09/08/2016 Cirrus Healthcare

Think Different – Taking Pharma Social

The New Social for Pharma
Ashleigh Gardiner, Digital Marketing Manager @ Cirrus Media
This post is the first in a series on the how and why of social for pharma.

While it’s safe to say social media now plays a major role in our lives, both at work and at home, we as pharma marketers still seem to be avoiding the adoption of these channels as part of our communication strategies.

It’s understandable that there’s some apprehension. In such a heavily regulated industry we don’t have the liberty of just jumping in to try new things, there’s too much at stake. But in the decade since Facebook launched there have been major changes to the social landscape, making it all the more attainable and profitable for even the most regulated industries – so how have we not moved passed this fear by now?

Part of the issue could be that the full extent and capabilities of including social in brand planning and marketing strategy isn’t understood. When you think about social media, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Sure, we’re not talking about tweeting pictures of cats with adorably misspelled captions, or trying to sell people on our products by bombarding them with ads. Social is about creating valuable and meaningful online connections with people, and just like in real life, that starts with listening.

Adverse Events and Reporting, Oh My

The ever-looming threat of non-stop AEs from social is one of the key barriers to pharma entering the social space. But how much of an issue is this, really?

People are going to talk, about our brands or products – whether or not we join the conversation. It’s no longer an option to plug our ears and pretend that if we don’t see anything, it doesn’t exist.

Considering that one key element of reporting adverse events is being able to identify the person making the claim, immediately the anonymous and vague nature of the internet has cut down the potential pool of AEs.

There’s even been studies on the prevalence of reportable AEs reported on social that revealed exactly this. Brandwatch analysed social mentions of 24 widely used diabetes drugs over a two week period, and found that of 82 potential AEs, there were a total of 4 reportable AEs during the analysis period.  

Additionally, this paper searched for mentions on Twitter of 23 medical products for potential adverse events, and from a sample of 60,000 tweets (chosen specifically for their high likelihood of including AEs) only 7% would require further investigation.

While it’s absolutely true that we should ensure anyone responsible for social should know their pharmacovigilance, it’s not likely that reporting AEs would be the bulk of their role. As an excuse to avoid social adoption, it just doesn’t stack up.

But HCPs Don’t Care About Social

By now, we know HCPs are people too, and that means they’re using social.

Between 44-55% of GPs use social media at least once per day, with more than 60% active on Facebook. Traditional sales calls simply aren’t the most time or cost effective way to reach doctors anymore so there’s a real need for new ways to communicate with HCPs. Social media will be one of them.

Instead of competing for the limited time and attention of HCPs while they’re at work, social allows us to connect with them in a more authentic way. By listening to conversations HCPs are having on social we can gain an understanding of issues they’re facing, which then provides us with an opportunity to adjust our messaging in a way that will resonate with them.

Using social as a distribution channel also allows us to access the right HCPs. By working with companies that have established HCP audiences on social, we can segment based on interests and behaviours in order to get information in front of those HCPs who are likely to be interested in the topics we’re talking about.

Being able to build audiences who have visited particular pages of a website, subscribed to updates, or engaged with certain content types on Facebook ensures our content is being seen by relevant, interested people, while also making the most of social ad spend.

For example, if I wanted to reach HCPs with an interest in medico-legal topics, I can create an audience of Medical Observer users that have visited any URLs containing the word ‘medico-legal’, within any timeframe up to 6 months prior. This particular topic results in a custom audience of 900 HCPs on Facebook, that I can then target with additional related content as part of a campaign. 

Even better – insights from our custom audiences of HCPs in Australia show they’re quite active on Facebook. A stand out stat is they are 14% more likely to  click on ads or promoted content than an average Facebook user in Australia – great news when we’re looking to connect with an audience!

If you have questions, or a topic you would like to see explored in a future post, please feel free to email me.

Tagged: , , , , , , ,