LillyPad flops into the pharma blogosphere

Eli Lilly finally has ‘an official blog‘ with an accompanying Twitter account.

Tempting though it may be, one can’t say ‘Lilly has hopped to it’ in terms of the time it has taken for the company to get its act together with regards to its social presences on the web.

Those Lilly employees I have spoken to this year have stated that the company had a ‘wait and see’ policy, and that they were in no rush to get involved until needs had been assessed and benefits quantified.

That’s fair enough.

However, the decision to look rather than leap comes at a price, namely the need to repay heightened expectations with interest.

It must be taken into account that all eyes will be on a company that has elected to keep a discrete distance from social environments when it finally does decide to put in an appearance.

So now Lilly is here. What’s the blog like?

Let’s begin with the name: it’s an eye-roller, not an eye-catcher.

I’m left to wonder how many times the concept of a ‘Lilly pad’ brand has been mooted internally over the years as the inevitably corollary of its obviousness. Mooted, that is… and rejected.

Why choose it now? Perhaps because it connotes ‘Lilly and TypePad’, and TypePad’s the third-on-the-podium blogging platform, and… that’s it. No-one, surely, is going to set out to build a brand that says ‘we’re bronze medalists!’ so there must be some other reason. However, if there is, it eludes me.

What also currently elude me are Lilly’s social media guidelines.

After the launch of Roche’s social media principles in August 2010 and the interest and conversation they generated, in my opinion it is no longer acceptable for a pharma company simply to appear on the web and invite comment without being able to give an account of itself in return.

Readers want to know why you are here, what you are going to do, what you are going to say, on whose behalf you are saying it, what you can expect to happen to the comments and content you are hopefully at liberty to contribute, and so on. Until that happens, LillyPad is just another pharma bullhorn, albeit one with seemingly better manners and a more pleasant disposition than pharma normally displays.

Let’s turn to the strap line:

Answers on a postcard, please, as to what you think that means.

Policies and perspectives combine like oil and water. Are we being told what Lilly thinks? Are we being told what Lilly thinks it thinks? Are we being asked to tell Lilly what we think? Are we being asked to tell Lilly what it thinks? Finally, the quotation marks just add to the confusion. “LillyPad: call me Ishmael“.

I’m left feeling that Lilly wants to make statements and invite comments at the same time, but I neither understand why, nor comprehend how.

In short, Lilly needs to impart some clarity around this unnecessary strap line, ideally by removing it altogether.

Turning to the format of the site, there is work to do here, too.

Whilst sidebar categories don’t get tabs, we are presented with a redundant ‘blog’ tab despite the fact that there is nothing else here other than the blog itself. Perhaps this just needs to be re-labeled ‘home’?

The editorial voice of the blog has a certain schizophrenia to it, but don’t get all smart-Alec and start making wisecracks about Zyprexa (off-topic: Jeez! Does that site need a refresh).

At first sight, LillyPad wants to be pals with us:

Dialogue! Sharing! Passion! Participation! Thought sharing! Even ‘two-way conversation’! (sic; try having a ‘one-way conversation’ ;)). Whilst it stops short of offering us a #BuzzwordBingo full house (and I’m loving the fact that ‘engagement’ seems to have been red-penned whilst all the others made the cut), it’s got all the lingo to make a social media health hipster feel at home as they cruise the site on their iPad.

Be careful as to which thoughts you share, however:

Err… OK.


Did you see the game last night?

Assuming you can alight upon something that LillyPad decides it, and you, are at liberty to talk about, you’ll want to leave a comment.

First, you’ll need to cough up your details:

No problem.

It’s not as if Lilly is going to abuse your trust by using your personal details according to the waiver you’ve just unwittingly agreed to, hidden away somewhere in the privacy policy, right?


I am going to restrict my further comment on this decision on Lilly’s part to two words on the basis that I should imagine that plenty of other people are going to have rather more to say on the subject in due course. Those two words for you: big mistake.

Finally, there is the inevitable accompanying Twitter feed widget where we can review the LillyPad account‘s latest posts. At least they’re not spamming us with ‘come to our conference booth!’ updates.

Whoops! Spoke too soon:

OK, OK, Mr. Snippy!

At least they’re not tweeting like a bot, then.

Bah! Wrong again. Ah well.

Flash tutorial 1: Tweet with us, not at us.  I don’t care about your conference stands, quarterly results, or corporate shill. Can that, and we’ll be firm friends. Scout’s honour. As long as you don’t sell my details to spam monkeys.

Flash tutorial 2: It’s OK to thank more than 1 person in a tweet 🙂

Let’s finish on some positive notes.

  • Comments are on. Yay! Good work, Lilly.

So, LillyPad is here. Frankly, it’s not a great start.

That said, let’s hope Amy, Greg and Ron can go on to give us plenty of reasons to trust them.

11 thoughts on “LillyPad flops into the pharma blogosphere

  1. Here are some of my off-the-cuff comments:

    Everybody – individuals to organizations – all have different approaches to choose from when it comes to blogging.

    Blogging is a long-term learning and do-ing proposition. If you don’t make mistakes and learn from them, you won’t be much good at creating quality content and engagement.

    And when it comes to organizations blogging – especially in the heaviest regulated industry – I’d expect a lot of internal discussions, meetings and compromises to be made.

    The internal champions have it really hard – they’ve got a lot of gatekeepers, and most often the gatekeepers aren’t fully up-to-speed on web literacy.

    So I guess, I’m coming to the defense of Lilly (or more so the internal champions).

    Blogs have for too long been overlooked as a way to understand how the web works – both technologically and socially.

    But I think if Lilly understands that a blog can require a long ramp-up and doesn’t give up because it doesn’t see results (however those are defined), Lilly has a lot to learn.

    As far as their Twitter stream – yes, you and I don’t tweet like that, and it’s less than optimal for sincere engagement.

    But I don’t think that’s the worst thing in the world. It’s Twitter 🙂

    …And I can see the desire to be conservative and roll-out a set of boiler plate responses to people.

    Bottom line is this: if content generation is the result of compromise – that is, of an ‘averaging’ process – it’s very hard to stun your audience.

    But I think Lilly has a chance to learn. That’s the great thing about blogging: you can start to go public without having too much of a following to notice and can always refine your ways – dare I say ‘leap’ ahead as you learn. 🙂


    • Hi Phil

      Thanks for your comment.

      WP has just chewed up my comment, so suffice to (re)say: it’s harder for pharma to launch a social media presence now, because more is expected of new entrants. This was less true a year ago, say, but that’s one of the benefits of being an early adopter, prepared as they are to feel their way, and one of the penalties of being a later arrival.

      For example: IMO, blog post #1 now *has* to be ‘we’re CompanyX! These are our social media guidelines in order to help explain what we are going to do’.

      Roche raised the bar. It’s harder for new entrants now, but tant pis.

      That’s done now. Today is another day for @LillyPad, and I look forward to seeing what they do.


  2. Hey Andrew – you are such a marvellous rascal ;+) I refer you to your carrot / stick comment opener on my recent blog post: :+). As Phil comments above every organisation has to start out somewhere. Let’s engage with the pharma champions and see where the conversation goes. They may be gold medallists in time.

    As @dominic_tyer wrote on his InPharma blog post ( “The addition of Lilly to the ranks of blogging pharma companies is noteworthy because it means that exactly half of the ten biggest pharma companies now run a corporate blog.” So maybe they aren’t that late to the party?

    People have to find their way within an organisation, toddler steps have to be taken in the first instance.

    You are an inspiration to me in your social media prowess and I know you are being (in your own fabulous way) a coach and guide to other.

    @aurorahealthpr ^NC

    PS Will be getting you a carrot cake for when I see you next :+))

    • Hi Neil

      I may have to get that put on my Moo cards 🙂

      Yeah, carrot/stick. I get it.

      I think my response to Phil summarizes why this launch riled me somewhat.

      It’s not what LillyPad is going to go on to do, it is what they should have done already.

      Whilst watching and waiting, one has plenty of time to learn from the mistakes of the others who have been brave enough to #failbetter on your behalf whilst you sat off-stage.

      I saw little evidence of that. No matter! Time to move on.

      If anything, this shows the remaining pharma companies that this is only going to get harder to do the longer they wait.

      They need to get in, and get on.

      Not too much frosting on the cake, OK? 😉

      • As always another thought provoking post Andrew. Whilst I do agree with some of what you write I also think there are still far too few pharmacos out there being truly active online – and also too few doing it really well. I think we do have high expectations (quite rightly) and those doing things well need highlighting and praise – but we also need to encourage (and forgive) the “newbies” online. I personally think it is high time all pharmacos were online – and if that means not doing things perfectly at the beginning so be it – as long as they listen, learn and adapt as they go along.

        And as to carrot cake – happy to have a go at baking you one : )

  3. Agree with Alexandra here. Lilly (and others) are making the effort to go online where others are still holding back.
    As a serial lurker and very infrequent poster, I can acknowledge that while you and others have been in this space for a while, there are many who still don’t know how to use twitter, or know what a facebook fan page is and any chat about a ‘blogroll’ would produce red faces. My bet is a great deal of people in pharma are these people.

    It does seem that Lilly are embracing social media as the pricess did the frog, rather than the full embrace she gave to the prince the frog turned into.

    But I think we should keep in mind that pharma is used to taking tentative steps when broaching new ground. This usually involves pilots of programmes, kept to a small audience, evaluated before going full scale. With social media there is no pilot programme option. It’s all or nothing.

    While they have some questionnable restrictions regarding transparency and the ability to truly engage on their site (like not enabling chat about their own company) I think they should be congratulated for taking the plunge and hope that in time, and with practice, they embrace social media wholeheartedly.

    I’m a big fan of carrot cake so next time we meet I’m happy to be a taste tester for both your efforts, Neil and Alexandra!

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