In today’s Internet-dominated landscape, every CMO—even those in pharma—must have a social media strategy
A lot of pharma brands struggle with the how of using Facebook. In fact, the UK unit of Johnson & Johnson just pulled their Psoriasis 360 page from Facebook after a year because they couldn’t control the content.
Leveraging Facebook for a brand of cereal versus, say, a drug for cancer are obviously two vastly different things. But social media is here to stay, and for pharma brands to get it right, they need to accept the challenges and find solutions.
Here are the three biggest challenges as I see them:
Pharma brands have to comply with government regulations, so promoting open conversation is not just challenging, but nearly impossible.
J&J’s biggest issue was having to delete content whenever a specific drug name or efficacy was discussed. A lot of bloggers have suggested that J&J was just too cheap to pay an FTE to monitor the site. But the real issue is not that it could be managed. It’s whether a site that is heavily edited is even valuable.
The challenge is to find a GENUINE way for patients to interact with your brand. In a regulated environment, it may be best to host experts who can answer questions, eliminating “free flow” discussions and leaving room for editing.
In pharma, the obvious demographic can be the worst one to target. A poorly worded ad in the wrong place can embarrass or anger the target you’re trying to attract.
Imagine a breast cancer survivor who is inundated with Facebook ads for cancer centers, breast implants or breast cancer awareness events. She may not want her breast cancer to define her. Nevertheless, every time she logs on, there it is. She may grow to resent the companies advertising to her.
Try to be sensitive and creative with demographics, and provide resources, not elevator pitches. Which leads me to my next point…
3. Selling instead of interacting.
No one wants to “like” or “friend” a drug for depression or psoriasis or worse, and no one is interested in your ads. Look for more innovative ways to use Facebook to interact and learn about your target. Pharma companies should provide useful information and value to the consumers instead of asking for personal information. Many are using Facebook to recruit patients for trials, which provides a service in exchange for information.
I don’t believe that Facebook isn’t right for pharma. Pharma just hasn’t found its niche. Yes, it will take trial and error, but one thing is certain: those who give up on social media will simply be left behind.
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Jessica is a competitive athlete and the President of Energize HNM, a health and nutrition marketing agency. Jessica is committed to supporting health brands of every size by helping them define their missions and connect with their customers on a deeper, more meaningful level.