Pharma And Social Media – Where Are The Companies Now?

There has been a lot written about the pharmaceutical industry being slow to implement social media and how it is not willing to actively engage with patients and other healthcare stakeholders. It might be time to change the sharp tone of criticism, and give to best practices and good solutions the attention they deserve. There is still a lot to do of course, but looking at pharma as an industry that is not capable of change is not an option anymore. And here is why.

While there are companies that are reluctant to use social media as an integrated part of their marketing strategy, others have realized the value of social communication and engagement and they are doing their best to navigate on the relatively new platforms, while meeting the strict regulatory requirements of the industry. For example GlaxoSmithKline with more than 22 000 fans on Facebook is making sure all of its followers are communicating respectfully and urges them to consider certain legal matters. They let their Facebook fans know how and why the company is using the platform by having all this information on their landing page. This is one of the many examples how a company can use social media consciously and still keep the important regulatory issues in mind.

Obviously when using social media it is not enough to just „simply” follow the guidelines published by different authorities, companies also have to use the platforms what they are created for. We can’t talk about communication unless both parties (the company and its audience) are participating in it. There is no social media without interaction. Case in point the Twitter – or any other social media account for that matter – of Boehringer Ingelheim. On Twitter they share interesting content, they retweet, they ask and answer questions. They interact. Not to mention the fact that the company realizes what numerous studies have shown, that people are more likely to engage with pharma companies on social platforms if they know exactly who they are talking to. On the Twitter page of Boehringer Ingelheim the company makes sure to state who shares their tweets, so people can connect the posts to actual faces.

Also, companies have to realize, social media is not just about the numbers. You can have millions of fans on Facebook, thousands of followers on Twitter – if you don’t use the platform wisely, if you don’t use the opportunity to actually connect with people, it doesn’t matter how many fans you have. Pfizer for example has almost 48 000 Facebook fans. It is an impressive number that looks really good in corporate presentations, you can use it as an argument in meetings, but unless you communicate and engage with those people, big numbers are pointless. Pfizer is actively using its Facebook page to share company-related news, and more importantly to give patients a chance to report adverse events. While this may seem like the worst nightmare for many companies, it is an effective and responsible way of dealing with issues that are there, whether a company acknowledges them or not. The discussions are happening whether we listen or not.

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3 Comments

  1. I think part of the problem has been that with the vast amount of healthcare social media dialogue by consumers, pharma comapnies had all they could do to keep track of the dialogue.

    However, with the advent of true Social Health Intelligence tools and engagement platforms that enable companies to communicate with smaller groups of consumers on specific topics in a one-to-many basis, we will begin to see things change.

    Let’s keep driving forward !

    Jack J Florio, CBO – LiquidGrids
    @jackjflorio

    Reply
    • h2online

       /  February 24, 2012

      Hello Jack,

      Thank you for your comment! I definitely agree with the point you made! Indeed, let’s keep driving forward!:)

      Reply
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