Words by Kirstie Turner
The internet is a jungle, tangled and overgrown, dense with information overload. Among the unkempt chaos lies social media: a treasure trove of possibilities. For the pharmaceutical industry, the potential of social media remains, on the whole, untapped. At the eyeforpharma Marketing and Customer Innovation Europe event, Cyril Mandry, Senior Marketing Director, MSD, goes as far as to say that pharma has a “social media phobia”. The industry needs to face its fears and navigate the digital ecosystem to reap the benefits of social media.
Mandry explains the multi-faceted opportunities for pharma within this realm: “You can reach everyone on social media, all your audiences: healthcare professionals, patients, policy makers – they are all on social media.” The reach is incomparable, with an active audience of 3.5 billion users. “No other channel offers this opportunity”, reiterates Mandry.
Stacey Berold-Kutscher, Senior Digital Marketing Manager and Brand Lead, Ferring Pharmaceuticals, explains how publishing the right content on the right channel is creating fruitful returns for Ferring Pharmaceuticals: “We’ve been able to find a process that allows us, through our digital channels, to actually engage, and we respond to comments that come through our social media channels.” It’s important to remember that social media should not be used in isolation. As Mandry says, it should be used “in an integrated way: social media is not a separate channel, it is part of an omni-channel approach.”
One industry example comes from Sanofi Pasteur, CABA Association, and Horizon Marketing Solutions. They were commended by eyeforpharma for their initiative ‘Householder Health Ambassadors’, which uses a chat show form, supported by social media, to improve vaccine education and uptake by household decision-makers. The initiative, which employed social media campaigns, had a reach of 14 million people and resulted in a 95% positive change in perception of vaccines, highlighting the power and potential of social media as a platform.
A blanket message, however, will not suffice. When implementing social media marketing, adaptability and alignment are key components: content must be altered to speak the language of the intended audience. “It is about knowing your audiences and building a presence”, explains Mandry, continuing: “They have different goals and different needs, so the content needs to be relevant: make sure your content is aligned with what matters to your audience.”
The industry needs to face its fears and navigate the digital ecosystem to reap the benefits of social media.
Just as the message must be adapted depending on the intended stakeholder, different platforms are better suited for different audiences. LinkedIn, for example, is the perfect platform for attracting new talent, but it may not enable an ideal stream of communication between pharma and patients. It is important to start with the audience, as Mandry explains: “We don’t start from the platform; we start from the customer. We look at different personas and where they are on social media and other channels.”
However, it is critical to remain compliant and vigilant when utilising social media, as Berold-Kutscher explains: “We don’t allow people to comment on different treatment methods because that’s not what this is about, so we’re very clear and very strict on what is and isn’t allowed from us and from others on our social media sites.”
The potential of the platform, when used in conjunction with pharma’s wider marketing strategies is infinite. Pharma must meet its social media phobia head on and embrace the change. It is time to undertake a much-needed metamorphosis, from the shy caterpillar into the social butterfly, spreading its wings across all platforms to reach each intended audience with the right message.