YouTube, Me Tube, We all Tube

Another pharmaceutical company has joined the ranks of YouTube.  Yesterday, the Twitter feed for Amgen announced the launch of their new channel. “#Amgen’s new YouTube channel is live!” it said.

When you go to the channel, there are three videos posted there.  One is an “Introduction to Amgen” and two are on angiopoeitans and tumors.  I watched the first one half way through, the other two lost me entirely.  They were kind of complicated, though I generally like mechanism of action type videos that educate.

I became the fourth subscriber, and today, I noted there are thirteen.  I checked to see if comments were being accepted and found that they were not.  I also tried to “friend” them.  So far, no reply.

I thought that the occasion of the emergence of a new channel might provide an opportunity to see how everyone is doing.  Everyone that is pharma on YouTube I mean.  It prompted me to once again go through my subscriptions to the various pharma-related YouTube channels that exist.  And one has to say, looking at the group as a whole, one has to wonder – why is pharma bothering?

There are a lot of varied approaches to YouTube, but in fact, no one is registering much success out there.  Of course, Johnson & Johnson has produced a huge quantity of video and has a lot of viewings and they have the largest and most impressive effort around that I can see.  It is quite a varied channel carrying a wide range of video and topics and they have had a good number of visitors and viewings.  One has to wonder if at some point, given the more granular nature of social media, that they might want to subdivide it by subject matter.

But for the most part, much of the pharma presence on YouTube is stale and without direction.  Some of the channels are inert and don’t have anything of interest on them.  Some do some noble experimentation, such as the one of the multiple Pfizer channels does focus on clinical trials, which I think is interesting.  But I have to wonder about the promotion – I had to find that channel – it didn’t find me exactly.  Lately GSK has been featuring their CEO discussing philanthropy – an area that I think offers quite rich potential when thinking about global development – so it leads one to wonder whether there is a strategy emerging there or not.   But he is also discussing company results and strategic priorities.  So perhaps it is just meant to be a platform for him.

I don’t pretend to have the answer to what makes a good YouTube channel, but I can say this, for the most part, whatever it is – it is largely lacking in the pharma industry use of this medium.  Certainly some companies achieved some success with earlier channels that were very focused on patient stories, channels that are no longer up.

But my gut tells me that there are a few rules of thumb.

  • One, don’t do a channel just to have a channel.  Because that is what it looks like when you’ve finished – a one-off.
  • Second, maybe concentrate less on what you want to say and more on what people want to hear and know more about.  Start with the audience and work your way backward.
  • Third, create a channel with a strategy.  If you have one, make it felt.  If you don’t have one, re-consider your options.
  • Fourth, a medium like this is like a garden.  You have to tend to it.  Clearly J&J gets that.  If you don’t tend to it, it looks that way, and that reflects on you.
  • Fifth, YouTube is social media.  If you can’t be social, you probably don’t belong there.  Taking the social part out of social media creates an obstacle for one’s success.

As demonstrated by the work featured in an earlier post around, video can offer a great deal and visual learning is very important.  But, like any other aspect of communications, it takes time and effort to do it effectively.

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5 Responses to YouTube, Me Tube, We all Tube

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  3. Dominic Tyer says:

    Hi Mark

    Nice post (and good job with the recent redesign BTW).

    Another type of pharma video I’ve been seeing is the ‘this is what it’s like to work here’ type of film.

    Pfizer Europe’s channel began with this sole focus last year, but has since included different types of videos.

    Novartis’ channel also has this kind, along with a broad range of videos, but they use playlists in a nice way that gets at the kind of subdivision you mention.

    Also, a couple of months ago I looked at European YouTube awareness campaigns from pharma for a short piece on my Digital Pharma blog (coincidently it’s one that links to one of your own blog posts).

    There are three videos, one each from Pfizer, Janssen UK and Bayer Schering Pharma, that have all received more than 125,000 views apiece (way, way ahead of most pharma videos on YouTube).

    So, in some cases at least, perhaps the channel doesn’t really matter so much, maybe it’s more about the individual video?


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