By: Dawn Lacallade, Chief Social Strategist & Pharma Practice Lead, LiveWorld
Social media is integrated into the daily lives of consumers, often engaging with brands for customer service support – except when it comes to pharmaceutical companies. Regulations have often deterred pharma brands from the open social media dialogue consumers experience with retail, travel and hospitality brands. However, the demand for conversational interactions via social media channels in the pharmaceutical industry has caused business to adjust their approach and establish a more meaningful dialogue between patients, healthcare providers and caregivers.
With that in mind, here are five key strategies for digital marketers at pharmaceutical companies to enhance their social media marketing campaigns.
Be More Active in B2C Social Media Conversations
Pharmaceutical companies must improve their practices to be good at communicating at an enterprise level without risking regulatory non-compliance. Instead of using social media to connect with customers and engage in ongoing dialogue to build relationships, many pharmaceutical companies play it safe. They use social media to support their own PR and corporate message, complying with regulations around managing adverse events. While social media is an ideal platform for these endeavors, there’s so much more pharmaceutical companies can do with social media without compromising compliance.
According to a recent Forrester report, healthcare organizations must tie their digital tools to their customer and patient journeys to create a connected experience that helps meet the needs and expectations of their customers.
This year pioneering pharmaceutical companies must begin to optimize more of what social media has to offer. Businesses should strive to provide an authentic social presence that includes real-time conversations with patients, healthcare providers and caregivers, and potential users, answering their questions and engaging in private and public conversations. Pharmaceutical company marketers are smart, realizing a newfound social presence will humanize their brand while giving suffering patients a voice and a way to connect with others who may be in a similar situation. This peer-to-peer support is critical in a person’s long-term wellbeing and perception of the brand(s) who promote it.
Extend Customer Service to More Social Media Channels
As new channels are open to increase dialogue, customers will begin to demand social customer service. Most retailers and service organizations now offer social customer service where customers can contact them directly and instantly. Pharma companies need to develop a strong social customer service strategy to manage requests and questions, since many will seek out assistance to integrate social into their customer service and marketing strategies.
Use Social Media Platforms with Direct Customer Service Tools
Social media platforms are making this much easier for organizations, offering tools such as Facebook Messenger and Twitter Quick Replies. Pharma companies need to leverage these channels for things such as advice-on-demand, drug FAQs, and chatbots that answer basic questions or receive adverse events reports.
This social customer service digital revolution will also extend into connected medical devices. These devices will require another level of customer service to support and monitor patients. The users of these devices reaching for their tablet or smartphone and opening Messenger or social media platform to find support instead of calling an 800-number. Social messaging channels are ideal for these cases because they offer instant access with minimal effort. Pharma companies need to respond to patients in the patient’s chosen channel. These channels also offer an advantage for the pharmaceutical company too, they can engage in private, one-on-one conversations with patients (either with a human agent or even a chatbot) while tracking adverse events across these channels.
Consolidate Disease-State Communities
In the past, pharmaceutical companies often created unbranded disease-state communities in an effort to provide patients with unbiased patient support that would eventually lead to real branded sales. These sites and options for medications have expanded, however, the communities haven’t delivered on their intended goals. Instead of helping patients, the sheer volume of these communities can overwhelm and frustrate patients, so they need to be consolidated or even disappear. Only those disease-states that are under-represented will see new communities arise.
Pharma company’s need to influence the patient community by contributing to the surviving disease-state communities with even more consideration for disease sufferers and survivors. By building an outreach initiative into their marketing plan, companies will improve public relations while establishing trust with participants.
Pharmaceutical companies need to remember that unbranded disease-state communities are no longer about them, especially depending on their market position with a drug and disease. They need to reconsider their use of disease-state destinations. It will be up to the pharma company to discover untapped opportunities while also identifying disease-state communities where they can target their marketing or advertising efforts. This isn’t always easy, so partnering with experts who understand social communities and social media will be a smart investment into the future.
Constantly Monitor Social Media
As much good as pharmaceutical companies do to ease the suffering of medical patients around the globe, much of the recent attention has been on escalating drug costs and even the pharmaceutical companies’ role in the opioid epidemic. With a change in Obamacare, the administration and regulations, the public is understandably concerned and uneasy about what all of this may mean for them and their families.
Pharmaceutical companies must be proactive at managing consumer perception and brand reputation. Social media listening and monitoring will be a requirement for every pharma company who recognizes the need for enterprise-level crisis management. By listening to and monitoring social media and disease-state communities, companies will be less apt to be caught off guard by negative social comments that can easily and quickly rise to a crisis level. Early detection and a solid crisis management strategy will protect pharma companies from potential PR disasters.
While no business wants have a brand crisis on their social media channels, pharmaceutical companies need to understand the importance of establishing crisis management processes and response protocols to protect the company.
To establish a meaningful social media marketing campaign, pharma brands need to equip their marketing team to listen and monitor social media activity in order to address product or brand issues in a timely and effective manner and maintain a high level of engagement with their followers.
About the Author:
Dawn Lacallade is a marketing change maker known for advancing the pharmaceutical industry with innovative marketing programs. With over ten years of experience leading digital marketing initiatives, she’s guided leading healthcare companies in the areas of marketing, customer service, and sales, transforming their position in the marketplace. As LiveWorld’s Chief Social Strategist and Pharma Practice Lead, Dawn works closely with pharmaceutical leaders including AbbVie, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pfizer, and Zoetis. Connect with her @DawnL and on LinkedIn. For more information about LiveWorld’s social media solutions for pharmaceutical companies, please visit http://www.liveworld.com/pharma-social-media-compliance/.