Last Tuesday, March 15th, SERMO announced its Pages offering – a free opportunity to post social content to a vetted physician audience. These pages look like a good mechanism to access the SERMO physician audience and a place to trial actual engagement with social HCPs.
SERMO is the number one social platform for physicians in the US. Its main competition comes from Doximity and Quantia MD. Numbers are hard to find for these platforms, mainly because they are closed and traffic levels are dictated by the relatively small population of physicians in the US. Using a service called SimilarWeb we can get a rough overview of ranking:
Overall, we can see that Doximity has the largest volume of traffic, but that SERMO’s traffic is much stickier which possibly indicates they are interacting extensively with the social tools. The higher time on site and the larger sources of referrals and mail (which are almost certainly sent by SERMO) also indicate higher engagement. None of the sites gets appreciable traffic from public, consumer-oriented social channels and this highlights why the platforms exist: to provide a private social experience for physicians.
So, we know that some physicians use the social features of SERMO, just not how many. A new service offered by the platform will allow brands to run experiments and find out what sort of engagement they might get on the platform. This service is SERMO Pages which, like their Facebook namesake, allow companies to publish content on the platform for free. Now that’s a price we can all agree on.
As an example, we created a page for a branded product called Numara (numertopinib) to get a feel for how the process works and what marketers can expect when creating their own pages. The pages provide marketers lots of room for branding and imagery plus adequate space for company or brand information. Like Facebook, branded information will have to be “reminder ad” format so that it does not need ISI when shared.
Full Page View
Functionality Roll Out
In conversations with SERMO I’ve heard a number of times that they were pleasantly surprised by the instant attention their new offering garnered from the industry, but they were also a bit unprepared for all the attention. They have a roll-out schedule for functionality and will be adding features that pharmaceutical marketers need to use the service while adhering to internal regulatory procedures.
We got access to the platform on the day it was released and can report that it looks like it will be useful for both brands to distribute commercial information and companies for more condition and corporate news. The functionality on the platform is pretty robust for a first release:
- Draft: edit the page before making it live
- Preview: see the page the way doctors will see it
- Publish: make the page and content live on the platform
- Un-publish: take the page down so it is no longer seen
- Geography: Limit page access by country
- Draft Posts: add posts and edit them until ready and then publish
So, there is nothing to stop marketers from playing with the system and trying out some content on a draft-mode page and get familiar with the platform. This will give the marketing teams enough time to become familiar with the functionality before explaining it in detail to their regulatory groups. This will provide marketers the ability to adhere to even the most stringent regulatory review process. Like Facebook, marketers could even have two Pages on the system, one for “staging” where regulatory can see how new material will look and one “live” publishing approved information.
The roll-out schedule for additional functionality is quick but, based on our experience since Tuesday, SERMO’s development team seems to be able to add functionality quickly and in a high-quality way.
- Friday, March 25
- Delete posts: self-explanatory, remove the post from the page
- Delete individual comments: critical for regulatory, this allows violative comments to be removed, it is unclear how the page moderators will be able to inform users that their comment had to be removed
- Delete: remove the page and content from the system
- Friday, April 25
- Notifications: Get email notifications of new posts or comments
- Tuesday, May 31
- Video: embedded in the post from YouTube
- Polls: hosted directly on the page
- Private: Pages for specified, invite-only, users
That is an aggressive timeline for the platform. We can see that by the end of March SERMO will have a toolset that will allow marketers to participate in the discussions on the platform and by the end of May they will have a robust tool with some advanced features that may make it attractive to HCP marketers across most conditions.
Brand managers should keep in mind, that the amount of time it will take to get a proposal through Regulatory will almost certainly be longer than the update timeline for SERMO. So, if you want to get the benefit of being on the platform while there is relatively little competition, start now!
Creating your own Page
When creating the page you need only a few pieces of content:
- Page Name
- Page Description
- Decide whether to allow user posts on Page (on/off)
- Decide whether to allow user comments on Posts (on/off, selected per post)
- Upload 544px by 600px logo image
- Upload 1920px by 800px hero image
Regulatory and SERMO Pages
With the functionality being provided by SERMO nearly any regulatory process should be handled.
- There is enough room for ISI on the page, but like Facebook posts will need to be written in reminder format to allow for places where only summary information is presented
- Comments, however, can be turned on or off on a per-post basis, a feature that regulatory will almost certainly like and which will allow marketers to target certain posts for heavy moderation and open comments to experiment with engaging the audience
- Branded materials will need to consider carefully whether they can allow commenting. Just like on Facebook, turning comments off will make the page less social but may be the only way to get reviewers comfortable with the platform, at least on day one.
- Branded materials will need to keep posts in “reminder ad” format, at least until there is better clarity on how posts will be shared and displayed throughout the SERMO platform. This is just like every other social channel and the FDA has clearly demonstrated that it will hold marketers responsible for their content but not for anything that users add to it.
- Any materials that require FDA submissions will need to be screen-shots, it is unlikely the platform will be accessible to the FDA so they will not be able to simply accept a URL as the reporting mechanism.
- Since SERMO is an HCP platform, involve MedInfo early and consider partnering with them (if the traditional marketing / MedInfo wall will allow it) as they will have material that HCPs will find interesting.
Build it and they won’t come
Source: Every social media deck created since 2005
Building out a SERMO Page will give marketers some access to HCPs on the platform, but for engagement at scale you typically need to spend on media. There are three options for getting attention on your new page:
- Standalone posts in network to promote page
- Standalone ads to promote page
- Newsletter access and other SERMO tools
Essentially, nearly any media option that SERMO has for marketers now can be used to boost the reach of your Page. Contact your Klick representative or SERMO rep (if you deal with the platform directly) for details.
We think that all the excitement surrounding SERMO Pages is absolutely warranted. The Pages are free and provide a great place to experiment with content on a physician-only site. Talk to your Klick rep today to investigate your options on this new social platform.