Thursday, January 17, 2013

Social Media and Pharma: Looking Beyond Facebook and Twitter

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Today's guest post comes from Sarah Ray, Research Analyst at Cutting Edge Information

Pharma continues to expand its use of social media. As pharma’s understanding of social media has widened, its use of digital channels has broadened. From Facebook to Twitter to Pinterest, these platforms may help companies promote disease awareness, spread their commercial message and connect with online communities. Although each platform may present overlapping capabilities, it is important to remember that Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are not interchangeable. Each social media scene has its benefits and its limitations.

 Facebook helps users actively communicate and connect with one another. However, the potential for users to post off-label comments requires active monitoring of company Facebook pages to remain compliant with regulations. Twitter helps companies promote their recent accomplishments and discuss industry trends using links contained in brief tweets — but it may not foster the type of community connection characteristic of Facebook.

Pinterest is the equivalent of a “virtual pinboard.” Users create online bulletin boards to which they can post pictures and videos from their own activities or “repinned” from other users’ boards. They can also “like” other users’ pins and generate links to their Pinterest accounts via Facebook and Twitter.

Among Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, platforms, Pinterest has exhibited the most growth across the past year — growing by upwards of 1000% and enjoying over 27.2 million viewers monthly. A separate article notes that in February 2012, Pinterest drove more traffic to online publishers than did Twitter —1.05% compared to Twitter’s 0.82%. According to HubSpot, from 2011 to 2012, 80% of pins on Pinterest were “re-pinned” while only 1.4% of tweets became re-tweets.

Pinterest has caught the attention of many pharmaceutical companies that are using pinned images and other media to connect with online users. Pinterest helps companies promote disease awareness and serves as a channel to share non-branded messages. At least five pharmaceutical companies — AstraZeneca, Bayer, Johnson & Johnson, Boehringer Ingelheim and Novo Nordisk — have a Pinterest account. Some firms, like Bayer, host a wide variety of active boards on their accounts — each with a number of pins and accompanying descriptions. Other companies center their efforts on therapeutic area- specific boards. Bayer’s Pinterest account includes a “Bayer Advertising” board and a “Science, Education and Advocacy” board.

Pinterest also offers companies the opportunity to showcase a less commercialized version of themselves. Bayer’s “Gardening” board, for instance, features tips and tricks which include how to identify common plant diseases. It also provides suggestions for lawn and garden care.

As a more indirect marketing tool, Pinterest offers pharma some of the same benefits as Facebook and Twitter. Like Twitter, Pinterest allows for the transfer of information snippets through repeated shares — only in the case of Pinterest, these data accompany media: images or videos. Like Facebook, Pinterest offers pharma the opportunity to develop a sense of community with its online users. For example, Novo Nordisk has boards that use pictures from recent events, including the company’s “World Diabetes Day,” to promote disease events and inspire community involvement.

Using the visual appeal of videos and photos, Pinterest helps companies target mobile audiences. However, its relatively new status as a digital channel has not facilitated a large understanding of how to best leverage this platform. Like Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest has its limitations. If a user posts an off-label comment or discussion, companies would have to delete their pin — along with all associated comments — in order to delete the single comment.

Current estimates cite that 30% of digital health consumers who use Pinterest encounter health and medical content. Given the growth of Pinterest over the past year, pharma’s use of this social media platform will be exciting to watch as 2013 progresses.

About Cutting Edge Information: We are a boutique consulting firm with offices in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina and Boston, Massachusetts, providing primary and secondary research to Life Science organizations. Cutting Edge Information was founded in 2002 by consultants with extensive experience conducting research studies for high-level clients. We put this experience to work to eliminate traditional consulting’s hurdles and focus on producing high-quality information – drawn from top executives at real-world companies for you and your organization.

Visit our reports online here.

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