Today in MarketingProfs, an article about how the “human voice” in social media builds customer relationships.

I’ll just file that under “DUH” again (this folder is getting kinda full).

The reason social media works is that it’s powered by people. That chatbot you have to talk to when you want to “chat” with your cable company? No fun. Chatting with a person at Zappos? More fun. The web is people-powered. Every good web site you’ve ever read, every game you play, every flame war that made you giggle: People powered (Note to self: re-write The Police’s Every Breath You Take for the internet).

Here’s the problem, though. All those pages you ready that suck? A person wrote them, but while they were trying very hard not to sound like a person.

Example? Here’s something I found in five seconds on IBM’s website:

Implementing a cloud computing model means encouraging innovation by simplifying and standardizing underlying infrastructure. It entails the creation of efficient yet flexible IT foundations that can support the development of new services and the consistent delivery of quality user experiences. And it demands a focus on ensuring interoperability, resiliency and security in an integrated fashion.

Um… I’m a geek and I can kinda parse that stuff, but what I really take away from it? “This is a bunch of text that sounds impressive and says nothing you can hold us to later because the lawyers have taken my grandma hostage and won’t let her go until I remove any trace of humanness from this article.”

We. Hate. Reading. This. Stuff.

Insurance Explanation of Benefits? Hate. Contracts?. Hate. Terms and Conditions? Hate. Most business writing? Hate. 

Bring me the people! Oh, it’s the internet and the people are someplace else… okay, bring me the human voice.

This is why you spend time on Facebook and Twitter: Real people’s voices! This is why the sales writing at a is so good. 

But pharma is in trouble because pharma is terrified of the human voice because it terrifies the lawyers which are terrified of the regulatory agencies who are terrified of the people they are supposed to protect.

So the question isn’t “What will the fed let us do on social media” because even if the fed let us do anything and everything, if it’s not built in the human voice, it’s all worthless. It’s all so much Explanation of Benefits in social media form (eww). The question is “How do we find a more human voice with which to talk to our customers? 

Funny thing is: there’s already an answer. But the answer is as complicated as the question. The answer? Get HCPs online and in social media!

[Sorry, I didn’t realize this would be such a long post when I started it.]

Yes, we need to get HCPs active on Facebook and Twitter. But they, like the rest of us, as terrified of the lawyers and getting sued, so they stay away in droves. They even try and force a copyright violation on people who complain about them online. 

Suggestion: We need a federally mandated “Good Samaritan Law” for HCPs online. And HCP is allowed, encouraged and expected to answer questions online, knowing full well that if they are acting in the best interests of the “patient” and with the best possible knowledge they have, they are protected from lawsuits. They can answer any health care question (with links to their info, so I don’t accidentally ignore an oncologist in favor of an answer by a podiatrist when asking a question about cancer) using their full name and licence, based on whatever information is presented to them, based on the best knowledge they have at the time and you can’t touch them because they are acting on good faith. The patient accepts responsibility for asking a good question, getting follow-up when something is misunderstood, and have the good sense to stop lurking online when clearly the right answer is to see a doctor.

How does this help pharma? Now HCPs can talk openly about medicines, what they like and don’t like about them, recommend (gasp) off-label uses that might be beneficial, and can talk openly about what they’ve seen.

This means that pharma can focus on the one thing they’re supposed to do: make good drugs.

It’s a long weekend coming up, but you can still disagree with me at @digital_pharma or in the comments.