Social media: What patients want

KEY TAKEAWAY: Patients and caregivers want to better understand chronic health conditions and, more importantly, what to expect when evaluating different treatment options. With the increase in “fake news” pharma companies have an opportunity to really engage their audience if they can think beyond “what’s the ROI?”.

With more and more pressure being applied to the current pharma business model it seems that DTC marketers are reluctant to do anything without clearly indicating the ROI to management. The problem with this strategy, however, is that patients and caregivers could care less about what YOU need: they are focused on THEIR needs.

The one consistent finding that has been in all the research my team has done is the “need for unbiased, good, clear and concise medical information in a format that patients can understand. Online health seekers don’t really want to go to 3–5 health sites to get answers to their questions, they would prefer to get ALL their answers on one site but pharma, to date, has wasted this huge opportunity.

MS patients, for example, want to hear from others who have MS about what they are doing to better manage their MS. They want to whether they should let their managers know they have MS and how MS may affect their relationships. Diabetics want to better understand the relationship between A1C and diet when it comes to fat vs. sugars. They also want to understand how they might be able to reverse their diabetes through exercise and diet. Questions like these often require online health seekers to go to 3–5 sites plus search social media.

While facebook’s organic posts are hovering around zero on engagement their ads are usually highly targeted and can provide users with some good information in an era where facebook has become an RSS feed. Pharma needs to leverage this trend NOW by doing research with their target audience and asking “what questions do you have around your health issues?”.

A suggested post on topics like “COPED vs Asthma” or “COPD symptoms can be hidden as a cold” could generate genuine interest. For diabetics, it’s topics like “You may not know it, but you’re in danger of getting diabetes if…” or “what a high A1C means to you and your doctor”. However, there is a caveat, the topics have to align with the needs of online health seekers not with your need to sell them your product.

OK, I know you’re asking if it doesn’t provide ROI then why do it? The answer is marketing 101 and has to do with two things “building trust” and “establishing your brand as the industry spokesperson for the disease states you market in.

If you want to engage your audience and build relationships with them you need to stop thinking like a salesperson and start thinking like a health counselor. Social media is a perfect place to start.

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KEY TAKEAWAY: GWI Social examined the very latest figures for social media engagement, social behaviors and trends within the social space. Among the key findings…filling up spare time is the main reason for using social media among 16–24s, while older groups see these platforms as a way to keep up with friends and the news. But is social media right for pharma?

Almost every internet user can now be reached via social media — 94% of digital consumers aged 16–64 say they have an account on at least one social platform and 98% have visited/used one within the last month. So then, is social media a channel for pharma to reach patients?

Pfizer is using Facebook as an ad platform, but are men really going to click on the ad because Viagra now comes in individual dosage envelopes?

Facebook has become a media rich RSS feed with users following interests and participating in social media activism via the share button. We can easily express outrage by simply sharing content we agree with but as facebook seems to know where we have been on the web and what we have done will “suggested post” health content become too intrusive?

In research, earlier this year, a lot of older facebook users were surprised to have suggested content appear in their facebook feed. A number of older women said they were offended and shocked that facebook seemed to know what health content they were researching online.

So is social media right for pharma? In some cases, yes. At a minimum pharma should be listening to what patients are saying about their product as well as competitors’ products and using the input for content that addresses questions/concerns.

As for advertising on social media there are opportunities, but rather than advertise “single packs” perhaps Pfizer would do better to talk about men’s health as a way to engage the social media audience.

Originally published at on April 25, 2017.




Marketing leader with over 20 years of online and offline award winning experience valued by clients

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Richard A Meyer

Richard A Meyer

Marketing leader with over 20 years of online and offline award winning experience valued by clients

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