What lessons can we learn from our colleagues in Pharma Marketing about how to engage stakeholders through social media? Check out these smart strategies from our sister program, the Marketing Leadership Council, and some tips from the CEC, about making the most of social media if you are a pharmaceuticals company.
Generally speaking, the pharma industry is not usually at the forefront of the social media discussion. It faces strict regulation by the FDA and other regulatory bodies, and currently lacks clear social media boundaries.
That being said, most pharmaceutical companies have been testing the waters (and occasionally getting bitten) for several years now. Virtually every company has Facebook pages and Twitter handles to help spread information. Brands have set up online communities where patients can find support, share their stories, and celebrate successful treatments. Some have created physician networking groups to share insights with the medical community.
Now, the ROI for pharma is no more easily demonstrable than for other industries, but in my humble opinion, the industry has an incredible advantage in this playing field. Why? Because here, storytelling is super powerful. Patients are looking for stories of hope, and survivors want to spread it. Sure, I might consider buying a car because I once enjoyed a great road trip in one. But if I have diabetes and am facing a whole myriad of frightening symptoms and emotions, I am actively searching for stories that will give me hope.
And consumers seem to agree. According to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers‘ study, one-third of consumers are using social media sites to seek medical information, discuss symptoms, and review drugs, doctors, and insurers. (And that doesn’t even include people like my grandmother, who routinely asks me to research information for her and each of her friends.) Also, 34% said information found through social media would affect their choice of medication.
Among the hundreds of pharma accounts and campaigns, a few themes connect the best:
Embrace data. Expand your engagement circle outside of those already looking for you. For instance, Novo Nordisk found that 23% of Indy500 fans are more likely to have diabetes. They then launched a Twitter campaign featuring racecar driver Charlie Kimball marketing their insulin injection pen. (The account currently has over 4,000 followers.)
- CEC Members: check out our FAQs for how to use Twitter to support business outcomes.
Call for action. The typical pharmaceutical marketing strategy involves capturing the largest slice of the affected patient “pie.” How about expanding that pie by creating more patients, and then taking more of that larger pie? e.g. Encourage screening, and then harness human attentional bias to make people think: “If they helped me find my disease, then they can probably help me cure it too.”
For example, two years ago, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals initiated a public health campaign, DRIVE4COPD. It includes online screener for COPD, which was promoted by celebrity ambassadors Danica Patrick and Patty Loveless. Since then, over 2.4 million people have completed it. With its success, the campaign has recently been taken over by the COPD Foundation, reducing costs for BIP but not the rewards of this campaign.
- CEC Members: Maximize success for your campaigns by choosing a social media “ringmaster”.
Make yourself the best option. Even when your medication isn’t the only option out there, make yourself irreplaceable to patients by offering a service that the other companies don’t. Look at Sanofi Diabetes, who created a “Diabetapedia” for commonly used diabetes terms (visitors can also suggest entries). If you can help patients better understand their condition, you can build a trusting relationship that leads to loyalty and referrals.
- CEC Members: consult these rules of engagement for effectively building relationships with stakeholders online.
Of course, these are not the only ways pharmaceuticals can make social media work better for them. Read how CEC supports pharmaceutical companies with their social media strategy. Still figuring out how to go about setting a social media strategy for your company? Check out CEC’s social media strategy builder and examples of social media policies for highly regulated industries.
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