pharma & social media


Tapping into the right key opinion leaders (KOLs) has long been the sales and marketing strategy for pharmaceutical companies. Even after a drug has been proven to be effective, doctors tend to be slow to recommend it, and often wait until other doctors they trust start doing so. This communication is done through word of mouth, presentation, publication and the internet. While physician-to-physician interaction has been important, patient-to-physician and patient-to-patient communication is competing in level of influence. Creation Healthcare reported  that “the changing landscape seems to have raised concerns about doctors’ reputation due to the fact that their patients now have access to information they may not be aware of, or because of new behaviors that affect the doctors’ authority such as post drug prescription research and ratings on websites.” Marketing leadership has figured out how to navigate regulated hurdles in order to relay a message, product and vision effectively to all KOLs, doctors, patients and healthcare professionals, through effective social media in the pharmaceutical industry.

Web Content Review

Over 50%  of all promotional materials being reviewed today in the healthcare industry are web pages or interactive content. Eighty-three percent of respondents would like to be able to leave comments on interactive elements. Medical, legal and regulatory review (MLR) is usually a static review of pdfs that can risk missing context or even the interactive element altogether. Standardizing your content review process and improving responsiveness is a minimum requirement for effective social media in the pharmaceutical industry.

Social Listening

Social listening helps companies understand why, where, and how brand and product conversations are happening and what people think. It allows companies to increase customer acquisition, keep track of brand growth and discover new opportunities. They can interact directly with customers and easily tweak their marketing strategy to fit customer needs. Companies have set up automated chatbots for common questions, used messaging to humanize the brand, create unique web pages for different subjects, offer Q and A’s on hot topics and highlighted the brand’s values and supported causes to reinforce and add to what people are already saying about the brand and products.

Specific Company Investments

Mentions of the Internet of Things (IoT) within the filings of companies in the pharmaceutical industry have increased by a whopping 280%  since 2016. Big pharma is not just using social media to test new ads but they are actively expanding into omni channel campaigns with awareness, lead generation and automation. Here is what some of the leaders in the industry did in 2021 to effectively use social media:

Eli Lilly invested $43.7 million in digital campaigns in 2021 and raked in 4.9 billion impressions from 1,505 creatives promoted.

GSK invested over $4 million across 1,625 creatives earning nearly 5.7 billion in total paid impressions. Examples of their effective creatives included a New Year’s fitness and health resolution campaign featuring Obe Fitness and Centrum Vitamin Gummies, and a fun video spot promoting Flonase during allergy season.

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine accounted for almost half of their revenue at $33.5 billion, yet they still spent $39.1 million on its digital ad campaigns getting over 4.7 billion impressions.

Interested in pursuing a career in the pharmaceutical industry? Contact Smith Hanley Associates’ Pharmaceutical Industry Commercial Analytics’ Executive Recruiter, Eda Zullo at

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