding adverse event comments and “likes” to those comments, enabling pharmaceutical companies to quickly respond and remain FDA compliant.
LiveWorld is continually enhancing our product features and our newest Instagram capability makes it easy for brands to maximize both the power of Instagram and the LiveWorld platform. Using the LiveWorld solution, brands across industries can engage their Instagram users, rapidly resolve their issues with a personal touch, and enhance the brands reputation.
Implement Live Chat with the new LiveWorld Chat SDK
We’re all familiar with the term, “There’s an app for that.” App development is at an all-time high and most brands now have apps for their product offerings – for good reason. A whopping 90 percent of consumers’ mobile time is now spent in apps instead of browsers, and the love affair is only growing.
Mobile apps are a convenient way for consumers to engage with brands, yet there is much more companies can do to interact with their customers. Imagine the impact your apps could provide if they included a live, secure, chat platform, instantly connecting to your customer service team. How much more satisfied would they be if support was on-demand from the convenience of a mobile app?
LiveWorld’s chat Software Development Kit (SDK) makes it remarkably simple to implement in-app messaging inside of your Android and iOS apps. Within hours and without massive development efforts, you can integrate live chat from each app into theLiveWorld platform to have real-time interaction with every user of your app. Whether for direct marketing, sales or customer support, the chat SDK connects you with a captive audience who’s asking for engagement.
Fully-Automated Chat Experience with Integrated Chatbot Support
Does the thought of scaling customer support make you anxious? Your in-app chat platform can be enhanced with the use of chatbots for a fully-automated, highly-responsive experience.
Chatbots can handle about 80 percent of your customers’ issues, regardless of when or where they need assistance. The LiveWorld platform integrates chatbots into your team and offers several powerful features to automate customized responses and transfer conversations to your team if and when needed. The LiveWorld platform’s case management feature gives your customer support teams all of the tools they need to manage huge volumes of user requests quickly and efficiently.
All of the benefits and features of the LiveWorld platform can be applied to your in-app chat, from real-time engagement of users to prepared response libraries and our full-service case management system.
Adverse Event Monitoring for Pharma Apps
For pharmaceutical companies, there is currently little direct interaction with patients. Marketers have an incredible opportunity to use our chat SDK to seize this prime real estate and build relationships with consumers through personalized engagement.
By using in-app chat, pharma marketers can have 1-on-1 conversations with patients and consumers about products and their brand. LiveWorld’s capabilities go further by helping medicine brands detect, report and archive adverse events in social media, messaging apps and secure chat SDK. Drug manufacturers have the assurance their apps are compliant with FDA adverse events regulations.
The LiveWorld platform has privacy and compliance covered through secure, private and documented conversations. Drug makers and other healthcare clients, hospitals, health insurance and medical devices can activate in-app messaging with full confidence that the same robust feature set that enables FDA reporting compliance for social media user content are in place for chat content as well. In-app messaging has never been easier or more secure.
Moderate Facebook Comments and Enhance User Engagement
To allow comments or not to allow comments? Organizations in virtually every industry grapple with this question.
Brands crave customer engagement, but active consumer involvement can be a double-edge sword. For every helpful or inquisitive comment, there are likely an equal amount of spiteful, rude and even inappropriate comments. Your customers have the power to significantly harm your brand. In real time.
Some choose to remove the comment option from their pages entirely. Effective at controlling negative conversation, but costly in terms of customer engagement and perception. Some companies commit staff to stay on top of the comments to keep them from getting out of hand. Effective to the point where volume exceeds resources or overhead costs exceeds feasibility. And manually moderating comments hasn’t always been easy. It takes time, resources and good eyes, and even then, not all comments are properly handled. Negative comments don’t come with a red flag, causing many to be missed until the damage is done.
If your brand is faced with this all-too-common dilemma, read on. You need not face the Sophie’s Choice of sacrificing your brand, customer engagement, or resources.
Facebook comments that need brand engagement
Enhanced Support for Facebook Comments Social Plugin
It’s not a secret that customer engagement is an essential element of marketing. Encouraging customer conversation on your brand’s website and blog is smart. It enables brands to interact with their customers, increase brand loyalty and boost SEO.
The Times of London recently reported an interesting statistic they found from analyzing comments on their own web page. They learned that subscribers who comment read three times as many articles as those who don’t. This engaged audience is staying on the website longer, generating a greater number of views and returning to the website more frequently to follow comment threads and read more articles. These are high value, loyal customers. Removing the ability to comment could be a costly mistake that abandons these and future loyalists.
However, due to the potentially damaging nature of comments, only brands who are committed to moderating posts in real time will be able to ensure the content appropriately reflects the brand.
One of the best ways for organizations to add a comments section to a web page or blog site is to use the Facebook Comments Social Plugin. The module allows brands to easily engage users natively without a chat tool integration. Brands can gain insight and identify their users through their social profile, enabling more personal interactions. Users, in turn, are more likely to feel secure using the familiar Facebook Messaging platform without having to leave the website to do so.
While the Facebook plugin is great for comments, it does not offer brands the ability to connect with backend systems, route a chat interaction to the appropriate team/agent, or provide analytic insights. In order to not only connect with the customer but to resolve issues for the ultimate social customer service, organizations need more.
Automate Facebook Comment Moderation with Liveworld Software
LiveWorld software makes the Facebook Comments Social Plugin a more comprehensive, viable option for brands. It ingests user content from the Facebook plugin installed on your web page and allows you to use the full capabilities of our platform. Engage your users, moderate sensitive comments, resolve user issues, and measure performance from your web properties just as you would using LiveWorld software for messaging apps and social media.
The LiveWorld platform brings all of your customer content into a single, organized interface and allows you to scale your customer engagement through automated processes and workflows. Additionally, pharmaceutical companies can use our platform to monitor for adverse events in Facebook comments on their website or blog page to continue to ensure FDA compliance.
Finding Brand Mentions Outside of Your Facebook Wall
Not all comments are as easy to moderate as those on your own Facebook wall or website. Brand mentions can pop up on other Facebook walls. In fact, lengthy conversations about your brand can be missed completely, if you aren’t using the right technology to find them all. If you want to know what people are saying behind your back, so to speak, you have to have eyes and ears outside of your known circle.
With LiveWorld’s software, you can join users in conversations about your brand even when they are commenting on another brand’s Facebook page. LiveWorld’s platform pulls in user content across Facebook, enabling organizations to utilize a single interface to see brand-mentioned content and actually do something about it if desired. Brands gain a better understanding of what people are saying about their brand, can personally respond to questions and comments, and automatically create customer service cases on which the customer service team follows up to resolve.
If people are so inclined to comment on your website, blog page or Facebook page, removing their capacity to do so likely won’t be the end of it. They will find other places to get their point out there. Be there when they do.