Power Your Marketing with Insights from our Pharma Social Media Survey

May 24, 2022
Posted by: Rishi Kadiwar, VP Strategy- DTC

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As we pass the two-year mark of the pandemic, the global pharmaceutical industry finds itself in a unique position. The quick response from pharma in creating the COVID-19 vaccines has given the industry a halo, with heightened consumer trust coupled with increased profits. As the pandemic lingers on, investors are pressuring companies to keep growth going. Pharma marketers are feeling the demand to keep attracting new patients while providing consumers with the resources they have come to expect from their new trusted partner.

Insights from LiveWorld’s 2022 Pharma Marketing Social Media Survey

To better understand the role social media marketing can play in meeting these demands, LiveWorld conducted The 2022 Pharma Marketing Social Media Marketing Survey. More than 250 pharma marketing professionals were surveyed about their consumer’s concerns, their company’s social media marketing objectives and use, new technology trends, and the skills that will be needed in the field over the next 24 months. Survey respondents represented both large and small pharma companies and included professional working in Public Relations, Communications, Sales, Marketing, Digital, Brand Management, and Customer Experience.

Opportunities and Challenges

The survey revealed that overall pharma marketers are excited and optimistic about the coming years as more social media channels are becoming mainstream within the industry, providing an opportunity to increase consumer touchpoints. However, engaging consumers in additional channels can seem daunting when considering regulatory challenges and the conservative nature of the industry.

Marketing leaders know they need to create sustained outcomes for multiple stakeholders whose interests are not always aligned. Leaders also feel a strong imperative to take decisive action and explore new opportunities. And these factors underscore the need for bold leadership to create positive patient outcomes.

A deeper dive into the survey uncovers the specific challenges for pharmaceutical social media marketing. We’ve explored these key challenges and possible solutions. Explore the ways you can get more from social media marketing in 2022 and beyond.

The Challenge: Consumers Expect Information on Demand

The “Amazonation” and “Netflixation” of our society has resulted in consumers expecting 24/7 access to information and services. For a time, patients, HCPs, and caregivers accepted pharma’s lethargic nature, but in recent years consumers are looking for access and response at whatever time is convenient to them across multiple touchpoints.

When we asked pharma marketers about their consumer’s top concerns, accessing support and information consistently ranked high. Getting help if they have a question or need support was the top consumer concern at 37%. Researching product information was a perceived consumer concern for 33% of respondents and researching disease information ranked third at 27%.

The Solution: Balanced, Targeted Content
When creating content, it’s important to strike a balance. Ultimately, you should have an even mix of content designed to:
• Capture attention
• Get the audience emotionally involved
• Solves you audience’s questions
• Addresses your audience’s needs

Within the industry there are good examples that show pharma companies providing targeted content and giving 24/7 access across a wide range of touchpoints.

LIVALO, a cholesterol-lowering statin, has a website with a section dedicated to helping patients and caregivers find HCPs that can uncover and treat high cholesterol. The “Who treats high cholesterol” section on the website features a link for patients to find and make an appointment with primary care physicians, cardiologists, clinical nurse specialists, endocrinologists, lipidologists, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants via ZocDoc.

Repatha, another medication for patients with high LDL-C, is using Amazon Alexa, a virtual assistant, to connect patient and caregivers to vital information. Patients can receive a quick answer to frequently asked questions that they may have about Repatha. Amazon Alexa can questions like “How do I get a Copay card?,” “How do I take Repatha®?,” “What are the side effects of Repatha®?,” and “How much does Repatha® cost?”

The Challenge: Driving Strategic Direction and Business Objectives while Maintaining Compliance

The social, demographic, and regulatory context in which pharma marketers are operating has changed dramatically over the last five years. As a result, marketing professionals are shifting their focus from creating ads and marketing campaigns to focusing on how campaigns need to be rooted in holistic, 360-degree programs based on audience segmentation and user journey data.

Our survey saw participants reporting that their top two concerns were driving strategic direction (21% of participants) and driving business objectives while maintaining compliance (21% of participants).

The Solution: Understand the Key Questions for Defining Strategic Direction

In the post-COVID era, marketing professionals should focus on the following questions as they define strategic direction while guiding their brands through a challenging regulatory environment:

1. How will our marketing activities help make sales?

2. What market trends are emerging that we need to respond to?

3. Which pharma market segments will be targeted with which propositions?

4. What communication strategies will be used to support customer acquisition?

5. What experience will we look to create for our audiences?

The Challenge: Expanding Social Media Marketing

Over the years social media has become a force-multiplier, allowing marketers to achieve greater reach than TV campaigns at the fraction of the cost. Most pharma companies have embraced social media even though the sector still generally lags behind many other industries. This is largely due to the ‘listening as liability’ mindset that comes primarily from compliance concerns surrounding adverse event (AE) reporting in a heavily regulated environment. Many marketing professional also have doubts about how to measure the return-on-investment (ROI) for such initiatives. It’s this mindset that’s led marketing professionals to stick with tried-and- true social media platforms even though newer platforms may provide greater reach and ROI.

Primary Objectives and Platforms Used Among Survey Respondents

When survey respondents were asked about their organization’s primary objectives in using social media marketing, the top responses included:

Building brand recognition (18%)
Attracting new customers (18%)
Distributing educational information (16%)
Engaging patients and consumers (14%)

The big four social platforms still have the largest usage when it comes to marketer’s platform of choice: Facebook at 25%, Instagram at 19%, LinkedIn at 13%, and Twitter at 13%. Facebook and Instagram have the greatest audience reach, with LinkedIn providing coverage to cover HCPs and employee advocacy activities.

It must be noted that marketers may choose to change this channel mix due to Meta’s recent changes to Facebook and Instagram pharma targeting guidelines for pharma. On January 19, 2022, Facebook removed some detailed targeting options. Pharma marketers can no longer target based on:
• Ads users click
• Pages/groups users engage with
• Demographics like age, gender, and location
• How and where users access FB

What’s interesting to note is when we asked respondent’s what social platforms they used outside of work, TikTok came in third at 13%, while in ranked sixth place for use at work.

The Solution: Rethink Traditional Channels and Consider New Ones

Pharma organizations, especially those looking for limited patient populations, need to rethink how they manage their relationship with Meta considering changes to it targeting policies. Facebook was a key resource for locating patients, but now specific targeting is gone. It may not be financially reasonable to throw out wide net to attract a limited number of patients

Pharma markets need to focus on other platforms where they can form real relationships with communities and forge partnerships with patients, caregivers, and HCPs. Those relationships can build advocates who can share their unfiltered point of views in their networks.

Organizations should also consider at bringing their marketers love for TikTok inside the walls of pharma

• TikTok is currently the fastest growing social network  
• The platform is steadily growing in use among HCPs and patients, providing them with a
fresh format to share their unique points of view
• The platform offers a natural way to complement pharma’s other marketing outreach efforts,
including: HCP Influencers, patient advocates, paid media opportunities, creative research,
disease state awareness/ unbranded programs, and corporate brand awareness.
• It’s a low-risk proposition: On TikTok the content format is like other video-based
platforms and the compliance approach would be similar to other social media programs.
• TikTok can be moderated through its Ad API. In summer of 2022, TikTok will be releasing an
organic post API

The Challenge: Taking Advantage of AI and Mobile Health Technologies in Marketing

As pharma looks for ways to increase efficiencies and expand its reach, AI and mobile health is playing a critical role. Our survey showed that 26% and 24% of respondents believe that AI and mobile health respectively are the top technology trends pharma markets are most excited about.

Throughout the sector AI and ML is being piloted and leveraged for drug discovery, drug manufacturing, diagnostic assistance, and optimizing medical treatment processes.

While mobile health is being used to aid positive impacts in patient outcomes, it’s also helping healthcare professionals provide efficient and adequate patient care by giving users to access information quickly.

Here’s how survey participants answered the question, “What technology trends, besides social media, is your organization currently applying or interested in applying in the next three years?”

The Solution: Using New Storytelling Approaches to Highlight the Benefits of Pharma Technology Trends

While pharma marketers don’t have a direct impact on drug discovery or mobile health, they do play a critical role in helping the brand craft their stories to the public. Pharma marketers can use new storytelling approaches when discussing top technology trends.

By using video instead of a static social media post, marketers can transport viewers into their stories and give viewers unique experiences. Consider using some of the following approaches to show how new technologies are benefitting patients.
o Day in the Life: From the patient’s point of view, letting patients tell viewers why they
were inspired to tell their story and what having a given condition means to them.
o Patient Stories: Highlight a patient.
o Results: Showi before and after treatment results.
o Education: Provide disease state education, treatment reviews, or guides with tips on how
to talk to your healthcare provider.

The Challenge: Diverse Skills are Needed in Pharma Marketing

Even before the pandemic, changing technologies and new ways of working were disrupting jobs and the skills employees need to do them. As marketers emerge from the pandemic the need for diverse skills have become even more critical.

The Solution: Focus on Building These Three Skills
When we asked pharma marketers which skills their departments needed to do their jobs, a few key themes bubbled to the top.

• Digital marketing and social media skills
• Teams need to stay abreast of the latest digital marketing and social media platforms if
they want to succeed in truly reaching consumer audiences in their preferred platforms.
• Technology knowledge and skills

As technology changes more rapidly over the next few years, marketing teams will need to ensure that they can predict, pilot, and create business cases for new technology investments to stay ahead of the curve.

Communications and Interpersonal and adaptability

As more pharma organizations embrace hybrid working arrangements marketers will need to ensure that their teams have the tools and protocols to effectively communicate, particularly as more teams are spread across the globe. Teams will also need to be cognizant of the needs of colleagues and be able to adapt and pivot more quickly.

In conclusion, pharma marketers have a wide range of challenges as they navigate addressing patient/HCP needs with the needs of a complex regulatory environment. But marketers are open to experimenting with new emerging social media platforms to rebalance their social media channel strategy, especially as Facebook’s targeting algorithm becomes more stringent. In the coming years, pharma markets will look to hire staff that can be forward-thinking leaders who can adjust to an ever-changing digital and social landscape.


Author: Rishi Kadiwar, VP, DTC Strategy, LiveWorld