Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Helping Pharma Make the Case for Social Media: Five Points

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For many in pharma, social media is an uphill battle in a number of ways.  An industry teeming with regulatory concerns, many have chosen to err on the side of caution and remain on the social media sidelines.  However, with social increasingly being integrated into marketing campaigns and with regulatory clarity on the way, social media is becoming harder to ignore in pharma.  That said, you may need to be prepared to do some persuading.  Here’s a few points to help out:

You can navigate regulatory restrictions- In the past, uncertainty surrounding social in such a tightly regulated industry has been enough to scare away many brands.  However, now there is at least a semblance of guidelines companies can refer to.  A lack of formal regulations has been a convenient excuse for a few years, but that argument is holding less and less water as the FDA moves towards a formal set of guidances.

Pharma Social Media Reasons Boss Convince SEO benefits- Gone are the days where link building could reliably shoot you up the SEO rankings.  Once Google became hip to companies building out artificial link libraries, they began to look for other ways to index sites.  Now, much of this score relies on “social signals” including how often you post and how many fans you have.  Not convinced?  Your colleagues are.  The far majority, 92%, agree that content is either “effective” or “very effective” for SEO.   

Your customers are using it- To say as a blanket statement that your customers aren’t on social networks is incorrect.  They may not be concentrated on one social site, but they are using them.  In fact, 74% of adults using the internet are on some kind of social network.  While it may be true that in some cases your customers aren’t frequenting Pinterest or Instagram, they are using sites including niche communities and blogs. 

Your competitors are doing it- Employ the scare tactic.  While you continue to ignore social, your competitors are leveraging it.  Even if you’re a pharma company, a group known for being full of social media wallflowers, half of the industry is still using social to market to the customers you want.  While your company decides the time isn't yet right, your competitors are building a following for when the time actually is.  The first mover advantage is a real thing in social.  Don't give your competitors that advantage.

Know your goals- Your boss will likely not be impressed by the number of re-tweets you can secure in a single day.  What might pique their interest are other metrics such as traffic, conversions and inquiries that can be tied to social campaigns.  Some campaigns may not have a goal directly attached to the bottom line (see Pfizer’s latest campaign).  In this case, maybe brand perception surveys and anecdotes prove effectiveness.  The point is, every campaign is different and those goals need to be defined beforehand for both sides to know what success looks like.

We recently discussed some of this with Chuck Davis, Co-Founder and CTO of BehaviorMatrix.  Here are his thoughts:

For pharma marketers who are having a hard time getting approval to create campaigns on social channels, can you tell us how to convince upper management that social media has a positive financial impact?

Chuck: Well, I think that probably the best way to do that is you want to be able to control the perception of your brand. Basically, to allow that to occur on social media without interaction I think is dangerous, especially given the pressures in the market today where it is so critical to be able to control your brand and to be able to understand and impact and influence what is going on. So, in that respect if you don’t do that, it will be done for you in ways that you might not necessarily agree with.

I think that the companies that will be the most competitive will be the ones that come up with very effective strategies for controlling and engaging in digital outreach and doing so in a way that is also compliant. I think that that is, by and large, a pretty compelling argument to make to management for coming up with an effective social campaign.

Download the full interview with Chuck here.

You can hear more from leaders on social media in pharma, including the FDA’s own Mark Roh, at this year’s ePharma West.  Join us September 22-24 in San Francisco, CA. Download the agenda to see what else we’ve got on tap.

SAVE $100. Register here and use code XP1956BLOG.

This post was contributed by @MikeMadarasz

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