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Smart Thinking blog

Insights and expert advice on the key issues facing today’s pharma marketer

Social media – part of the routine

The necessity of a social media engagement strategy for pharma companies
Social media – part of the routine

Social media and digital health are evolving at an incredible rate. According to Pew Research, seven out of 10 adult internet users search online for information about health, around a quarter of people who use social media follow their friends' personal health experiences and 15 per cent use social networks for health information.

So how is pharma responding to this evolution? A recent report by the IMS Institute found nearly half of the top 50 pharmaceutical companies actively participate in social media, but many are using it to simply broadcast messages and have limited interaction or engagement with patients and clinicians.

Standing back and not having a clear social media engagement strategy could mean that these companies miss out on the benefits of social media. Not only does social media help to build corporate reputation and employee engagement, it provides an opportunity to interact with followers and the wider community and this can have long-term strategic and commercial benefits.

Pharma companies point to regulation (or lack thereof) and compliance issues as key barriers, while marketers have doubts about how to measure the return-on-investment (ROI) for such initiatives. However, not all pharma companies are holding back; some are pioneers in social media activity and are using the platforms to their advantage. A report published earlier this year by Ogilvy Healthworld named Boehringer Ingelheim, GSK and Johnson & Johnson as 'social media butterflies', meaning they are active on many social platforms and highly engaged with their audiences. 

Boehringer Ingelheim was the most active out of the 14 companies surveyed and, in May last year, they hosted the first disease-related tweet chat. #ChatAFib, in line with the 2013 European Stroke Congress. It generated an estimated 720,900 impressions and 305 tweets from 76 participants and gained widespread recognition in the pharma industry as a game-changing activity. The project won the Excellence in Digital Communications award at the recent Communiqué Awards.

The GSK Facebook page is another worthy example of how a pharma company is leading the way on social media. Launched in January 2011, the page has over 107,000 likes and brings GSK closer to key audiences by providing a variety of relevant content that is closely aligned to the business objectives. A separate tab labelled 'Welcome' gives information about how GSK operates on Facebook in a warm tone that is easy to understand. GSK also replies, where necessary, to comments from their followers. 

A clear vision
So how can pharma companies do social media well and follow the lead of these companies? From my time managing a digital content team at Bupa and my previous experience as a digital content manager, I believe it is important that you begin with a clear vision for your social media engagement. This should be aligned with your business objectives to ensure that everything you do on social has a purpose. 

Another important aspect of social media strategy is to ensure that you have a clear workflow and approval process for all content, with a simple way to track and monitor any changes to your content. If you have a lot of content to put through review then a simple spreadsheet with approval status of each piece of content is useful. It is also important that you are flexible and can change your content calendar when required.

Finally, monitor what is happening both on your social channels and the wider community. Hootsuite and TweetDeck are useful tools to help you manage all your social media channels. You can schedule all of your content, measure what is happening through the analytics tools and monitor your channels and wider trends on social media. Be prepared for negative feedback and make sure you have a review process in place with key stakeholders for when it happens. 

Without a shadow of a doubt, social media is changing the way patients and healthcare professionals interact with each other and gain access to information. The pharmaceutical industry is beginning to embrace social media and the future is an exciting one as more and more companies grow and evolve with it. I believe that we will see a shift in the way pharma companies interact with patients and healthcare professionals.

There will a move from pushing out content that generates awareness, to providing patients and healthcare professionals with information that creates conversations and empowered brand advocates. The pharma companies that succeed will be those who keep on top of this fast-paced digital era and are not afraid to experiment with new digital trends.

Article by
Rebecca Canvin

social media manager at Ogilvy Healthworld

22nd July 2014

From: Marketing

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