How Pharmaceutical Firms Are Using Social Media to Speak to Patients

How Pharmaceutical Firms Are Using Social Media to Speak to Patients

Historically, the pharmaceutical industry has been a little slow on the uptake when it comes to the adoption of online marketing. But things are changing. In particular, pharma companies are embracing social media as they seek new, effective ways of helping the people using their products gain valuable information and, in turn, build their brand.

Much of the reason for this is that people have become digitally-savvy, as well as digitally-demanding. Research by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, for example, shows that 80% of internet users in the USA – about 93 million Americans – have searched for a health-related topic online.

There is a wealth of healthcare information available on the web. Whether it is reliable or not is open to debate; nevertheless, the research demonstrates just how important the internet is in the sphere of healthcare.

Into this space steps the pharmaceutical firm. Increasingly, drug manufacturers and healthcare providers are moving social media to the centre stage of their business models as they come to recognise its power in engaging patients.

A new report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, one of the most wide-ranging analyses of the social media activities of some of the largest pharmaceutical brands, shows that nearly half of pharmaceutical manufacturers are now actively using social to engage with patients on healthcare-related topics.

Key findings:

  • Twenty-three of the top 50 pharmaceutical companies worldwide are now actively using social media – on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube – to engage with patients
  • But only 10 are using all three services for healthcare-related topics
  • Twitter is used by 22 of the 50 companies studied, YouTube by 17 companies and Facebook by 15 companies
  • Of the ten pharmaceutical companies that were active across these three channels, Johnson & Johnson was ranked the best
  • The overall level of engagement between pharmaceutical companies and patients has steadily increased over the past year
  • Wikipedia is the single leading source of medical information for patients and healthcare professionals

‘Relevant, accurate content’

“Increasingly, patients are turning to social media as an essential forum for obtaining and sharing information related to their health,” explained Murray Aitken, IMS executive director.

“This trend only heightens the need for relevant, accurate content that can be accessed and used throughout the patient journey. Healthcare professionals, regulators and pharmaceutical manufacturers all need to acknowledge the vital role they can and should play as participants in the healthcare conversation.”

Tips for pharma firms starting out on social media

Start with strategy

A plan of action is crucial to any social media activity. Start by defining your goals. What do you want to do on social? What do you want to accomplish?

Be human – tell stories

Health is a human issue, so offer stories on social media that engage with people. This could be links to case studies, personal blogs or interviews with experts.

Consider translated content

The most successful pharmaceutical companies are global ones. If you are expanding into new markets, consider offering translated social media content to effectively communicate with your new customers.

Pay attention to regulations

Remember that there are restrictions governing the type of marketing activity pharmaceutical companies can offer. Ensure you are up-to-date with regulations.

Start to review and audit

As your social media activity develops, it is crucial that you measure its success. Start analysing your content – see what works and what doesn’t, and make any necessary changes.

Written by Yusuf Bhana
Yusuf Bhana
Yusuf is Head of Digital at TranslateMedia. He has an interest in how technology can help businesses achieve their marketing objectives. He's been working in digital marketing and web development since 2001 across a wide range of industries and clients.

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