Facebook has been busy since it went public. In the last few months, the social media powerhouse announced two new marketing features: Promoted Post and Facebook Exchange. Back in May, Facebook revealed that the average post on a brand’s page only reaches 16% of its audience. Promoted Posts are supposed to help alleviate this problem. The Promoted Post feature allows brands with 400 to 100,000 likes to insert a sponsored post right into their fans’ news feeds (and not regulated to the side with the rest of the ads). The amount you pay for each post also determines its reach: $5 is estimated to reach 700 people while $20 is estimated to reach 2,700. Once the post is live you can get real time feedback such as the number of people reached, the “paid reach,” and the amount of budget spent.

Meanwhile, Facebook Exchange is a real-time bidding system that allows for better targeting of potential consumers on Facebook. This enhanced-targeting ability is, of course, all thanks to cookies. In case you don’t know, cookies are pieces of code that track your activity on the Internet. For example, if you are window shopping online and you click to put an item in your basket but then decide not to go through with the purchase, that bit of data is saved on your computer. If that site you visited was part of Facebook Exchange, then the site is notified of your activity and allowed to make a real-time bid to show their ad on your Facebook page.

It is obvious why Facebook is offering up new toys to advertisers—they need to prove to their stakeholders that they can bring in revenue—but Panorama wanted to know whether actual marketers were buying what Facebook was selling. And most importantly, are any of these tools even relevant to pharma marketers? The respondents pretty much fell into three groups: 1) Love it for marketers and pharma 2) Just don’t like it, or 3) May be a good idea but it won’t work for pharma.

Stop Railing on Facebook.

“It’s become fashionable to beat up on Facebook these days,” says Ryan DeShazer, VP of Search and Social at GSW Worldwide, “but we view these as very positive moves for marketers. The constant barrage of information across the news feed makes the Edge Rank algorithm work overtime; Promoted Posts help brands get noticed where they might not have had a chance to before.”

The other benefit of these options, according to DeShazer, is that they force brands to be more thoughtful about the content they post to Facebook.

“The power of Facebook advertising, for those who ‘get’ it, is its hyper-focus on key demographic criteria,” he says. “With Facebook Exchange, behavioral qualities are introduced to enhance that hyper-relevancy. Define appropriate [key performance indicators] for the medium, and both marketers and consumers win.”

Meanwhile, Adam Roberts, VP/Group Director–Media at Digitas Health, believes Promoted Posts are “actually genius in multiplying the effect of a post.” He also believes that Facebook Exchange has the potential to bring in new advertisers while allowing existing ones to deliver more relevant messages to an audience that has already expressed interest in their brand.

“This enhanced behavioral-model may fare well for Facebook and adds another advertising model to the mix,” Roberts adds. “Like Google, Facebook is providing different ad-products and targeting capabilities to stay relevant in a competitive and ever-changing ad marketplace.”

Roberts envisions pharma companies leveraging both options for things like awareness day events, however, he thinks Facebook Exchange may have a harder time with adoption rates by pharma because of the re-marketing privacy concerns.

Megaera Harris, Associate Director, Market Insights at Cadient Group, also sees uses for these features in pharma. First of all, she likes how Promoted Posts allow for closer tracking of results, which gives advertisers more control over deciding the ultimate value of the offering. In terms of pharma’s use, she believes that Promoted Posts may have more potential for the industry than Facebook Exchange, but these tools could help increase page engagement, referrals and conversions. However, she also foresees a few problems.

“While Promoted Posts may be a useful tool,” Harris says, “it still poses limitations for pharmaceutical and medical device unbranded, branded and corporate pages. A page requires a minimum of 400 fans to activate the tool option, a benchmark that typically takes pharmaceutical and medical device pages more time to reach than other industries. A Promoted Post also lives for only three days, which may put pharmaceutical and medical device pages at a disadvantage to encourage additional future engagement or fans, as their posts are often less frequent than other industry pages.”

For now Harris may wait on both tools until she sees some proof of their effectiveness. In fact, she would like it if Facebook published “benchmarks according to industry, allowing advertisers to make relevant assessments on value and ROI.”

Not Great for Pharma Marketers

James Ellis, Digital Strategist at closerlook, says that Promoted Post could be useful if your brand has great content and a riveting offer that needs to be highlighted, has fans who are mostly Facebook power users with hundreds of friends apiece, or if you’d like to remind fans of a post to encourage deeper interaction. The only problem: “These are situations more commonly found by a TV show or band promoters, not pharma brands.”

Ellis’ advice to pharma: “There may be value if you are pushing a new savings coupon or app. Otherwise, save the money for other endeavors.”

Michael Pruskowski, Vice President of Strategy at Digital DraftFCB, says that these offerings are “clever new ways to take a brand’s message into the walled-garden of Facebook and beyond.” However, pharma is not close to getting over that wall.

“Delivering a pharma branded message within most/all Facebook ad offerings is difficult—nearly impossible,” Pruskowski says. “For these products to be a viable option for pharma, Facebook needs to confront a number of medical, legal, privacy and regulatory challenges similar to how Google did with search ads. Until then, Promoted Posts, Facebook Exchange and Facebook Ads will be tricky waters for pharma marketers to deliver a branded message.”

Try Again Facebook

Pharma or no pharma, some just don’t see the value in these tools at all.

“By continuing to focus heavily on monetizing through ads, Facebook continues to show that it doesn’t understand the wants and needs of its users,” says Sean Nicholson, Director of Social Media at Intouch Solutions. “Dumping more ads (even targeted ones) into the user experience will only further frustrate users, giving them reason to question the value of what Facebook offers vs. the annoyance of banner ads.”

Kurt Mueller, Chief Digital and Science Officer at Roska Healthcare, also thinks that Facebook is missing the bigger picture.

“These advertising offerings still don’t drive true engagement—the crux of all social media—and act only as the conduit that delivers the message,” Mueller says. “Without engaging content and a compelling call-to-action that push engagement, these messages are still little more than a ‘digitized billboard’ or ‘static TV commercial’ reminiscent of traditional DTC models.”

The Marketer’s Approach

When it comes to any marketing tools, Ron Scalici, Chief Innovations Officer at Group DCA, says you should always ask the same question: “How do they fit into my overall marketing plan?” With Facebook, however, you also must factor in the opportunity to build relationships with fans, friends, or classic opt-ins. The bigger question then becomes how to continue the dialogue with a relevant and sustainable conversation. In the end, however, Scalici still sees the same old, same old from the industry.

“How pharma responds will be tampered by FDA communication regulations and budget allocations,” he says, “but the popularity of this medium with both HCPs and their patients is something to be acknowledged.”

Despite what marketers think of these tools (or Facebook in general), they may have to at least tinker around with them. Because as Sean Nicholson explains: “where the customers go . . . so should pharma.”



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