Can pharma use social media? A common question within pharma, and one that the ABPI has responded by saying that there is nothing stopping them. The challenge is not social media but how you can leverage social media as a tool and stay within guidelines. Regulatory procedures and risk averseness has on the whole meant pharma is a late adopter of social media and hence it is unsure on how to use it effectively.
The most common reasons given by pharm against use of social media are:
Direct to consumer communicationAdverse event reportingOff license discussion of productsLack of resources to moderate
There is an element of risk with these four issues, but these can be easily managed with the right strategy and planning. The real reason for lack of uptake of social, is generally due to a lack is inexperience and lacks of understanding of how social can be used to optimise communication. Being a process driven industry, if social media understanding is not present throughout all key personnel including stakeholders, barriers are created for its use.
How can pharma remove the barriers it faces internally and embrace social media?
Firstly, it needs to understand current capabilities. Having delivered a number digital pharma audits at departmental and company level it has been an invaluable exercise to enable change. Companies need to understand the skills gaps within teams and to review its systems, process and policies/strategies in order to be as efficient and embrace digital/social.
Once fully understood the right interventions can be put in place to enable change within the organisation. These interventions should help define best practice within your organisation. All too often marketers are told what they cannot do rather than what they can. Developing a “social media playbook” for your company/department is a way you can help pharma take the step it needs to use the power of social.
Social media is constantly evolving, so pharma needs to encourage its use by individuals on a personal level to increase awareness and understanding. Regular personal use of social media can help demonstrate how it can be applied to pharma. To enable this, companies need to define social media policies for personal use.
Can pharma use social media? I would say if it doesn’t then it is missing huge commercial opportunity.