It’s been said that healthcare lags behind other industries in its use of social media by at least 2 years. however, despite the (sometimes vague) guidance from the FDA, and the uncertainty that feeds legal and regulatory risk, pharma has been making strides showing understanding of the technology, and announcing its presence in the social media scene. The road, however, has not been easy.
When social media first became mainstream, businesses quickly jumped to tactics; making sure they created properties in every single social channel available (regardless of their purpose), populating these channels with pretty branded images that told their customers just how awesome their product/service was. Social became just another channel for branding promotion, only permissible if directly serving a business objective, popular and approved by everyone in the company… everyone but the customer.
Thankfully, times have changed and better social media best practices now guide new players. Being behind most of the industries has given Pharma’s branded and unbranded campaigns the opportunity to sit back and learn from what works and what doesn’t (and we’ve kept track of all of them in our social category on our blog). But here’s three that stand out to those new to social:YOU DON’T “START” COMMUNITIES, YOU PROVIDE FOR THEM
I love this quote so much I had to bring it back one more time to further explain this point:
“You don’t start communities, they’re already doing what they want to do. The question you should ask is how you can help them do that better.”
– Jeff Jarvis, Journalist & author “What Would Google Do?”
In order to join an existing conversation, brands need to switch focus; learn to promote their values and their beliefs and align them with the community’s needs.
I’ve discussed the changing role of advocacy groups and the benefits of engaging with them in a previous post, but a nice summary would be: you need to know your audience, know them well and show respect by listening to them. Doing social media listening and identifying their problems/needs will help prioritize your efforts, show that you understand them and provide them with the right content:Provide trusted resources that the community can share. This can be anything from medical research to caregiver support tipsClarify information and become a trusted source of knowledgeEnrich patient quality of life by providing support and education to the patient, family and loved onesDevelop empathy: Present an honest picture of how their condition affects them. Encourage them to share their stories and show support and understandingPromote advocacy by inspiring action. By connecting with a community in an authentic, human way we can empower them and energize them to take action
Your brand’s values and beliefs should be clear in all of these efforts. Interactions alone do not build relationships, real shared value over time does (this is one of the reasons why “doing social” as a one-time use campaign does not work, but that’s a discussion for another time).IF YOU BUILD IT THEY WON’T COME
I heard once before that information doesn’t (usually) spread linearly, this is especially true in social channels. It stretches from link to link through a complex spider web of delicate thread. This means that just because you build it, it doesn’t mean they will come (right away) and not from the sources you’d expect.
Once a brand has identified the right content to share and the right audience to share it to, it will need to promote its brand new social media channel to key opinion leaders and patient advocates in order to get its content in front of the people that matter an cover as much of that web as possible.
Social media channels provide brands with several options to reach this extensive web, with sponsored posts being the most successful (when compared to display ads) and having the added benefit of exposing your content to users on a mobile platform. Unfortunately, the social platforms all have very different policies in place when dealing with paid promotion for pharmaceutical products. Being on track of these policies will help your brand maximize their paid media efforts.DON’T EXPECT YOUR AWESOME CONTENT TO “GO VIRAL,” BUT SET THE STAGE TO IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES
While “going viral” has become a popular buzz word on every sketchy marketer’s tool belt, you really can’t make your content go viral (if someone says they can promise you viral status, be wary… be very wary). What your brand can do is carefully position its content, set the right surrounding atmosphere, and then hope and pray that the planets align and the content catches on.
The not-so-secret ingredient behind viral content is that it arouses a strong emotion in people and they connect with it so intensely that they HAVE to share this experience with others. Users then become co-creators and further add value to the post. As you may be able to tell, this is hard to serve – especially in heavily regulated Pharma. However, it does not mean that it can’t be done. Social Media provides Pharma with the unique opportunity to show its honest, transparent, human side – things that Pharma has had difficulty in the past – and connect with another human being at their most difficult time.
If there’s a lesson to be learned here is that your audience will make the ultimate decision, not you, not the brand, not the thousands of dollars you put behind it. This applies to all content, not just the “viral” kind. Patients will respond to content that they can relate to and that provides real value to them. This is the real reason why it’s vital to know your community, know their needs, know what problems do they have that you can help solve, and above all know that engaging in social media means its not about you, it’s about them.