4 Proven Healthcare Social Strategies

Use these 4 Proven Healthcare Social Strategies to Break Through to Patients and Consumers

March 29, 2017
Posted by: Matthew Hammer, VP- Marketing

There’s one sure-fire way to break through to your patients and customers: having 1-to-1 conversations. And the most practical way to do that is through social media. We’ve found four main healthcare social strategies that every healthcare marketer needs to consider.
By tapping into the transformative power of social media, pharmaceutical marketers can increase engagement and loyalty. However, before you jump into using social media marketing, you need to have a social strategy that meets your marketing objectives in place.
Your social marketing philosophy should start with aligning your strategy with the patient journey. In other words – where in the patient’s disease journey do you want to connect with them, and how can you help them move along in their journey to wellness? Do you want to reach patients as they are still in the early diagnosis phase, or later in their patient journey during the persistency segment?
At LiveWorld, our social media experts examined more than 750,000 pieces of user-generated content across over 150 social media properties. Here are the four main social strategies that every healthcare marketer needs to use, which align with the patient’s journey:

  • Increase disease awareness
  • Promote product consideration
  • Develop loyalty
  • Improve corporate branding

ONE: Increase Disease Awareness
At the increasing disease awareness stage, people are looking for information to either diagnose or understand their symptoms. They are performing research online and seeking  information about symptoms and diagnoses as part of their patient journey. In the classic patient journey model, this audience would be in the awareness and recognition phase or the presentation and diagnosis phase.
It’s important to remember that it’s not always patients doing this research. There are three distinct audience segments – and you might need different programs to reach each. These audiences may include patients of a particular diseases, caregivers, who might include family, friends or professional health care providers (HCP), and medicines. For the last audience segment, a marketer might be raising awareness of medicines to establish a brand as the gold-standard or best treatment for a disease state, much like Claritin is now considered the go-to medicine for allergy sufferers.
GlaxoSmithKline COPD.com
COPD.com is a great example of a site designed to raise awareness about the disease state, which we call stage 1. It’s designed specifically to give patients access to clear information. The tagline: “Learning More Together” sums up the site’s mission.
TWO: Promote Product Consideration
In the next stage, we align to the treatment selection portion of the patient journey. In stage two, consumers take their awareness research to their doctor or HCP. Or, they may have been receiving a treatment protocol which isn’t helping – and want to know more about a specific drug that might help them. This search calls for a product consideration strategy.
A good example of the strategy to promote product consideration is one used by Novartis for its medicine brand Gilenya. Novartis is trying to promote consideration and maintain market share in the highly competitive disease field for multiple sclerosis (MS) treatment. To promote Gilenya, Novartis created a Facebook page, that has resulted in very high activity with nearly 300K users. The page is an effective mixture of product information, general awareness, and inspiration. It has received a high level of engagement and has not yet received a warning letter from the FDA.
For pharmaceutical brands that wish to use a branded Facebook page, the strategy that Novartis is using for Gilenya, we recommend having the following additional processes and plans in place:

  • A full engagement plan that includes:
    • Are posts going to be social, branded, informational or a mix
    • Are responses pre-approved “canned” responses, or more free-form
  • Social media crisis response blueprint
    • Who needs to be notified if there is a crisis; Corporate Communications, Legal, Pharmacovigilance
    • Can you put an “all-stop” to scheduled social media posts?
  • Plan for capturing, archiving and reporting on adverse events

Novartis Gilenya
Novartis’ Gilenya-branded Facebook page is great example of a branded Facebook page that helps promote product consideration in a crowded market like MS treatment.
THREE: Develop Patient Loyalty
As patients continue along their journey, a pharmaceutical brand needs a loyalty strategy in place to get people talking about how its branded treatment helped them.
This is a tremendously important step in a successful social media strategy. Numerous research studies have shown that peer-to-peer and word-of-mouth recommendations are the most trusted source of information for people in the awareness and product consideration stages – much more so than any other type of recommendation.
To develop patient loyalty in social media, pharmaceutical brands need to simplify connections and assist patients in social media with experiences that:

  • Facilitate patient-to-patient connections on managing daily life after treatment
  • Provide opportunities to connect with and receive advice from HCPs
  • Supply patients and HCPs with the latest disease research
  • Sponsor and promote in-real-life (IRL) events for patients and caregivers
  • Provide points of contact for community engagement

Johnson & Johnson Diabetes Institute
Johnson & Johnson Diabetes Institute (JJDI) is a free, on-site 3-day training program that attracts all types of diabetes care specialists from all over the country. JJDI does not promote any of their products, and they frame the Institute as continuing education credits for HCPs. Johnson & Johnson provides this as part of its plan to develop patient loyalty.
FOUR: Improve Corporate Branding
While the strategy to improve corporate branding doesn’t necessarily match up with a patient’s journey, it’s crucial to successful social media marketing. On-target corporate branding will tie the rest of your efforts together. This helps drive positive brand perception among consumers and encourage awareness of disease states in general.
The most common use of corporate branding strategy is to improve a brand’s image. Given the challenging and complex political environment that the pharmaceutical industry finds itself in these days, some brands are doing an exceptional job of shifting the narrative from a defensive posture to a positive one.
In some cases, you can use the right corporate branding to shift the conversation in social away from your individual brand or negativity towards the pharma industry to focus on a broader problem. For example, Pfizer and the industry organization PhRMA have both done a great job of spotlighting the positive work that pharmaceutical brands have done. Pfizer has shifted the conversation around its company and corporate brand by taking a more encouraging posture with its video series and Discover The Cure video campaign. The video and Pfizer’s efforts strive to alter the narrative from the politics and negativity around the pharmaceutical industry to the positive impacts that their medicines have for patients.
The industry group PhRMA is known for releasing data in social media in easily digestible formats like infographics. This helps raise awareness around some of the health challenges facing the world today.
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