So, if you’re paying attention, it looks like our friend Sermo is having a bad couple of weeks. Sermo is a “publisher” or purveyor of a web site, somewhat like Facebook, specifically designed around HCPs. The idea is that HCPs can get together, talk about what HCPs are interested in, maybe get a few marketing messages from people like me trying to make them more aware of some medication or treatment option, and generally do what people (maybe I should be more clear and say “adults” to keep Sermo from sounding like some sort of frathouse) on Facebook do.

I will say, in an effort to be upfront and open, that my company has done business with Sermo before, though I have not.

So things are going pretty well for Sermo. That is, until @TomRines at Sermo started a Twitter conversation (Medical Marcon has the whole conversation archived on their site, which you can read here) to kinda introduce themselves to people who hadn’t heard of them yet.

Perfect. Yeah. Well, one of the things Tom said Sermo did was to “listen to the physicians conversations to mine business and competitive intel” which started the first round panic. Twittering HCPs were surprised to discover that Sermo, a service they get for free, might actually be trying to get something out of the relationship.

In fact, a quick read of Sermo’s terms and conditions pretty much spells out that they are listening and going to turn the discussion into information about what HCPs are looking for, how they see a given product, attitudes and beliefs, etc.

I want to reserve judgement on the HCPs and how they could think that Sermo was providing this service for free, especially after they partnered up with Pfizer in 07.

But I also want to introduce everyone to a little company called Facebook, which looks like a fun way to keep in touch with friends and make new ones, but is really the best collector in personal information available today. How else are you going to have a significant number of people (700 million at current count, which is pretty freakin’ significant) tell you what they do, who they like, what they do with their free time, what school they went to, who their family is, what websites they like, what products they use on a regular basis, and really what they are thinking about right now. They collect so much information that there are numerous conspiracy theories that makes Facebook the greatest CIA intel collection operation ever.

Every time Facebook changes privacy settings or posts your information to a news feed without giving anyone a head’s up, or just does whatever Facebook feels like doing, everyone goes nuts for two days, groups form to protest the change and demand it be reversed and nothing happens. Well, that’s not true. One thing happens: Facebook keeps growing.

Oscar nominated movie that makes the CEO/Owner look like the devil? More people sign up. Data mining? More people sign up. Virtually impossible to delete personal data? More people sign up.

I mean, if you’ve ever used the Facebook Ads system, you see exactly how well Facebook knows it’s users. If I wanted to, I could place an ad that would only be seen by men ages 22-23, who live in Peoria, who are not in college, who like motor cycles and knitting, and don’t work for Walmart. No, really. 

This is the internet and the world. Yes, it’s weird putting more info out there, but when everyone does it, maybe we really do get better messaging. (I mean, I have zero interest in buying a hearing aid, so why should I see ads for them?)

What does it all mean? @pharma411 reports that Sermo numbers are up 200 in the last couple of days despite all the chatter.

Not surprising. People (and HCPs) want a place to congregate. It looks like Sermo is it for the time being.

Comments open. Twitter me @digital_pharma

Otherwise, have a great weekend!