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“The absence of pharma brands on social media creates a significant void of reputable healthcare information to aid patients.” posits Dawn Lacallade, LiveWorld. Why isn’t the pharmaceutical industry more active on social media? They would say advertising restrictions and other FDA regulations severely limit their ability to have a social media presence. There is a fear of discussing prescription medication in the uncontrolled environment of the internet. But the industry is missing a terrific opportunity to impact their entire constituency: patients, caregivers, employees, scientists and even their reputation.

Unmetric, a branded content analytics company, recently released a report that outlined social media trends for big pharma. They cited four silos where pharmaceutical companies are utilizing social media. All companies studied have excellent corporate social profiles. They are attractive and informative in a general way about the company, but they aren’t interactive. Most of the pharmaceutical companies have a career silo. It is interesting that the pharmaceutical industry has lagged other industries in setting up and managing an effective career site. No real clarity on why this has happened. There is little to no FDA regulation on advertising open positions.

About half of the pharmaceutical companies in Unmetric’s study have invested money and content into OTC brand profiles. Again these tend to be static/informative and not interactive. The biggest opportunity for big pharma is in the last silo defined by Unmetric, branded community properties. Patient’s have been and continue to turn to social media to research and understand their symptoms and diagnoses as well as trying to connect with other patients.

 

Under current FDA regulations it is hard for the pharma company to easily join the conversation to provide accurate, balanced info because regulations mandate that “within a single social post brands must provide accurate details on the benefits and risks associated with conditions and products.” Character limits and the speed with which interactions occur means a different approach is necessary. Pharma companies must talk about the disease rather than the product or drug itself. They must try to create a place where people gather who are concerned about one of these conditions. Trying to figure out what drives engagement and putting more effort and money into it will pay off for big pharma.

Social listening is another tool that biotech and big pharma under utilize. Gauging community sentiment about marketed drugs, learning about competitors and gaining insights to improve products, services and treatments are all achievable through social media research. Social media should be more of a pull than a push of information when done correctly. Kiran Mazumdar-Sahw, Chair and Managing Director of Biocon Limited, says, “Doctors clearly will drive this change, as will younger patients. The mindset today is still controlled by pre-internet key opinion leader doctors and older patients who are not tech savvy. As younger and tech-savvy doctors and patients populate our health care ecosystem, things will change and this change will occur rapidly after a certain inflection point which is not more than 3-5 years away. There will be an explosion of social media and mobile-based apps.” For the savvy biotech or pharmaceutical company it’s time to start investing in social media.

Smith Hanley Associates and our Biostatistics Recruiter, Nihar Parikh, is active on social media. Find us here on our website, on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter.


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