The Food and Drug Administration has spoken, and their silence—or lack of guidelines—on social media is deafening. In a nutshell, the FDA is going to let drug companies guide themselves when it comes to using social media as part of DTC marketing. The agency does, however, acknowledge that the use of social media by drug companies should “advance the public good.” Frankly, all social media is more about consumers than about marketing.

My guess is that a lot of DTC marketers will spend a lot of time in meetings to determine if social media should be integrated into their marketing plans. If you are going into one of these meetings, you should be aware that you can’t measure the ROI of every conversation…nor should you try to.

The fundamental question that every pharma brand manager should be asking is, “Is our audience using social media as part of their healthcare decision making around our condition?” There are some conditions where social media is going to play a more important role in healthcare choices than in others.

The other key to successful integration of social media into brand marketing is ensuring that you are providing your audience with valuable content. DTC marketers need to ask their target audience what information they need and want about certain health conditions.

Then there is measurement of social media marketing. Too many marketers measure how many “likes” their brand has on a Facebook page—but that doesn’t mean a hell of a lot, especially regarding certain health problems. Consumers may not want, for example, to “like” or leave a comment on a Facebook page about depression, because they don’t want others to know they have visited the page or are researching depression.

Social media marketing is here to stay, but before you decide whether social media marketing is right for you, you need to develop a strategy that takes into account your branded website, search engine marketing, and other digital marketing initiatives. Communicating with people is a great way to earn trust and convert consumers into customers…but first you must have realistic expectations as to what you can and cannot do.

  • Richard Meyer

    Richard Meyer has worked in healthcare marketing for more than 12 years and is the author of www.worldof dtcmarketing.com and www.newmediaand marketing.com. He is the Director of Online Strategic Solutions.

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