Social platforms change at the speed of light, and you can find dozens of articles detailing new functionality and new places to engage online. However, there’s one additional, critical aspect of social media that can affect everything: people.
Like it or not, social media is an integral part of life today, and people are taking more care than ever to evaluate how they’re interacting with the digital world. Regardless of stellar creative, channel tactics and platform updates, you must understand your audience and their behavior on social media to reach them at the right time in the right context. This is especially important when considering patients and healthcare providers and their unique needs on social media.
Today, in part one of a two-part focus on succeeding in social, we bring you four subtle ways behavior on social media is changing and what that means for your brand.
Influence Is Shifting
Behavior: People now care more about what other people say than what brands say.
What it means for brands: It’s time to shift the way we think of a brand’s place in the conversation. Brands no longer have the authority they used to, but this doesn’t mean your brand can’t have a big impact on social platforms. Because social media has connected the world in new ways, brands, especially pharma brands, have an opportunity to bring people together in more meaningful ways than by simply creating and promoting posts. Here are a few options to consider for your social strategy to ensure your brand resonates. In each scenario, make sure you’re implementing appropriate regulatory guard rails, of course.
- User-Generated Content: Pass the mic to your audience and give them a voice on your platform. Show your commitment, dedication and understanding by placing patients at the forefront of conversation.
- Influencers: Influencers can tell a story in ways brands can’t. They’re human, relatable and inspiring. They often have built-in, qualified audiences and represent the patient community they’re part of. Consumers crave authenticity, and influencers deliver.
- Encourage and Leverage Advocates: Find a way to turn your patients into advocates. Whether this is through events, hashtags or patient resources, it’s vital to turn happy patients into your biggest advocates. Their insight will be incredibly meaningful to other patients just like them.
Behavior: People, especially healthcare professionals (HCPs) and patients, seek out closed communities — i.e., more controlled environments than can be found on public social platforms — to express themselves freely with those who can relate.
What it means for brands: In most cases, closed communities don’t mean brands have to forego reaching their audiences. It just means you must carefully consider your messaging – don’t intrude; but do contribute. Check out some of the most popular closed or anonymous communities:
- Figure 1 and Sermo: These communities are designed for HCPs. They are no-nonsense spaces to seek professional, straightforward advice. Many HCPs will be wary of advertising in these spaces, so it’s vital to focus on facts and provide helpful information at the right level of granularity.
- MyHealthTeams: This is a social network designed specifically for patients with chronic diseases. While brands do have a place within these communities, it’s important to consider what value your brand can provide for patients. If content within this space doesn’t provide useful, transparent information, patients will quickly disengage.
- Facebook Groups: Brands are mostly out of luck here. Many Facebook groups require users to answer a series of questions before being granted access to a group. This means no “pages” allowed, and brand activity will be met with resistance. However, this is a great space to lean on influencers and advocates to help tell your brand story in a genuine way.
- Reddit: Reddit communities, called subreddits, are not private, but they are anonymous. Brands are not often welcomed into this space. However, there are many robust subreddits created by and for patients. Even different HCP specialties have their own subreddits. This is another area to stay transparent and leverage influencers and advocates. These communities are also great for picking up insights about your audience.
Trust Must Be Earned
Behavior: Consumers trust brands less than ever. They don’t take brand messaging at face value and instead want to see brands put their money where their mouth is.
What it means for brands: Good intentions aren’t enough. As a brand, you must be prepared to activate on your core values. “Cause marketing” and corporate responsibility are particularly important among young audiences. This is a big opportunity for pharma brands to give back to the communities they serve. Above all, brands must be transparent. Consumers, and especially patients, don’t want to feel tricked or manipulated. Relationships with brands are now a two-way street thanks to social media. This means you can’t just talk at your audience; you must also respond to their comments, questions or concerns. This is particularly difficult for pharma brands due to regulatory issues. It’s a good idea to create and constantly evolve a library of preapproved responses to facilitate conversation and support patients.
Blend In to Stand Out
Behavior: Consumers don’t want brands to interrupt their experience. Consumers can now hide, unfollow and otherwise completely disengage from a brand if they don’t find content helpful, entertaining or both.
What it means for brands: This is another instance where knowing your audience and their mindset across different platforms is invaluable. It’s vital for brands to ensure they’re listening to their community and understanding pain points. Social listening is an incredibly powerful tool, and the audience insights born from it are second to none. Social listening shouldn’t just happen on owned platforms, either. For pharma brands, looking at patient behavior and activity on social media holistically can help tailor content to answer the questions you know they’re asking.
Another key here is to understand how your patients speak on social media. Are there unique sayings or cultural movements within your patient community? How do patients speak to other patients about their condition? How do they speak about your drug? Patients are likely to take a much different tone depending on who they’re speaking to, which platform they’re on and their level of trust. All of these considerations will factor into crafting successful content.
Think you’ve learned all there is to know about mastering social? Check out part two on the topic, where we talk about the role of storytelling, managing privacy concerns, staying relevant, and making your message resonate in the face of competition.
Rachel Hostetler is a social media manager at Intouch.