2017 sure kept things interesting. In the fast-changing world of social, each platform has had dozens of updates over the past year. Just like last year, we’re here to review the most important social platform updates and highlight how they will shape social trends in the coming year.

Several of the biggest movements from years past will continue to be relevant. For example, live video and real-time content-curation tools will remain significant social trends for marketers to leverage in 2018. The following trends are more focused on newer user behavior and recent platform changes.


This year, here’s what is important for pharma marketers on social media.

Social Ad Transparency

In April, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent more than 90 letters to Instagram influencers and marketers as a reminder that influencers should clearly disclose relationships with brands. These letters marked the first time the FTC reached out to social media influencers directly.

As a result, Instagram and Facebook have updated their #Sponsored format, giving influencers a new label to better differentiate paid-for posts from organic content.

With additional scrutiny placed on ads during the “fake news” movement over the past year, Facebook has committed to continuing to make ads more transparent. (See: Is Your Brand Affected by Facebook Custom Link Changes?). To prevent abuse and increase authenticity, Facebook is requiring all advertisers to have Facebook Pages in 2018 and lose the ability to create “dark posts” that don’t appear on a Page’s Timeline.

We expect other social platforms like Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube will make efforts to ensure ads are as transparent as possible in the coming year. Whether these new features are an attempt to self-regulate, or platforms are anticipating more strict guidelines from the FTC this year, the end result is that users will incoporate more transparency into the ads in their feeds.

Pharma marketers working closely with patient and healthcare provider (HCP) influencers should ensure their campaigns are FTC-compliant, displaying clear disclosure statements regardless of the platform.

IRL Experiences

Last year, we wrote about the rise in VR/AR experiences and how healthcare marketers will be able to leverage the technology to reach patients. Snapchat continued to evolve its augmented reality (AR) lenses and introduced Lens Studio in December so marketers can create their own branded AR Lenses. This makes it possible for pharma marketers to create scannable codes placed in doctors’ offices and conference booths that bring branded 3D animations to patients’ devices.

The line between digital and IRL (“in real life”) has been blurring, as evidenced in the past year from the continued success of Pokemon GO, the launch of Snapchat’s Snap Map, and Facebook’s new Local and Marketplace apps which respectively inform users of offline events and act as a local peer-to-peer marketplace.

This seemless transition between the virtual and real world is important for digital healthcare marketers that rely on users taking health-related actions in doctors’ offices and in their own homes. Social platforms should continue to make it easier to bridge the gap between these experiences in 2018.

Reemergence of LinkedIn

LinkedIn was busy in 2017. The professional network added a variety of new features that are very similar to its competitors in attempts to grow its 433-million member user base and increase engagement for existing users. Microsoft, which acquired LinkedIn in 2016, may finally be starting to flex its muscle on the platform.

Updates to the platform in the past year include the introduction of video creation using the LinkedIn mobile app, with video filters for events that look like conference badges.

LinkedIn has also upgraded the platform to include new messaging features such as “active status” and added the LinkedIn Audience Network for advertising. The LinkedIn Audience Network is a native ad network that allows brands to reach professionals by placing sponsored content on high-quality, third-party publishers across mobile and desktop.

These features allow pharma marketers opportunities to better target and reach HCPs including nurses, oncologists, and hospital staff – demographic groups that have been active on LinkedIn.

Public -> Private -> Personal Experiences

While real-time curation tools have made it easier for users to create feeds and groups that are more relevant to their interests, there are still significant opportunities to bring that personalized approach to private messaging. WhatsApp, Snapchat, and Messenger have shown that intimate social networking is on the rise.

The more personal brands can make communications when engaging in private environments, the better. Seventy-four percent of consumers get frustrated when they receive content that isn’t relevant to their needs and wants, and platforms are creating tools to assist marketers in alleviating that frustration in direct messages.

Chatbots are able to provide this personalized experience by using keyword inputs, brand content and business workflows to create a unique experience for consumers. Implementing solutions that combine natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning, brands can use artificial intellgence to provide very personalized experiences at relatively low cost.

Twenty-seven percent of consumers aren’t even sure whether their last messaging interaction was with a human or a chatbot. As this line becomes blurred, users will expect quicker responses that provide actual answers instead of boilerplate responses.

Pharma marketers can use Facebook’s new Messenger plugin to place web chat portals on their websites to answer questions, guide users through the sites, and connect them to the social communities they have built on Facebook. Using an engine to power the chatbot like Intouch’s Cognitive Core Engine TM can ensure that the user experience is consistent, iterative, and personal across multiple channels.

Embracing Twitter for Customer Service

Twitter is an optimal, and almost essential, channel for providing customer service to patients and HCPs alike. As pharma companies talk about going “beyond the pill” and being “customer-centric,” it’s important to reassess how social channels can help them walk the walk.

Consumers expect real-time support, so brands with customer service hotlines should explore a Twitter account meant to monitor and be ready to address or preempt issues among consumers. If nothing else, a Twitter account for this aspect of customer experience can pay off in dividends.

Twitter’s 2017 messaging updates allowed brands to more easily connect with users and be more personable. Recent updates allow for custom welcome messages and user prompts in direct messages, direct-message buttons in tweets so users can more easily start conversations with brands, and customer service profiles to give brands the chance to put faces and names to individuals responding on behalf of the brand.

However, by far the most significant Twitter change in the past year was the shift from the standard 140 character limit to 280 characters, doubling the amount of content that can fit in a tweet. This change is important for pharma marketers because it allows for more relevant search results, better classification with hashtags, and more real estate for disclaimers and fair balance.

Twitter execs have pulled no punches in announcing that additional updates are coming in 2018 to make it more appealing to advertisers, so we expect even more features that make conversations, marketing and customer support easier and more efficient this year.

With the platform adding features that make it more pharma-friendly, brands should consider Twitter — which has historically been hostile for pharma — in 2018 and beyond.

These updates all present new opportunities for pharma marketers to reach consumers and embrace social trends to engage with their audience. If you’re ready to add social media to your social ecosystem this year, reach out to your Intouch Solutions representative.