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Five Ways Pharma Can Better Engage in Social Media

Chelsey Walters

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According to, “…by the end of 2013, 163.5 million people in the US—more than two-thirds of internet users—will be social network users.” With that in mind, there’s no doubt that social media — in some form or other — is here to stay.

None of that surprises the Intouch social media team, where, again and again, we have witnessed the value of social media and what social platforms can do for pharma companies. They can bring together communities and improve the lives of patients and caregivers, all while helping pharma companies with key business objectives.

But there’s still much progress to be made. Based on our experience, below are five ways pharma can improve engagement in the social media space.

1. Social is mobile: Get mobile-friendly
These days, social isn’t social without also being mobile. According to Mediabistro, 60 percent of users access Twitter via mobile phone. During its Oct. 30, 2013, earnings call, Facebook noted that 48 percent of users on a given day were only accessing Facebook from mobile devices.


For Facebook, mobile can sometimes be a challenge for page owners if you are directing users to a custom tab because that Facebook feature isn’t visible yet on mobile devices. To help reach your mobile users, make sure to include mobile-friendly links when possible and let your fans know if a link is for desktop-only users to help avoid confusion and frustration (see example below).

2. Embrace the power of a picture: Promote shareable images and videos
In early 2014, Facebook announced text-only status updates posted by brand pages would receive less reach than they had enjoyed before. This means including images will now help increase reach to fans in Facebook’s newest algorithm. Including shareable images can also potentially help create a presence on other social media sites that are not deemed “pharma safe.” For instance, if a photo from Facebook is shared on Pinterest, this can give exposure to your brand on another social media platform, even without having a Pinterest account.  

Videos are another great way to provide relevant content in a more visually stimulating package. Videos can be informative, educational and help tell a story. While high-production video creation can be a large investment, the continuing popularity of YouTube and new platforms like Vine show the growth and interest people have in videos, making them well-worth the time and money. According to Manhattan Research, 38 percent of patients already watch or are interested in watching a pharma company video on YouTube. Promote your videos through your existing platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and wherever else your fans may be.

3. Social isn’t free: Invest in paid media
The word “viral” is often thrown around in social media marketing, but the likelihood of a campaign going viral is slim, especially without major bucks behind it. That’s where paid media can help fill a gap. Facebook has been a pay-to-play platform for some time now, exemplified by the frequent changes to its news feed algorithm, but Twitter and Instagram have hopped on board as well. Integrating paid media into your marketing campaign will help ensure your content is being seen and ultimately increase engagement with fans.

According to a recent blog post by Intouch social media analyst Kyle Clawson, “We continue to see blurring of the lines between paid and earned media; the extra reach garnered through paid media drives more organic engagement among fans. In our experience, strategic integration of paid media is the best way overall to boost the reach of a page’s content.”

4. Lend an ear: Listen to your community
We use detailed analyses and reports to show our performance, like Facebook impressions and shares, but the data has even more value than that. It tells you what fans do and don’t want to see and engage with. Are you fine-tuning your approach based on that feedback? It’s easy to get in a content rut, so be aware of what your fans are saying and engaging with to ensure that your content is truly relevant and adding value to your community.

It’s also important keep an eye out for competition. Doing research on your competitors can help you learn a lot about your community, including successes, failures, mistakes to avoid, tactics to adopt and more.
5. Get personal: Craft custom responses
Pharma companies cannot use a one-size-fits-all approach when engaging with their communities. Using automated responses can help speed up response times, but looks too robotic and will ultimately tarnish the company or brand reputation.  

Community managers should craft custom responses in order to create valuable experiences for their fans who, in return, will be encouraged to continue engaging with the page. While it can be challenging to respond to comments in a timely manner, a streamlined process should be in place to identify who is responsible for monitoring comments, crafting responses and approving those responses.

Many brands are showing this change by participating in Twitter chats that provide quick answers during an allotted 1-hour time period. In 2011, @AstraZenecaUS hosted a successful Twitter chat on a variety of patient-centric topics, such as prescription savings programs and adherence.

Though not a pharma company, another relevant example was a PBS NewsHour chat that focused on arthritis and featured answers from six experts, including rheumatologists, arthritis researchers and members of various foundations. The chat made sure to focus on broader questions from fans to help relate to a wider fan base and avoid “treating” individuals. Overall, the chat covered several arthritis hot topics and received an impressive amount of engagement from both fans and experts. In a situation like this, it can be helpful to have all necessary parties involved in the approval process together in the same room.

So while no two brands are the same, using social media best practices can help your brand be more authentic and valuable to fans and ultimately improve the lives of the participants in your community.

For more information and tips about social media and pharma, explore our “social pharma” tag.



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