When asked in an interview if pharmaceutical companies haven’t participated in social media because of industry regulations, Bruce Grant, Senior Vice President of Business Strategy at Digitas Health responded with the following:
“People in pharma most frequently say they haven’t engaged in social media because they don’t think it works, they’re not sure they can find the ROI and they’re in a regulated industry. Ultimately though, all industries have had to deal with various barriers, and pharma is about three to five years behind other industries in its adoption of technologies and new marketing channels.”
According to the Public Relations firm, Weber Shandwick, as outlined in their report, Digital Health: Building Social Confidence in Pharma, regulatory restrictions are no longer the primary reason pharma is not more entrenched in social media. After interviewing pharma marketing and communications executives, they claim a lack of confidence is what’s really holding them back.
According to Laura Schoen, President of Global Healthcare at Weber Shandwick, “Patients are increasingly harnessing the internet to gain knowledge about health conditions and even self-diagnose, leading to a more empowered health consumer and more informed patient-physician conversations.
“In this new age of participatory medicine, pharmaceutical companies must start by understanding what health communities want and then use digital technologies to reach them with information that meets the demand and takes into account applicable regulations in their markets.”
Weber Shandwick suggests ten rules for maximizing confidence as pharma foray’s into social media including starting small, preparing but remaining flexible, ensuring transparency and honesty and giving full support to marketing teams. The list, found here, is full of sound advice but we think its missing something and would like to add an eleventh rule.
Social media channels are not meant for marketing messages, they are meant for conversations. The eleventh rule for global health brands is to keep that conversation authentic by speaking to your target audience in a culturally sensitive way.
People who are sick tend to also be afraid. They are seeking conversations for information, comfort, and to feel less alone. If you have waited on the sidelines to join the social media conversation and have decided the time is now, take away some of the fear your target audience may experience by conversing with them in their own language about things they understand and value.
Being culturally authentic builds confidence in both your audience and your marketing team. It means you made the effort to put your best out there. Don’t be afraid to create a sense of comfort and community, then sit back and watch the conversation grow.