The FDA finally issued its social media marketing guidelines—but there are still a lot of obstacles to overcome before pharma can leverage social media to drive DTC marketing objectives.
According to Justin Freid, Vice President, Search Engine Marketing & Emerging Media, Communications Media, Inc., “The guidance provided still leaves quite a large gap in the direction pharma companies should take in social media. When it comes to character limited communication, I envision pharma companies continuing to approach this space as they do now, by not including benefits of claims.
“Regarding incorrect content on third-party websites, most companies are not leveraging social listening analysis to its fullest capabilities, so they are not coming across this content as frequently as they should. I do believe with the increasing need to understand the perception of the disease state and brand on social media, blogs and forums, we’ll see more pharma companies beginning to monitor and analyze the conversations that are occurring.”
The key challenge for pharma marketers right now is to understand how consumers are using social media to make healthcare decisions by disease state. Over the past three years I have completed a lot of market research in this area and what I have found is that there is a large gap in how patients use social media by health condition and age. For example, MS patients rely on social media to discuss medications and how to better manage their disease.
In addition to understanding how consumers are using social media for health, pharma marketers are hard pressed to find the additional resources needed to implement a social media marketing program while clearly showing an ROI. Social media is not something that marketers can launch and then leave—it has to be monitored around the clock and brands have to answer patients who want answers to their question in Internet time.
Perhaps the answer to social media marketing, for pharma DTC marketers, is to forget about ROI and focus more on helping patients get the health information they need to make better healthcare decisions. Today, patients are often overwhelmed with online health information and typically have a hard time understanding it all. By listening to patients on social media and providing them with good credible health information, pharma can start to earn trust with a very skeptical public.
Social media is not going away but, rather, it’s going to evolve as users integrate social media into their digital lives. Pharma marketers should look at the opportunities within social media, but an investment in people is needed to ensure that it proves effective with both patients and brand objectives.