Content Curation – The Cure for What Ails Pharma Social Media?

Hi gang – Sorry for the light posting schedule.  Truth is, I haven’t been at my desk for more than 2 days straight since the beginning of 2011, which puts a crimp in my creativity.  I’ve got PLENTY of ideas but not enough time to suss ‘em out enough for the blog.  Yet.

Meanwhile, I really dig this guest post, authored by my colleague Chris Iafolla, who also writes the blog PRforPharma, which focuses on the unique challenges faced by pharmaceutical companies when diving into social media.  Chris’s concepts for Content Curation could readily be applied to ANY type of company still wrestling with Social Media engagement strategy.

HiRes“Content is king.”  “It’s all about the content.”  “All good social media efforts start and stop with good content.”  No matter what tired, overused cliché you use, the prevailing thought is that without creating killer content, your social media efforts are doomed.

It’s a valid line of thought; content is the currency of social media.  At the same time, content is one of the most challenging and time-consuming aspects of an engagement.  The burden of producing consistently good content is enough to halt social media efforts before they ever get off the ground.

For a pharmaceutical company, the content burden is even more pronounced.  Not only do pharmaceutical companies face the same demands on content frequency, but they also have the added pressure of dealing with strict FDA regulations.  This not only limits what healthcare companies are able to say via social media, but also how compelling the content winds up being by the time it’s stripped down to comply with existing regulations.  It’s not an impossible task, but it adds a layer of complexity not faced in all industries.

In highly regulated industries such as pharmaceuticals or financial services, is there a role for a “content curator” as opposed to a content creator?  Is it possible to add value, build relationships and stay engaged if your company is not responsible for churning out content?

Absolutely.  If your social media engagement is stuck on the content creation planning—change your plan.  Your company can still add value as a content curator.  In the pharmaceutical industry, patients crave reliable information that helps them manage their health and feel a sense of community.  Healthcare companies can achieve both objectives without ever penning a single blog.

When it comes to health, pharmaceutical companies have added authority.  The patient population would welcome their help in identifying content that a credible expert deems reliable.

Did a recent article on managing diabetes appear that offers useful insight?  Retweet it.  Come across a video on YouTube on how families with a cancer-stricken loved one can best provide support?  Share the link.  Read a blog post that offers fresh advice on how to safely lose weight?  Comment on it, and share it.  The patient population will recognize your efforts to sift through the noise and identify factual content, backed by your authority as a respected pharma brand.

Being part of a community does not just mean churning out content.  Healthcare companies can engage with patients and identify useful content put out by other reliable sources.  Is it a perfect social media engagement?  No.  But in a space that is beholden to regulations, like Pharma, it’s a step on the path to a full social media engagement strategy.  So what are you waiting for?  Go move some content!

Posted on: January 25, 2011 at 1:12 pm By Todd Defren
21 Responses to “Content Curation – The Cure for What Ails Pharma Social Media?”


  • One of the ways we look at content curation is as a supporting player in the creation of original content. The content curation solution we’ve created (full disclosure, I am CEO of HiveFire, creators of content curation solution Curata) helps automate the collection and organization of industry-relevant content, but empowers the curator with the ability to transform this material into their own original articles. A curator can attach their own custom introduction or conclusion to a piece of curated content prior to publication, for instance.

    As it relates to the highly regulated pharmaceutical industry, this could be a best of all worlds’ solution. A curated article could be transformed into a wholly original piece, but the non-curated (ie original) portions could be kept brief and general enough to expedite content approval and minimize risk.

    Thank you for this article, Chris. If your readers would like to learn more about content curation, I would invite them to read the Content Curation Insights we’ve gathered in the Resources area of the Curata website:

  • Corrie smith says:

    Great post Chris. I also believe that pharma can sponsor third party generated content created by other outlets that provide basic information on anatomy, disease state, treatment options, etc. This is very valuable to every patient and caregiver. It does not always have to be about mechanism of action.

  • Love this article. I reprinted it on my blog to share it with my marketing fans. Thanks for sharing the idea.

  • @ Julie. Agree 100%. Producing valuable, solid content on a consistent basis is always a better approach. At the same time, it’s not always a feasible approach for pharmaceutical companies.

    @David, thanks for your thoughts and the link, I’ll check it out.

    @Daniel I’d have to disagree with you a bit. It’s not that simple for pharma companies. You are absolutely right, there are thousands of people talking about these pharmaceutical companies. However, there are very strict FDA guidelines on direct-to-consumer interaction from drug companies. For example, you mention patients talking about their symptoms online–the FDA would slap a huge fine on any pharma company that directly engages with a patient taking about their products or their symptoms (if that pharma company offers a suggestion). They simply can’t do it. I do agree that they can create valuable content. The type of content they create however needs to be different than in other industries.

    @Barbara, Oliver, Francois: Agreed, this is approach that can work for any industry where content is abundant or the resources to create content is limited.

    Thanks all for your comments, much appreciated.

    Chris Iafolla

  • DJ Edgerton says:

    One other issue to consider is not just the curation of the content, which all audiences will appreciate, but the bigger challenge is giving patients, caregivers and doctors the ability to comment and participate in a conversation. Otherwise it’s just pushing and passing…and social media is so much more then that. That is where the Pharama companies find the greatest challenge. Being able to create a platform where link minded people suffering, treating or caring for the same disease can share insight. That’s where it gets tricky. There is technology that allows for what we have come to call “enlightened moderation”… or…the ability to allow Pharma to quickly assess the risk associated with a conversation, weed out and react to any off label or adverse event content…and…allow the real conversation to happen. This can be achieved many ways. Zemoga built a wall post management system inside FB for Pfizer, yeah….it’s manual…but it is efficient and allows easier review and approval. There is also semantic filtration. I am working towards a day when the FB app itself ID’s risky content and makes suggestions to revise on the fly…or point you to the right place for that content…like a platform for AE reporting. There will be a day…soon…when social media’s role in providing education support and insight to the new breed of ePatient will arrive.

  • JULIE says:

    It’s great to spread around content that are relevant to one’s services but churning out original content would enable you to step further the thought leader ladder. Setting aside a day in a week to create an original content, I would say would be a comfortable pace to start on. But I guess, it’s a different matter for pharmaceutical companies, with all the restrictions & regulations involved.

    Julie Ann E.
    Community Engagement Executive
    Largest B2B contact database in Southeast Asia

  • David Spark says:

    I’ve actually written a lot about the subject of content curation. Last year, I wrote an analyst report, “Real-Time Search and Discovery of the Social Web” where I pointed out that really strong curation tools is what was missing from real-time tools, and that it was going to be the next opportunity in the real-time web. See the entire report here:

    Rafat Ali built his ContentNext empire on creating a meta or curated news site.

    I would also note that “curation” isn’t the only way to create value from content. I have another article that I think you’ll find very valuable:

    How to Increase the Value of Your Content without Ever Changing Your Content

  • DANIEL says:

    The bottom line is this: if people are talking about your products or anything related to your products, then there’s no reason you cannot product quality content while also “curating” industry news.

    You can’t tell me there aren’t thousands of people across the world talking about some of these pharmaceutical companies. What people are taking, what the symptoms are, what there experiences have been?

    Sure, it may be less glamorous and more restrictive than other industries, but that doesn’t mean you can’t engage the people that are talking about your products (or those of competitors).


  • “be your own magazine editor” is the approach I frequently advise clients in the healthcare space to take. Perfect way to share important/insightful/informative stories w/out creating them, or even taking a firm editorial stance. Can create a more diverse audience as well, helping spread messages further than concentrating on one silo.

    And thanks to Francois and Oliver for twigging me to Pearltrees. Off to explore how that works ;)

  • Guy Kawasaki says:

    I’m the co-founder, but here’s an easy way to find content for this example of a pharma company:

    You can go to and click on the Health tab and find everything we cover.

    Guy Kawasaki

  • Barbara Garrett says:

    Thanks for the ideas, Todd. The “curation approach” may also be quite useful in other arenas where content creation is either too expensive and/or conflicts with an organization’s content-based value proposition.

  • ward says:

    Killer, as in going for the jugular vein, maybe in the corporate world, but what about in the more nuanced world, of literature say, where seduction might be the weapon of choice. Or is that too fragile a weapon, one that can’t bleed the smallest tributary from the river of commerce.

  • francois says:

    In the pharma or the medical world curation is usefull.
    I would say that in every field where a lot of content is produced and need to organized a curation need does appear.

    As a co-founder of Pearltrees, the first social curation community, I define curation as an activity of selecting web contents, organizing them and share this curation with an audience. It is more than commenting and sharing, in my opinion.

    Here is some Pearltrees about medical topics:
    - autism :
    - medecine :
    - cancer :

  • Oliver Starr says:

    Todd, thanks for posting Chris’ piece. It’s very interesting. It’s also germane to a number of conversations I’ve had recently with people in a closely related field medical researchers and physicians. In particular I’ve had some very interesting discussions with Daniel Kraft ( about the idea of using a curation tool called Pearltrees to curate what he and his colleagues agree are valid pieces of research and or methods of treating specific ailments.

    With such a tool it is extremely easy for a group of experts to collaborate on a topic and pull together content from all over the web then organize it into a cohesive and embeddable format that lets them provide very specific and highly useful information to their patients, fellow researchers, etc.

    I’m sure that this same tool/approach would be highly valuable for the pharmaceutical industry. While the example I’ll present below is not one from a medically accredited source I think it nonetheless lets you get a pretty good idea of the potential for such software to do exactly what Chris has discussed above.

    If you, your associates or readers have any questions about Pearltrees or would like help in getting to know the interface, please feel free to contact me directly: @owstarr

    Oliver Starr, Chief Evangelist

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