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Can Pharma Use Instagram?

Chelsey Walters

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When talking about social media, many pharmaceutical companies are still very apprehensive. Some have mastered the larger platforms like Facebook and Twitter, but currently there are very few pharmaceutical companies using the newer, up-and-coming platforms like Tumblr, Pinterest or Instagram as part of their marketing strategy. Instagram, in particular, is an online photo-sharing, and now video-sharing, application that allows users to upload photos and videos, apply filters, tag locations and users, share the content on multiple social networks, and comment on others’ content. It has increased in popularity over the last two years, so much so as to prompt Facebook to purchase the company for nearly a billion dollars.

According to the Business Insider, Instagram can be an extremely useful platform for users to get a "behind-the-scenes" view of brands. But, with this opportunity at hand, brands need to steer clear of using the platform as a catalogue of product pictures and need to give their fans a more private experience. A couple of brands that are doing this very well on Instagram include American Express, Starbucks and Nike.

Currently, Nike is running a very noteworthy brand campaign on Instagram. The company created a microsite that allows users to customize a pair of sneakers by choosing a photo from their Instagram account as a background. Then, the customer customizes their Nike shoes to match. Once they are finished, they can buy or share them online at photoid.nike.com. Nike has also created an online gallery for users to browse one another’s custom creations. Obviously, Nike did their homework and this campaign aligns perfectly with Instagram’s audience, adults ages 18-29. And with Nike ranked 5th among consumers ages 18-24 in April 2013, the campaign has helped Nike reach an audience they were missing.

Although pharmaceutical companies have been reluctant to utilize Instagram, support groups for disease states are easily found. Psoriasis Acceptance and Diabetes_Related are popular groups, with 143 and 2,028 followers, respectively. Both accounts feature pictures with tips or words of encouragement for people living with psoriasis and diabetes.

These groups represent an opportunity for pharma marketers to present disease awareness materials in a new and exciting way to a younger audience. Of course, the biggest challenge is creating valuable content, as we’ve seen with companies who have tried to utilize visual content-heavy networks like Pinterest. Another challenge many pharma marketers face is finding resources and creating policies to monitor comments and report adverse events on these networks.

At Intouch, we recognize that consumers are gravitating to visual content. Whether it is YouTube, Pinterest or Instagram, we know that patients, HCPs and caregivers are consuming and uploading pictures and video. There are no indications that this trend will change in the near future. It is up to pharma marketers to start finding ways to first create compliant visual content, and then moderate that content on the emerging social networks that their customers are coming to know and love.

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