Social media marketing in pharma is a function of:
- How you want to be perceived as a brand
- How the public perceives you as a brand
The former of these two items can be controlled, but the latter cannot; however, the way that you present yourself to the public can influence how you are perceived as a brand and therein lies the importance of social media.
What is a bit different in this industry compared to something like ecommerce is that we are not so much “hard” marketing a product (though this can also be done) in the digital landscape as we are “soft” marketing or managing customer interactions and building brand reputation by opening channels for communication through social media. Hard marketing through social media channels in the pharmaceutical industry is heavily criticized by the public though there are exceptions.
Aren’t there already physician networks, third-party social media apps, or websites that serve this purpose?
Due to regulatory uncertainty, Pharma’s adoption of social media has lagged behind other industries and third-party apps like Medscape and Epocrates have been able to proliferate in this niche. These applications have done a good job connecting with physicians because they have been consistently delivering valuable content without brand bias.
Deloitte noted that in a survey conducted by GLG, 75% of physicians surveyed indicated a lack of trust of information provided by pharmaceutical companies and this was reflected in the minimal number of downloads of pharma apps.
What can still be done in pharmaceutical digital marketing and social media if there is a lack of trust in the industry? Where are the opportunities and what should we focus on?
Very few physicians will care about the product or service you promote unless you can prove that it will substantially benefit or enhance a patient’s life. On top of that, your product or service needs to be better or equivalent to what already exists on the market; bonus points if there are favorable payer-provider-prescriber relationships. These points are exactly where the focus needs to be. We are seeing a shift from:
DRUG A is amazing! Describe amazing benefits! Quickly list risks.
DRUG A is amazing! And here is all the evidence associated with DRUG A as a comprehensive whole for you to make your own decision about whether you agree with our assessment:
- Clinical data/trial information
- Adverse event information
- New studies/drugs and future studies (potential)
This is the type of unique information that pharmaceutical companies can offer that third-party applications cannot and this is the type of information physicians and informed patients would be interested in receiving through social media communication.
Firms that can alter the public’s perception of the pharmaceutical industry by providing added value and building trust in the brand digitally will achieve long-term sustainable growth.
Effective pharma social media marketing examples: Twitter