Let me take you back a long, long time ago to the day I joined Diaryland. You don’t remember DL? I’m not surprised, because three months later I abandoned it and joined LiveJournal. Ah, now you have a frame of reference. We’re talking years ago, almost a decade ago. 

And I was on LiveJournal for a year or two before I found myself spending more and more time on MySpace. But that was short-lived, and I quickly moved to Facebook. And then Twitter. And then FourSquare. And then Google+. 

Yes, that’s quite the travelogue of web 2.0 real estate, and it doesn’t take into account a similar progression from AIM to YahooIM to GChat. 

What do all these things have in common with each other? I joined each and every one of those sites for a single reason: I already knew someone on it.

Social media and their brethren are called social because they are of limited value without other people there to hang out with (note <a href=”http://pewresearch.org/pubs/2131/social-media-Facebook-twitter-myspace-linkedin”>the study</a> that shows that two thirds of social media users are on those sites specifically to stay in touch with friends). What good is being the first person on Match.com if there’s no one to flirt with (which is why they gave accounts away to anyone for free for more than a year)? None. 

These online places even build their own cliques. At one point, I had one group of friends on LiveJournal and a different group on MySpace. Put these two groups of people in a room, and ten minutes later, they’d be self-segregating into two very different parties.

Beyond joining a crowd, having people already onboard to act as your personal tech support is also a draw. My wife is a Facebook ninja, in that she knew every security and privacy feature backwards and forwards. She taught her friends how to lock down their pages long before Facebook felt inclined to explain their privacy policies in plain English. She was everyone’s go-to for Facebook advice. And when she had questions about Google+, she asked me (it’s a well-balanced relationship). 

What does this have to do with pharma and CRM? Well, the reason you haven’t dived head-first into CRM is not because you don’t understand it. It’s not because you don’t see the value of it. It’s not because you can’t see the ROI.

You know that 99% of your HCP targets are online, that more than 90% are in social networking groups, that more than 60% use Google to find out more information about diagnosis, treatment and pharmacology. You know that most HCPs are neck-deep in the Internet to help their practice and their patients. You know that this kind of environment is perfect for CRM, for tracking and measuring all your digital marketing initiatives, for seeing which ones work where and when it’s time to cut bait on under-performing tactics.

What’s really stopping you is that you don’t have a social network drawing you into CRM. Not enough of your peers have dived in, so you are waiting to see how things work out for them.  

Sure, I understand. You’re scared of diving into new technology that you don’t think is proven yet (to that end, have you met Amazon, the greatest example of how a CRM gives actionable data about one’s customers?). You don’t want to spend money on the PushMedia, Apple Newton, or WebOS of today: ideas that sounded good at the time but died miserable and expensive deaths.

And if you’re first to adopt, who are you going to turn to for advice? CRM is big and complicated, and if your CRM vendors don’t know the ins and outs of pharma, they aren’t going to be in any position to help.

But what happens when everyone else adopts and you’re still sitting on the fence? Yes, a CRM program takes time to implement, but once it’s all set up, it provides useful data very quickly. While you’re waiting to hear how things are working, your peers are already making tactical changes and thinking about how all their new data will help them adjust their strategy.

How long are you going to wait? You already know that digital is taking over, and that CRM helps you manage all the new digital channels. Ask around: how many of your peers are signing agreements with CRM vendors? Are you falling behind without realizing it?

What are you waiting for? Are you like the person who still isn’t sure that Facebook will really take off before signing up?