Last week I attended Roche’s Fourth Social Media Summit. Roche flew a bunch of us crazy blog-type folks to Indianapolis and put is in a hotel that featured televisions in the bathroom with the goal of advancing the conversation between the patient and our evil corporate overlords. Actually, they aren’t evil. Not at all. I was quite impressed at both Todd and Rob’s ability to maintain any element of control in a room with so many personalities. Not to say that we were hostile or anything like that, but there’s a lot to consider when you bring this amount of raw opinion under one roof. Of course, being the fourth summit, this was not their first rodeo. However, this was my first go-round and my thoughts on all of this must be taken with that specific context. As a noob.
My biggest apprehension about accepting the invite to this thing is that I didn’t (and still don’t, but more on that in a bit) know why I was considered. I understand that the “selection process” (it’s pretentious to call it that, but people outside of Team Roche were involved in the invite list. So there’s that.) resulted in whole mess of new attendees. Roughly 1/3 of the attendees had never been to one of these before. That’s certainly a good thing. As important as it is to maintain some consistency with the conversation, new voices and perspectives are essential to ensure these types of events to grow stale. But why me? What did/do I do to deserve an invite?
What Kerri has been able to do, as just one person, has set an impossible-to-match-but-I’ll-be-damned-if-I-don’t-try standard for other patient bloggers. What started as a little video project turned into a $2,000 grant for Kim and the You Can Do This Project. Lee Ann will be Dr. Thill in no time. Cherise takes over Twitter every Wednesday night (because she saw Dana take over Twitter every Sunday night). Now she’s booked guests on DSMA Live through most of 2012 with Scott and George riding shotgun. Sara shines a light on noteworthy (and more importantly new) blog posts each month. When Scott and Bennett combine powers, I don’t think there’s a single piece of diabetes related news or legislation that slips through the cracks. Leighann wrote a freaking book! Jeff started Children With Diabetes. The list of accomplishments in that room goes on and on. And then there’s me.
I have a podcast that’s sometimes about diabetes. And even when it’s about diabetes, it’s not often about diabetes. I’ve built up the accomplishments of everyone else so much that I can’t see the value I add to the community. I was told that to some degree I “influence the influencers” but I sincerely have difficulties seeing the value in whatever commentary I have to add…to anything. This is a big mental hurdle I need to get past and there’s not much any of you, my eager-readers, can do about this. Rereading these past sentences it looks like I’m begging for compliments. I’m not. I know there’s good in what I do, but I can’t pinpoint it. From my perspective, everyone else has a clear ‘thing’ that they bring to the diabetes community but I don’t have a ‘thing’. At least nothing as noteworthy or really…worthy at all. I suppose the distance between us provided by the Internet means I don’t have to face this reality too often. Roche brought it front and center. Wham!
Adding to this inferiority complex is the fact that my expectations were a bit misguided coming in to this event – which it turns out is entirely my fault. I suppose if I had been paying more attention to the tweets and blog posts of years past then this wouldn’t be the monumental pie-in-my-face moment that it was, but I was under the impression that there would be more social media talk at this social media summit. Turns out that these conversations happened last year, and the year before…and the year before. Year 4 was the year that we were supposed to look to the future. I wasn’t ready for that. I love talking social media theory. Everyone has a different approach to their tweets and status updates and talking with industry professionals whose job it is to monitor and engage on social media is something I always love to do (this would come as no surprise to you if you’ve listened to my podcast). But if the conversation has evolved to the nitty-gritty of our relationship as pharmaceutical company and patient (or consumer), on a number of levels that’s not a conversation I’m prepared to engage in. As a result I was mostly silent for the entirety of the summit. (Although there were plenty of tweets.)
I did speak up a little bit during our tour of the test strip manufacturing process. The modern manufacturing process boggles my mind so I had plenty to ask about with respect to efficency and procedure – but does anyone really care about how test strips are made? People only care about the cost. I can safely say I understand why the cost of test strips is what it is right now. I don’t agree with the price, but considering the precision required to produce the volumes they produce at the ridiculous pace these machines operate and the lengths to which product quality is tested and maintained, making these things is not a cheap process. Nor is it inexpensive.
I think it’s important to share these feelings with you because I want you all to understand that this trip was not all rainbows and sugar cookies. Yes, there was dancing and Diet Coke (or if you insist, Diet Pepsi), but there were also meaningful conversations that will have an influence how this, and other companies engage on social media and view “us blogger types”. So where does that leave me? I learned a few new things about Roche, about this community, and what it means to make a difference. But I didn’t leave Indianapolis with a new purpose or sense of direction with my blogging or diabetes advocacy.
Some of these thoughts will be repeated in the next Just Talking, and even as I review all of this text I’m not sure if I’ve properly gotten my point across. Even if it’s just on my own behalf, I need to be a better advocate. This stuff is really important – I just wish I was able to better contribute.
Roche paid for my flight, hotel, and dining during my two days in Indianapolis. Commentary about the previously mentioned freebies is entirely optional on my part and in no way influenced by Roche or any affiliated parties. Besides, what fun would that be?