Johnson &Johnson’s recent move to take down its Psoriasis 360 Facebook page further cements my opinion that consumers—not you—control your brand. Part of J&J’s move was attributed to “administrative burdens.” J&J stated “…whenever a post on this page mentions a specific drug by name, or talks about the efficacy of a particular treatment (or its side effects), we have to ask for it to be changed, or pull it…we have found ourselves removing a larger and larger proportion of posts, stifling worthwhile discussions….”

Isn’t the whole point of social media to get people talking about your brand?

While the industry may be struggling and stumbling over a lack of clearly defined regulatory boundaries, your brand can leverage the power of “social” by taking a different approach.


Gaining insights into what patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals want is critical to the success of any marketing program. Start by listening to what customers are saying about your brand online, discover misperceptions, and uncover unmet wants and needs. Do patients believe your therapy is expensive and unaffordable, yet nobody online is recommending your great copay program? Are caregivers of cancer patients desperately looking for support themselves, yet don’t realize they can “click-to-chat” with one of your nurse counselors live? Engaging in social listening allows you to detect consumer signals across a multitude of digital channels and help guide your overall marketing strategy.


The best way to create a positive experience is to engage consumers across every online and offline touch point—while they’re searching for treatment options online, browsing websites, watching television, sitting in the waiting room, or picking up their medication at the pharmacy. The fact is, consumers don’t formulate opinions about your brand (and whether to advocate for it or slam it) purely through social media; they do it as a result of a series of exposures across multiple channels. Marketers need to break out of the industry’s traditional isolation and take a more holistic, strategic approach to integrating their brands into the lives of consumers.

Your digital and social strategies should be developed as a part of your overarching strategy and should also support your core business objectives. Optimizing the right mix of paid search, direct mail, e-mail, call center support, testimonials, online tools, and communities, etc., will go a long way towards generating discussion and positive social currency.


While the industry may be pulling back from participating in social media, you can certainly listen and measure online signals to assess the effectiveness and impact of your multi-channel programs. Are you, for example, seeing an increase in online conversations and patient recommendations of your new “click-to-call” copay hotline? Are caregivers pleased with the level of support for their patients but expressing frustration through Twitter and Facebook about the need for support for themselves? Careful analysis of social listening can help you learn more about your market, assess the impact (or not) of your promotional efforts, and adjust your marketing communications program to optimize its effectiveness.


Utilizing a multi-channel approach to marketing, of which digital and social are a piece, will yield more positive buzz and create more social media advocates for your brand—far better than beating your head against the wall trying to manage your Facebook page. The key to doing social media in pharma is really about giving consumers the tools, resources, and information to control and position your brand online the way you want.

  • Kurt Mueller

    Kurt Mueller is Chief Digital & Science Officer for Roska Healthcare Advertising, which is redefining acceptance, relationships, and multi-channel marketing for healthcare brands.


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