Social media is the latest marketing buzz word and its arrival has brought a new way of marketing or speaking to your audience. Many companies are weary of taking that first step into the social media conversation, however, gone are the days of choice. So, what exactly is social media and why is it so important for life science companies or brands?

The world of social media is far-reaching. Wikipedia defines it as media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. Translation, social media is not Facebook and Twitter rather the act of engaging your customers through interactive dialog using applications such as Facebook and Twitter to name a few.

As with most situations, a proactive approach will allow more control over the situation, allowing your company to build positive traction for your online reputation. However, for those that are hesitant to jump in head first, start small. Start by listening and monitoring your online presence through tools such as Google Alerts, Google Analytics, Twitter searches and industry blogs. Listen to the conversations and monitor your company mentions. Are patients discussing your product in online discussions? Are researchers discussing in online forums? Are your current (or past) customers commenting on your services? Don’t be left behind, or worse, forced to take a reactive stance to get you in the social media game. Start now, start small, listen.

One of the best content monitoring tools is Google Alerts. Google Alerts notifies the user when new content is posted to the web from blogs, discussion groups, etc. Setting up an account is free and very easy to do.