Just as pharma was getting used to the idea of Twitter—and figuring out the best way to use 140-character messages—a new medium is breaking onto the scene: the short-message video. And unlike Twitter, several of these video-sharing apps are emerging at the same time, giving people (and companies) quite a few options.

Before we get into how (or if) pharma marketers can take advantage of these apps, here is a quick look at some of the most popular ones available:

Keek: Each keek can be up to 36 seconds long and be made via the iPhone, Android or the webcam on your computer or laptop. The app lets you follow people (just like Twitter); subscribe to people (where you can choose how frequently you get updates); Keekback (respond to someone’s video with one of your own); rate users (Keek calls it building up their Kred) and view a real-time leaderboard of the 100 most popular users. You can also keep track of your own Keek stats as well as Klusters, which group together keeks of a similar event or topic of interest.

Vine: This app is actually brought to you by Twitter and lets you share video clips that are a maximum of six seconds long. Once you post the video to Vine, you can also instantly share them via Twitter or Facebook. Similar to Twitter you can find, follow and interact with others as well as search hash tags to see what is trending. Vine is also known to get a little racy with pornographic or sexual posts. In fact, you must be at least 17 years old to download this app.

YouTube Capture: Currently only available on Apple devices, this app doesn’t put a time limit on your video. The app was designed to let you quickly record videos on your phone and then enhance them with the same tools that YouTube only previously offered via its full site on a computer, including color correction, stabilization, trimming and music tracks. You can then upload to YouTube, Google+, Facebook and Twitter simultaneously.

Vyclone: This is truly a social video platform. The app automatically syncs and edits footage filmed at the same event to create one video with everyone’s different perspectives cut together. You get sent the footage of the event video cut together and then you can put your own touch on it with the vyclone editor before sharing it with others. People can also find footage by searching users, tags, location and trends.

Cinemagram: With a maximum video length of only four seconds, this may be more of a GIF (a moving image) then a video—or as Cinemagram likes to call them “cines.” You can quickly shoot short videos on your phone and then apply different filters and speed effects before uploading them to Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. You can also interact with friends through likes, reposts and comments.

Now back to the pertinent question: Can pharma marketers take advantage of these apps in any way? Panorama asked our readers for their thoughts, but before we can answer that question, Jim Dayton, Digital Strategy Lead at Intouch Solutions, proposes a few more important ones.

“The first question we should all ask is: Are our customers are using these apps?” says Dayton. “If they are, how are they using them? And, finally, can our brand bring any value to patients or HCPs by using these apps?”

There is no question that the popularity of these apps is growing, so it may only be a matter of time before patients or HCPs embrace this medium in various ways. However, there is that tricky issue of fair balance and whether pharma can find its way around it.

Operating Within the Regulatory Boundaries

“In general, video bursts and micro-content are challenging for pharma because of fair balance and ISI requirements,” says Ben Currie, Group Director, Digital Solutions at GA Communications. “But, if we believe that successful brands should go further than to just declare their features, ingredients and benefits in every engagement, these new micro-content platforms could offer refreshing opportunities for customers to listen, inspire and share with each other.”

In other words, if the message is worth it then pharma will find a way to tackle fair balance requirements. Lucky for you, our respondents offered a couple of tidbits of advice that pharma can use to try to remain compliant.

1. Get Everyone on Board:

“Early marketers that are successful in educating their internal stakeholders (legal, medical, regulatory, etc.) on these new platforms can build a strong support system that will help them to move into new platforms,” says Greg Cohen, Manager, Social Media & Customer Influence at UCB, Inc. “Skipping early education for internal teams, in my opinion, is a recipe for disaster. Marketers who can build that internal team have a great chance for success in these new micro-video platforms.”

2. Stick With Your Current Guidelines:

“A good place to start is by looking at your existing Twitter guidelines and evaluating whether they can work for Vine without major modifications,” explains Geoff McCleary, VP/Group Director Mobile Innovation at Digitas Health. “In most cases they may not require significant changes.”

 Potential Uses for Pharma Marketers

Even the most careful pharma marketers will still face risks when venturing into this new medium. However, our respondents definitely see uses for these apps that could be worth those risks.

Extending the Brand: “Brands that are (or are becoming) media empires in-and-of themselves will find ways to tailor their content down to six seconds of video,” says Cohen. “The brands that create multi-sensory stimulating content will naturally engage users who are glued to their mobile devices looking for the best-of-the-best on the new platforms. My prediction is that artistic and humorous content will reign supreme as more nimble brand teams are able to create content and adapt to the new platforms quickly.”

Educational or How-To Videos: “I think they could be used today to create more interesting customer service experiences,” says Dayton. “But in the near future, these apps could be used by doctors to show very succinct patient education as their time with the patient continues to dwindle.”

Cohen agrees: “I see great promise in the space for ‘How-To’ videos for everything from home improvement to medical compliance and persistency.”

Free Air Time: “For many years, brand marketers looked for earned air opportunities on television via video news releases, b-roll, satellite media tours and the like,” says Steve Gold, President of The SGNY Group. “Today, the focus is shifting to the Internet and the possibilities for free brand message placement via video are very much still unfolding. Though the short length of these videos limits storytelling, it also forces communicators to come up with witty and innovative concepts that will be effective in a few seconds. Consequently, the message will be clearer in the minds of target audiences.”

Building Stronger Customer Relationships: “Some early Vine adopters, such as Dove, Wheat Thins, Gap and candy brand Red Vines have all explored different approaches,” says McCleary. “Dove and Red Vines showcase their products in fun and engaging ways, while Gap is using Vine to showcase the lifestyle of the brand. Wheat Thins are using the short-form video platform to support promoted tweets and hash tags, as well as to respond and interact directly with their followers—writing personal valentines to each of them with their names spelled out in Wheat Thins crackers.”

Corporate Communication: Leerom Segal, President and CEO of Klick Health, has trouble seeing a use for brand communications considering the time limitations. “Vine has a hard limit of six seconds,” he points out. “Can you really make a meaningful point and share ISI in six seconds?”

However, he does think it makes sense for corporate accounts. “Whether it’s sharing corporate culture for recruiting purposes or talking about mission and purpose,” he says, “short-form video will fill the same role as Twitter in the healthcare marketing world.”

In the end, however, brands may have little choice. After all, marketers must go where there customers are.

“Video is not only here to stay,” Mike Spitz, SVP, Managing Director, Healthcare Interactive Technology at ZEMOGA explains, “but exponentially growing in terms of digital user engagement—so even healthcare companies will have no choice but to embrace the medium and dive in. But doing it the safe and smart way takes creativity, insight and experience.”

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