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KEY TAKEAWAY: A majority of U.S. adults — 62% — get news on social media, and 18% do so often, according to a survey by Pew Research Center. In 2012, based on a slightly different question, 49% of U.S. adults reported seeing news on social media. But does social media represent an opportunity for pharma?

Facebook is by far the largest social networking site, reaching 67% of U.S. adults. The two-thirds of Facebook users who get news there, then, amount to 44% of the general population. But what do patients want from pharma on social media?

I took a deep dive into this last year via research (qualitative) to ask people “do you want pharma to be on social media? The answers were mixed. If a pharma company can provide “real value” (as defined by users) then the answer was yes. If it’s just a megaphone to promote their drugs, the answer is “no”.

Greater Than One, a digital agency based in New York, held a live Facebook chat for a pharma client with legal and regulatory teams screening answers in less than a minute. It was highly successful because they talked about the health issue, not the drug, and that added value via a better understanding of issues and treatments.

For HCP’s the value of social media was more difficult to explain. They get current drug information and dosages via apps and don’t really understand why they would need to communicate with a drug company on social media, although some said they would like a more in depth information on clinical trials. However, a lot of HCP’s we interviewed said that their online time is “constrained”. They would rather go to a site like Medscape than talk with pharma via social media.

So then what is the opportunity for pharma on social media?

1ne: Listen. Listen to the conversations that are happening around your drug and competitors. Biogen could have saved millions on their failed DTC campaign if they listened to what MS patients were saying about their drug.

2wo: Educate and Inform. Use social media to develop news stories that patients are interested in. We had success in recruiting a thought leader to talk about diabetes and portion sizes in the US.

3hree: Understand that you have to “win over” customers taking your drug. It’s not going to happen by simply launching a Facebook page, you need to earn trust every day.

4our: If you’re going to use social media to try and reach HCP’s get out there and ask them “what do you want from us?”. Don’t throw darts at a dartboard blindfolded. We tested a program where Oncologists could contact MSL’s via social media and it worked really well.

5ive: Build new processes around social media; don’t expect new media fit into your organizational structure. Greater Than One actually built a new platform to respond to patient questions in real time.

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Originally published at on October 27, 2016.

Written by

Marketing contrarian with over 15 years of developing leading edge and award winning digital marketing initiatives.

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