Use your social media canvas to engage, educate, and empower
By Maria Fontanazza
Justin Chase, executive vice president of media, EVERSANA INTOUCH discusses trends in social media, and how healthcare communicators can leverage different platforms to build stronger relationships with patients and HCPs.
Med Ad News: The social media landscape has changed considerably over the past couple of years. That changes and trends are you seeing in healthcare and pharma marketing?
Justin Chase: The number of deals in the media landscape (not specific to social) went up 20 fold last year and many of these companies have technology or AI that are incorporated into parts of their business model.
The ability to create a profile, or connect and engage, is fundamentally social. In health care, having the kinds of access issues we experienced during the pandemic, it’s not hard to see why this kind of functionality or behavior, saw a demonstrable uptick. That said, there were also a number of overly hyped platforms, like Clubhouse, that we were bearish on from the start. It’s companies like these that got a lot more traction when they probably shouldn’t have. Why? In large part this could be because of the pandemic and the very real desperation people felt personally and professionally in wanting to engage in new ways across new platforms. I hesitate to call Clubhouse innovative because I thought it was extraordinarily derivative and bound to fail.
That said, we have a tendency in the media and social landscape to jump into what’s new and what’s next. Because media as well as health and life sciences have demonstrated extraordinary innovation, it’s easy to get overly excited about a new entrant to the space. The important thing however is to look at the sustainability of the business model first. The days of growth companies garnering lofty valuations, or story companies with no fundamentals, are over.
What’s really exciting to me is this emergence of the ‘creator universe’. There’s a distinction to be made between creator universe and influencers. The creator universe is less a new platform than it is a new way to use existing platforms. Each platform is a canvas intended to convey a different message or evoke an emotive response from the end user. It’s an unbelievable way to create synergy of experience across all your platforms.
Med Ad News: What challenges are healthcare marketers facing in effectively reaching and engaging with patients and HCPs?
Chase: I’ve worked in media for 22 years and in pharma for 20 of those years. I launched the Gilenya social ecosystem in 2010, and it was the first social experience ecosystem. It was more than one platform; it was multiple connected platforms that encouraged and invited bilateral dialogue. It was the first platform in the history of pharma where you could engage directly with the brand on social media, so it was a big deal at the time. One of the challenges, or trepidation now – especially when you see how much an errant comment or negative tweet can move a market – is there’s a very conservative approach to inviting comments on social platforms. I’ve seen many clients revert to creating a social presence but then turning commenting off. I think that is a major mistake because no matter what, if you’ve successfully commercialized a clinical asset, then there are going to be people commenting about you and your brand. Earlier on it’s investors, analysts, and the media, post-launch it’s patients, caregivers, HCPs, and also the media. Don’t you want to be involved in that conversation to help shape the narrative? Some of these brands are choosing not to because of this extreme degree of conservatism. The best way to correct misinformation is with science and data; if you turn comments off and choose not to engage at all, you miss an opportunity to ensure for accuracy in the flow of information around your brand. You are also sending a message to patients, caregivers, and HCPs that although you choose to play on their platforms (that is, you are meeting them where they are), you are also choosing not to play by their rules.
Med Ad News: What strategies should marketers use to facilitate positive relationships and build trust between clients, patients, and HCPs?
Chase: Omnichannel is everything everybody is talking about right now. You put your patient or HCP at the center of your experience, and then surround them with triggered, dynamic sequential messaging, at scale. This sounds good and it is, but I don’t hear social media being talked about nearly as much as it should be considering the fact that in order to truly provide an omni experience, you do need to engage with people on the platforms they organically engage on – not just owned, promotional channels – and of course social is a key part of this. I think too often omni is thought of as a funnel to the site, but in reality most consumers (patients or HCPs) are not going to actively, or consistently choose to engage there. They will, however, engage on social channels as they are spending multiple hours there every day, currently.
My point is that as you’re building and nurturing your omnichannel experience, social should be at or near the center. Then as you start to build out your first-party database, by the very nature of doing that work you start to create a flywheel, learning more about your patients, which gives you the ability to create more targeted and personalized communications. You’ll also understand their behaviors and mindsets, which will help you to create and shape a social strategy.
Med Ad News: What are your thoughts on the role of social media in health equity?
Chase: We partnered with The Chrysalis Initiative to launch a campaign called Erase the Line to more fully empower African American women with breast cancer to receive equal treatment in their healthcare journey. Outcomes for African American women with breast cancer are exponentially worse than white women, and this largely comes down to the fact that they are not given the same types of care, treatment, or educational resources. The goal of this campaign, leveraging social media, was to erase the line – the line being inequality for black women in terms of treatment, education, and health outcomes. That’s just one example, and I think the ability that social has to connect, engage, and educate is incredibly powerful. Social can be a really great equalizer in terms of empowerment at scale.
Med Ad News: Are there any interesting social media initiatives that EVERSANA and EVERSANA INTOUCH are implementing?
Chase: We’ve been incorporating AI into our workflow for the past eight to nine years inclusive of creative, copy, and insight generation. From a social perspective, this is where it gets really interesting. There are two schools of thought: one school of thought is that AI is going to totally replace social media in the next six to seven years. The idea is that because so much of the social experience is about search, it can probably do it faster and more efficiently than you, provided you learn the right queries. The second school of thought is that no matter how much we can optimize artificial intelligence, we’re never going to be able to replicate the sense of engagement and human connection that you get just from knowing there’s another human being behind the screen. I think that idea is exemplified massively in health care.
We all know someone with a chronic issue or disease. They spend a lot of time in forums, on blogs, etc. and knowing that if they type a comment in a chat group or a forum, the person engaging with them on the other end is an actual person – that’s a really big deal. There’s the empathy component. The fact that we’re both going through the same thing at the same time [as someone else] can’t be understated in terms of importance to our mental and physical well-being.
I absolutely do not think that AI is going to replace the social experience but we are spending a lot of time thinking about the intersection of artificial intelligence and media, and certainly social media. I think the sweet spot is going to be AI as a tool for identifying other like-minded people, then rallying those people around a certain topic or theme. If you think about the number of Americans that have some sort of communication impairment, for any reason, certainly inclusive of disease or disability, the number is almost 34 million. One thing we know about AI is that it can have a dramatic impact on communication. Maybe it helps those people communicate through other sounds, images, or symbols – the possibilities are immeasurable, and that’s just one application demonstrating the synergy between AI and social. These are the things we are thinking about and investing in.
|Maria Fontanazza is director of content, PharmaLive and Med Ad News.|