Magazine Article | April 8, 2010

Is Social Networking A Waste Of Time?

Source: Life Science Leader
Dan Schell author page headshot

By Dan Schell, Editorial Director, Life Science Leader

A colleague of mine recently questioned whether social networking was just another fad that we should ignore.

“We shouldn’t be wasting our time on it; we’ve got more important things to do than tweeting,” he said. I’m sure that’s the sentiment from a lot of business executives, and in many cases, perhaps they are right.

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of social networking; @LifeSciLeader has 600+ Twitter followers, and the Life Science Leader LinkedIn group has 500+ members. For a company or even a magazine, social networking can be a powerful and inexpensive marketing tool. On the other hand, it can quickly gobble up your time, and many companies don’t see any return on that time investment. Which leads us back to my colleague’s point — where’s the value?

What most people forget, though, is that social networking wasn’t born as a newfangled marketing channel. In its purest form, it was created as an avenue for like-minded individuals to connect and share thoughts and ideas. That’s why Facebook continues to thrive.

In the pharma world, I recently joined a Ning (ning.com) social network called “Pharma Startup” that epitomizes what social networking was intended to be. According to the site administrator, “The goal of this site is to bring pharmaceutical entrepreneurs and investors together to share best practices, learn from each other, showcase our technologies, and give others the opportunity to offer a helping hand or some advice. The spirit of this site is summarized in two words: sharing and collaboration.” And so far, in the few months the network has existed, the group has met those goals. More than 230 people have joined the network, 21 videos have been posted on topics ranging from pharma products liability law to entrepreneurship, and numerous groups, blogs, and discussions have been started. The value is in the information that can help members grow their businesses and potentially, in the business connections they could make that could also spur growth.

The amount of time you should invest in sites like these is arbitrary. In theory, simply by becoming a member you may be exposed to a business best practice that was posted on the site that could help your company. On the other hand, becoming an active member in discussions and groups will undoubtedly increase your network of connections, thereby supporting the old adage, “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.”

Some types of social networking may indeed become fads as my colleague predicts. In general, though, I believe social networking sites such as Pharma Startup are the future of business collaboration in this and many other industries.