"We're not allowed to" is one of the most commonly uttered phrases about social media by marketing professionals in regulated industries. A few bad experiences, combined with an understandably vigilant regulatory mindset, turns organizations known for their marketing prowess into paralyzed players.

Let's look at the following three industries and their cross-category similarities, and then let's come up with some solutions.

Drugs

Highly regulated, the drug industry is used to long development cycles with often very little communication during that process. As a drug moves along the development cycle, and then into clinical trials, there is as much attention paid to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversight as there is to the future marketing landscape.

Once a drug has received FDA approval, pharmaceutical companies launch into a tried-and-true formula of brand awareness, doctor education, and focused customer communications to take advantage of their exclusive window.

But even as organizations' paralysis (or quiet) remains the norm in their social space, conversations and discussions are going on louder and faster than ever before:

  • Millions of consumers online discuss key conditions—everything from cancer treatment to MS and dietary conditions.
  • Some four million mommy bloggers talk about various topics, with their family's health as the top topic category.
  • And, according to a variety of research sources, more than two-thirds of US online adults use the Web to research and discuss medical conditions.

Added all up: An incredibly vibrant set of discussions.

Milk

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Glenn Engler is the CEO of Digital Influence Group, a Boston-based digital agency with social at its core. You can read Glenn's blog and reach him via Twitter @glennengler.