Improve Patient Engagement in Social Media for Pharmaceutical Companies

October 21, 2016
Posted by: Matthew Hammer, VP- Marketing

The history of pharmaceutical companies and social media is about improving patient engagement, remarkable experiences and conversations 

Social media represents a huge opportunity for pharmaceutical marketers to improve patient engagement. By creating a variety of disease-state and healthcare communities, they can nurture direct conversations between customers, patients, and their brand.
While this can lead to increased name recognition and brand share, marketers also have every reason to tread with caution. The FDA has compliance guidelines and will send public warning letters and notice of violation letters to companies that don’t comply. Plus, brands need to properly manage adverse events for reporting, escalation and archiving. The reasons for the pharmaceutical industry’s complex relationship with social media has roots deep in past decades.
A brief history of medical promotions
For decades, prescription drug makers promoted their products exclusively to healthcare professionals, who were expected to interpret drug information for their patients. Beginning in the early 1990s, some drug manufacturers began targeting consumers, partly because of aging baby boomers and due to an increase in the number of patients participating in their own healthcare decisions. However, pharmaceutical advertising was sparse since the FDA required the entire summary of the drug and its side effects to be included in advertising, which frequently was up to five full pages of print.
Paving the way to social media
This all changed in 1997, when the FDA required that ads only include a major statement that listed main risks and provide an “adequate provision” to direct consumers to where they can find more information. This led to the high TV presence we have today, and also paved the way for social media as a viable channel for pharmaceutical brands.
Diving into social media
Pharmaceutical marketers made their first forays into social media in two ways. One type was in unbranded disease-state communities, such as Psoriasis Speaks on Facebook and AS1 also on Facebook, a community, dedicated to helping people with ankylosing spondylitis. The other predominant types were branded Facebook pages, but with comments turned off by the brand.
In 2011, Facebook threw the pharmaceutical industry into a tailspin on social media by requiring comments on all Facebook pages. Many disease-state pages and groups were immediately removed by brands, since marketing teams did not have mechanisms and processes in place to handle comments from customers and patients and remain in compliance. Facebook has since softened its stance on comments for pharmaceutical pages. They now allow marketers to request to have comments turned off, but doing so basically negates any of the benefits of social media.
Pharmaceuticals now embraces social media
Today, with the advent of sophisticated social media review and monitoring services and software, many pharmaceutical brands have turned to social media to offer highly specialized medical and disease-state communities. This enables patients to communicate and share experiences among themselves and with healthcare providers and brands. It also creates empathy and provides encouragement. And through these new services and software, like those offered by LiveWorld, brands can ensure FDA compliance and free up marketing teams from burdensome community response and engagement.

Start creating relationships and remarkable experiences for patient engagement. LiveWorld is a presenter and a sponsor at the Digital Pharma East conference. Request a meeting with us at the conference for a quick social strategy session with one of our social strategists.

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