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Social Media: It’s All in the Plan

Intouch Team

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Successfully engaging customers is hard. That is an understatement. As marketers, we are constantly trying to find every person’s "sweet spot," where our business objectives and creative leave an indelible impact on someone’s heart and mind. That single connection can make a brand irreplaceable.

In traditional marketing, success is found where the business objectives and marketing initiatives, or creative concepts, meet. In interactive marketing, that model changes slightly, making the bull’s eye just that much smaller. Two additional factors come into play — technology and user experience. With pharma interactive marketing, that model changes once again. We must add another layer of medical, legal and regulatory limitations, making that success target just that much harder to hit.

Social Media Planning in Pharma Interactive Marketing

Yes, medical, legal and regulatory limitations make pharma interactive marketing challenging, but they also make us better marketers. We are driven to go that extra mile to find new ways to engage our customers, not by working around the rules but by working harder to find solutions that follow the rules.

Using social media is no different. It is a new medium that needs focused professionals who understand pharma’s limitations and use them to their advantage. It also requires a lot of careful planning.

3 Steps to Successful Social Media Planning

1. Create the rule book

As pharma marketers, we have become quite accustomed to rules. They are a part of everything we do, and that doesn’t change for social media. The only difference is that social media guidelines must be developed by the brands. Pharma marketers have been handed the keys to the social media car with the fatherly warning to drive defensively. So, where do we start?

  • First, get an idea of "who knows what" about social media within your organization. Most companies already have identified subject matter experts or partners who can help them identify the appropriate team of people to start building a social media task force. Make sure the team is diverse and includes brand managers, agency partners, and representatives from public relations, sales, legal, medical and regulatory.
  • Second, start thinking about how your company may utilize social media. You might even have blogging guidelines as part of your employee handbook, but do you have social networking, wiki or microblogging policies? Most companies don’t. Thinking about how your employees and marketers can use these tools makes it much easier to develop guidelines for how you will engage your customers in this arena.
  • Third, create and share your rule book. Establish clear guidelines and strategies to utilize social media and then educate your partners internally and externally. The time has come when none of us can claim ignorance regarding customer engagement via these new channels. We must take what we know and apply it.

2. Listen - the customer will tell you

At Intouch Solutions, we believe a strong social media engagement strategy starts with listening. In most cases, the conversation about your brand is already underway and customers are reviewing your product and services and openly discussing how to improve them. "Lurking" (as it is called by many message board and social network users) is an effective way to find out what your customers are saying about your brand, their general sentiment toward your company, what services they would like you to provide, and if you are welcomed in their conversations.

However, this is not market research. And using social media to conduct market research is ill-advised. People engaged in social media generally are very savvy and will call-out brands trying to do "quick and dirty" market research instantaneously. Unless users are answering your questions organically, and you are in the right place at the right time, research like this rarely pans out. Also, it goes against the main tenet of social media — to be genuine.

3. Don’t start from scratch, and start sharing

You may have projects already on the drawing board that lend themselves well to social media. Identify opportunities where you can provide relevant content via blogs, social networks, video and photo sharing sites, RSS feeds, podcasts and social bookmarks, and start sharing.

  • Do you post timely articles from your HCP advisory board on your Web site? "Add this" or "share" buttons, known as chiclets, allow users to add that content to their pages and share that content with their network.
  • Do you have video or audio clips that explain how to use your product? Create a YouTube channel or develop a podcast.

All of these tactics can be done safely once you have a rule book and ensure that your content is relevant to your customers. By identifying tactics that can utilize social media to achieve a common objective, you are taking a giant step toward using social media as it is intended.

For more information on making social media work for your brand, please contact your Intouch Solutions representative, or email us at


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