Social Media For Life Sciences, The Workshop

This is a summary of the talks at the workshop Social Media for Life Sciences organized by Utrecht Life Sciences.
Lykle de Vries was the ceremony master of the workshop Social Media for Life Sciences. He introduced Social Media to the audience and presented some facts about it.

Social Media the Big Picture (De Ondernemers): How have Social Media changed the world?

His main message was that everything related to information has changed. In the old paradigm mass communication was performed from top to bottom. In it, users could hardly decide which information information they got. Newspapers and other media outlets worked as information gatekeepers, they controlled what kind of information was distributed.

The Internet changed the rules and allowed information to flow freely and fast, very fast. Information flows in a different way, which is difficult to control. Information comes from people I know, not from newspaper editors that I don’t know.

Lykle also mentioned different examples of how social media has been used, for instance, to tweet live the capture of Bin Laden, or how insurance companies use it to crowdsource idea generation.

He mentioned 3 key Social Media platforms:

  • Twitter and its ongoing conversation, where you drop in and then drop out
  • LinkedIn and its work related flair.
  • Facebook and its use to keep track of what your friends are up to.

Best Practices in Social Media for Life Sciences

Erik Vollebregt

Erik presented how his new law firm specialized in technology is using Social Media to generate some buzz.

He recommends using LinkedIn as a professional, and to turn into LinkedIn groups to find people that want to hear what you have to say. He even recommends to pay for pro account to see more of the profiles of other users.

The online presence of his company is based on 2 websites, 2 blogs, and a 2 Twitter accounts. All of them are interconnected and content is reused throughout. They also use an old school mailing list to email invitations and notices.

He recommends to offer free info because people want free stuff, so skip the paywalls. The consequence of using Social Media for his business is that they prove they are experts in a cheap way.

In the Q&A, the following questions were asked:

Having 3 persons involved in the publication of content, how can you control their mistakes?
It all boils down to training them in the use of Social Media, deleting what goes wrong (as a small company, a mistake won’t appear in CNN), and acknowledging that everybody does mistakes.

What is the impact of being involved in Social Media for being active for just a few months?
Cheap marketing is precious, as they don’t have money to spend but they do have time. As an example, instead of spending10000 euro to sponsor a conference, they used 2000 to rent a beach hut to have a parallel guerrilla party to the conference.

They created buzz with Social Media and they spent the night drinking and networking with 100+ conference attendees. According to them the impact of the 2000 euros plus Social Media was comparable to sponsoring a conference.

Despite not using Social Media for life sciences, the techniques presented by Erik can be used by scientists to get more exposure.

Sijme Zellemaker

Sijme presented the endeavors of a biotech startup, to-bbb, with Social Media.

Their website was great for press releases but quite limited in terms of interaction with patients, press and potential new employees. This is why they looked towards Social Media to fix this.

They started by looking at how other pharma companies were using Social Media.  Their conclusions were that some small pharma use Twitter and most use LinkedIn, while most of big pharma use Twitter. They opted for a platform that included Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Although it sounds like a lot of work, they automated most of their activities in these 3 networks using Hootsuite.

Sijme advised to track clicks on their tweets and page views in LinkedIn, and to use more visual content your Social Media, since it gets more retweets and shares. Social Media is for to-bbb an amplifier that can use a lot of time, therefore suggested that some rules are provided to the people in the company using Social Media. Simple rules are enough.

Sijme and the audience left some open questions without a clear answer.
How to reach patients organizations and how to reply to patients that send direct inquiries?
How to increase exposure?

Martijn van Oijen

Martijn presented a radical use of Social Media: collecting patient data from Twitter, it is what he named Social Medica.

The idea is as follows: collect all the original tweets (no RT) that include a keyword concerning a disease, like “Crohn”. Use NLP to process the text in the tweet to determine if it is a patient or not.

Next, try to determine the sentiment or mood of the tweet, is it positive or negative? Add geolocation to know where the patients are located. And since you are there, why not connecting these patients with Yelp or Foursquare to see if they still go to restaurants or keep an active life?

To me this sounds revolutionary and indicates one of the directions healthcare is going to follow in the near future.

Concerns? Yes, how good is the data and privacy and ethical issues.

Still. Martijn is challenging the status quo and pointing to the moon, so don’t just look at his finger.

My final remark

I think there is a lot to gain in using Social Media for life sciences. But I still don’t have a clear idea of the issues between scientists (and science start ups) and Social Media.

What do scientists and startups want from Social Media and blogs?

  1. Learn how to run Social Media from day 1 by themselves.
  2. Hire somebody to help them to get started and then run Social Media themselves.
  3. Hire somebody to run all the Social Media for them.
  4. Other ideas?

Please leave a comment if you have any needs concerning blogging and Social Media.


Featured image by marketingfacts
About Julio Peironcely

Julio Peironcely, PhD is the founder of Next Scientist and a PhD by Leiden University. He helps PhD students to stay motivated, be more productive and finish their PhDs. Follow him on Twitter (@peyron) or read more from him on


  1. Thank you for this summary. Could not attend, but now have an idea about what I missed. With regards to your questions, curious about answers too 🙂

  2. life sciences journals says:

     Nice Articles.I came to know more information about the social media life sciences by reading this Articles.Thanks for Sharing..

  3. Audrey Melnik says:

    You should consider using ZootRock (hhtp:// – it generates content to post to your social media accounts. You choose the type of content and it finds great relevant content for you.