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News And Views

News & Views

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  • 4 July 2016
  • Gurjit Hothi

The advance of social media in pharma

Brilliant debate and fresh insights at the Pharma Social Media Conference (23rd June, London) brightened up my day - unlike the British weather!

This exciting industry-led event was a chance to share insights and best practice across the pharmaceutical sector, with the focus very much on compliant and effective social media strategies aimed at healthcare professionals and patients. The packed agenda included presentations and discussions led by companies including Bayer, Pfizer, Janssen, Lilly, Roche and GlaxoSmithKline.

Whilst uptake has increased in recent years, many healthcare organisations avoid extensive use of social media due to stringent rules with communicating externally with patients and healthcare professionals. Social media regulation in pharma is still a grey area as there are no formal international guidelines in place. There was fantastic discussion between peers about the pharmaceutical industry working together to help shape the development of such guidelines. I would love to see this come to fruition.

Other presentations explored the latest on social media at congresses, Facebook engagement, global versus local, creating social media campaigns which support patients and healthcare professionals, twitter engagement and specific examples such as new educational platforms as a way to empower and engage patients with diabetes.

There was a particularly interesting debate about the return on investment from social media campaigns. The traditional model for healthcare campaigns is to drive awareness and this is linked back to defined metrics. However, social media isn’t always so clear cut and doesn’t necessarily fit with this model. A move towards an ‘acquisition and retention’ model was discussed using Lush Handmade Cosmetics as an example of a company leveraging a loyal customer base to drive new customers through positive testimonials.

While the healthcare industry can’t move towards using this model in its entirety it’s an interesting approach and food for thought.

What’s great to see is that many pharmaceutical companies have embraced social media, using emerging technologies and social listening tools such as Hootsuite, Bowen Craggs and Brandwatch as part of everyday practice. Our own experiences with healthcare clients show that there’s great appetite to utilise the benefits of social media. We have also worked extensively with rare disease patient advocacy groups to help them to spread awareness of their condition and lobby media, policymakers and healthcare professionals for support and treatment.

Social media is an ideal channel for pharma when used in a responsible, targeted and insightful way and within the realms of regulations.