Social Media in Pharmaceutical Marketing: Are You Missing an Opportunity?

Eighty-two percent of Americans regularly use social media, and that includes patients. A recent study found that 11% of patients turn to social media for information about their health, whether it’s to research a diagnosis, evaluate treatment options, or to learn about a medication. In this environment, pharmaceutical manufacturers who don’t employ social media in their marketing are missing an opportunity.

Historically, pharmaceutical companies have been hesitant to jump on the social media bandwagon. The FDA has issued lengthy, complex guidelines for pharmaceutical manufacturers to stay legally compliant when using social media. These guidelines include strict rules about content, which can inhibit marketing efforts. Perhaps more importantly to manufacturers, discussing therapies in an uncontrolled environment is a potential minefield. Other factors that scare away pharmaceutical marketers include a lack of knowledge about using social media marketing in pharma, an inability to measure it effectively, and limited resources.

At the same time, there is growing awareness in the industry that patient populations are a powerful source of information. As the industry moves toward more collaborative care, sought-after patient insights can easily be accessed via social media channels. The interactive nature of social media platforms facilitates a natural support system for patients, allowing them to become better-informed participants in their healthcare. Eavesdropping on these conversations through social media listening campaigns allows manufacturers to tap into honest customer insights in a way they can’t anywhere else.

Pharmaceutical marketers also have an opportunity to enhance their relationships with their customers. Connection breeds loyalty; 64% of consumers say that feeling connected to a brand increases their likelihood of purchasing again. Social media offers an immediate and direct channel to cultivate that connection. By using social media to educate their patients about their condition and their therapy, for example, a manufacturer can accomplish two goals: underscoring that they care about their patients’ health, and opening the door to a dialogue with their customer.

What can you accomplish with social media in pharmaceutical marketing?

Keep reading to learn 5 ways you can use social media marketing to reach more patients.

Patient education

Pharmaceutical manufacturers have a responsibility to educate their patients about their diagnosis, their treatment plan, their therapy, and any potential side effects. Patients who aren’t informed about their condition are less likely to be invested in their treatment plan, which can lead to low adherence rates that negatively impact patients’ health — and your outcomes. When patients know what to expect they’re more likely to follow their treatment regimen. By using social media to disseminate this information, you’re meeting your patients in a space where they already are and empowering them to take better control of their health.

Thought leadership

Successful social media in pharmaceutical marketing includes thought leadership. Establishing yourself as a thought leader can lead people to view your company as a trusted source of information. And it’s important to establish yourself as trustworthy, because the pharmaceutical industry struggles with a poor reputation. A recent Gallup poll revealed that 58% of Americans view the industry negatively, and only 27% view it positively. Manufacturers can counter this perception with social media content that promotes blogs and opinion pieces written by subject matter experts within your organization.

Destigmatizing Illness

While we don’t hide illness behind closed doors like we once might have, there is still stigma around illness and the public discussion of it. This is particularly true when it comes to mental illness. A patient who feels ashamed about a diagnosis might be afraid to seek medical testing or treatment for it, or may be unable to find to find a support community. Interactive social media channels offer pharmaceutical marketers an opportunity to combat this through open and honest communication about disease states. Educational materials that raise public awareness of a condition lessens stigma and improves patients’ lives.

Brand Management

Social media can offer pharmaceutical marketers unique insights into their customers’ behavior. Observing metrics from a social media campaign can tell you how often people are talking about your brand, which channel they choose to discuss your brand, and how they perceive your brand. Data monitoring from paid social media efforts can also illustrate your customer’s buying behavior. As you execute your social media marketing in pharma, you can modify your marketing plans based on this data. What’s more, you have a source of customer feedback that you can use as you develop new products.

Brand Awareness

To effectively compete in a saturated market, your brand must have a good reputation. Social media channels are particularly well-suited for brand awareness efforts. For example, when you share information on a certain disease state through social media, you establish yourself as an authority and generate trust among your readers, boosting your brand equity. Social media audiences are also interested in more than your product; they’re interested in your brand and the people behind it. Sharing behind-the-scenes details about your organization and its values implies trust and provides transparency to your customer base.

Want to learn more about executing social media in the pharmaceutical space? Schedule a consultation with Vytal’s marketing solution experts.