Social media has been a hot topic among healthcare marketers for the past few years. However, the lack of clear guidelines for the space—which have still not arrived—has kept many marketers away, but it has not stopped everyone. Many brave souls have taken the leap into the hazily regulated waters of social media and lived to tell about it. PM360 asked our readers to relay their greatest social media success stories—the types of stories that prove the risk is worth the reward. Here are 10 such tales.

Cadient Group

Jim Walker
Director, Marketing Strategy


The client’s objective was to drive awareness of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in both the EU and North American markets. Cadient worked closely with the global vaccine team to develop a multi-market social media strategy and implementation roadmap, with a specific focus on mothers and expectant mothers.


To start, Cadient focused on aligning the roadmap to a range of global regulatory concerns, along with the client’s internal social media guidelines. In addition to addressing regulatory concerns, we did extensive first-person research and market analysis. Then we created a formal scoring system that used “Social Technographics” to track intrinsic market conditions, patient sentiment and overall digital activity in order to leverage both qualitative and quantitative insights within the decision-making process.


The final Social Media Roadmap and Framework allowed the client team to prioritize their go-to-market tactics and institute several successful pilot programs for raising awareness in the respective markets. The specific social tactics used in the various pilots were chosen and optimized based on the social media trends and technographics for each particular market. Media selection and audience media usage patterns were also a critical part of the optimization process, as we identified several fast growing social trends in countries we might not have expected—such as significant Facebook usage within Turkey.


Roska Healthcare Advertising

Kurt Mueller
Chief Digital & Science Officer

How do you measure multi-channel social media patient marketing programs? While it’s easy to get hung up on trying to tie social media metrics to “likes” and “shares,” what’s more important is driving engagement and action using a wide variety of social channels.

In my opinion, the Drive4COPD social media program is a clear leader. Sure, there’s the Twitter feed, Facebook presence and core Drive4COPD website. But what makes this social media campaign stand out is the level of authenticity and ability to engage with patients and caregivers, and drive them to a clear call to action—get screened for COPD.

The Twitter feed not only provides healthcare advice, but has a conversational feel to it. On the Facebook page, I was able to post a question to other patients about a friend of mine whose mother-in-law has COPD, and get their advice. Click-to-Chat on the Drive4COPD website hooked me up with a live representative where I was able to engage in real dialogue. And while Boehringer Ingelheim handed Drive4COPD off to the COPD Foundation in 2012 (another really smart move), they still sponsor the site. And with all that goodwill, engagement, screening, and action to talk to your doctor, there will be a lot of branded discussion about Spiriva—it will just be in the doctor’s office, not on the Drive4COPD social properties.


Vermillion, Inc.

Scott Henderson
Corporate Director, Marketing

In March 2010, we created the OVA1 Facebook page to coincide with the launch of OVA1, the first FDA-cleared blood test for pre-surgical assessment of ovarian masses. Being a small company, we require our advertising to be as targeted as possible while yielding strong results. Ovarian cancer affects only 22,000 out of 150 million American women annually and, as such, finding a platform to reach such a narrow audience is crucial. Facebook gives us the opportunity to concentrate on women with a connection to ovarian cancer.

Being careful not to make it “too commercial,” we focus our engagements on creating awareness of the disease and encourage people to share their stories with each other. Although this is a branded product page, it has grown to be one of the largest ovarian cancer pages, while also boasting tremendous interaction. Of greater importance, this has become our primary source for collecting patient success stories and creating external brand champions—which is ever so scarce in the healthcare space.




evoke interaction

Jason Marshall
Project Director

One of the YouTube channels we run is a first for our client and a first in the brand’s category. During the channel’s lifespan, we’ve been faced with numerous user experience changes that forced the project back through the med/legal review (MLR) process. We used those opportunities to improve the channel’s design and narrow the focus on the brand message.

The experience also helped us further refine our social media playbook. Keeping up with the pace of changes can be a challenge, but it can be managed with the right approach. Implementing a social program is a full-time endeavor. But when done appropriately it can yield significant benefits in terms of brand awareness, equity and, ultimately, ROI.

The goal is to be the first to know about potential changes so the resources and budget are in place before the revisions are officially rolled out. In the social space, sometimes you have to stay ahead of the curve just to stay in market. It’s all about being proactive.

Digitas Health

Samantha Arabolu
Director, Social Media Strategy

When Facebook opened up commenting for non-brand pages, our client, UCB’s Epilepsy Advocate community, was no longer a venue to promote messages in an environment “safe” from regulatory hazards. Rather than being deterred at the amount of work needed to sustain the presence on Facebook, our team saw an opportunity to bring more value to the epilepsy community and our client’s brand.

At the time of this new Facebook mandate, open commenting was unheard of due to the limitations of adverse-event reporting. Understanding the functionality and limitations of Facebook, multiple vendors and regulations led us to create a roadmap of clear assignments and responsibilities.

The result was that UCB and Digitas Health created a community that allowed individuals to share opinions with the page and each other within a particular set of community guidelines. We were able to provide an experience that met users’ expectations while taking advantage of the broader reach and the more authentic purpose that Facebook provided. To date, this initiative enables us to provide content and motivation that individuals actively participate with (as measured by a jump to 40,000 likes and hundreds of likes, comments, and shares per post), and also brilliantly showcases the passions and determination of a community we are proud to be a part of and participate in actively.




Jen Fuhrman-Kestler,
Sr. Manager

Cristy Villasmil,
Associate Community Manager

One of our clients has a new prescription treatment in a therapeutic area encompassing a large percentage of the population. These patients typically do not seek help from their physician. Our challenge was to create awareness about the disease state and get patients to seek help from their healthcare provider. The solution was clearly an unbranded digital campaign.

We launched a Twitter handle and wrote MLR-approved, compelling content (keeping a balance of 80% tips and 20% sell copy). But, as all digital marketers know, compelling content is not enough to quickly grow a following. We also used part of our budget to promote tweets and verified the account. The results in the first month were impressive. We went from zero followers to more than 1,100 and getting nearly 1,500 visits to the unbranded website, with 95% of the traffic coming from Twitter.

The second phase of the plan includes partnerships with two well-respected health information providers. Through these partnerships, we are holding regularly occurring tweet chats about the disease and initiating a discussion about getting an HCP involved. These partnerships give us exposure into a broader health and wellness audience and a deepened level of credibility. Our key learning from this project so far: Promoted tweets will only go so far. Content is very important in not only gaining followers, but keeping them.

Armada Medical Marketing

Micki Sievwright
Senior Account Manager and Director of Social Media

YouTube Success at Scientific Sessions

During the 2012 American Heart Association Scientific Sessions, Atherotech Diagnostics Lab tapped Armada Medical Marketing to secure a suite of on-camera interviews sharing medical research. The strategy aimed to share the clinical research as told by study authors and leverage these videos on Atherotech’s social channels (YouTube, Atherotech’s blog, Facebook and Twitter). Four videos were produced and Atherotech saw its best month yet on YouTube with more than 950 views. Watch the video playlist:

Blogging about Lipidology

Cobble’s Corner ( is an engaging blog designed to reach lipidologists and the HCP community. The web-based effort aimed to spur medical conversations on comprehensive cholesterol testing and build the reputation of Atherotech Diagnostics Lab Chief Medical Officer Michael E. Cobble, M.D. Armada Medical Marketing’s strategy for achieving success with the blog relied upon content that was: 1) medically accurate, 2) effectively promoted on social media channels, and 3) executed with the most efficient use possible of Dr. Cobble’s limited time. The online buzz has been quite impressive: Facebook posts have led to more than 10,000 impressions of the blog’s material. Twitter proved to be the leading referral tool with posts, retweets and link-sharing. In January alone, 40 visitors found Cobble’s Corner after reading about it on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. More about the project:


Kantar Health

Brian Mondry
Vice President, Integrated Strategy and Digital Solutions

Kantar Health conducted a mixed methodology study on multiple sclerosis (MS) patients in the U.S. to determine the potential for oral MS therapies in the current relapsing-remitting patient group and how manufacturers of these therapies can maximize the products’ potential. To drive insights around this issue, Kantar Health used two distinct online qualitative methodologies: 1) Marketing Research Online Community (MROCs) and 2) Social Media Listening.

The MROCs provided a unique approach for getting qualitative insight from a patient universe. Unlike an interview or focus group, which requires mostly participant and moderator/interviewer interaction, MROC members tend to exchange ideas and discuss issues with each other. Meanwhile, the moderator mostly serves as a catalyst to encourage relevant discussions.

The peer-to-peer engagement allowed us to observe how patients genuinely interact when discussing their conditions and the new oral therapies. We found that having these discussions take place over an extended time period enabled members to become immersed in the issues our clients care about. As a result, we benefitted from a deeper level of insight than normally achieved through more traditional methodologies. Because our moderator aligns himself with these patients, rather than overtly leading them, we believed the MROC members were speaking truthfully about their condition versus simply aiming to please.



Rachel Daricek
Senior Director, Client Services

To help our pharma clients achieve strategic objectives for their brands, we use QuantiaMD’s secure social learning and collaboration platform to build relationships with target physicians. Our programs for pharma consist of short, interactive, educational presentations, embedded with proven social media technologies and viewable with continually featured ISI on web and mobile devices. We have achieved great success by incorporating several social elements into these programs:

• Ability to share with and refer to colleagues.

• A direct connection to the sales representative assigned to the physician.

• Ability to rate content.

• Interactive questions embedded within the presentations.

• Community response to let physicians see if they answered questions correctly and how their answer compares with their peers’.

• Follow-ups with participating physicians to gather qualitative feedback for clients.

We’ve learned that success comes from creating an ongoing conversation with the physician—multiple short bursts of information consumed over time—that provide the physician with value to help him/her better treat patients and/or manage his/her practice. With this formula, we’ve created a high level of stickiness, with the average physician spending 45 minutes a week on QuantiaMD and nearly half a million physician engagements total in the last three years.





Lance Hill

Today, the meaning of social media is expanding to encompass a business-focused platform that supports guided discussions in a private setting. At the forefront are pharma companies that are solving business challenges by using digital collaboration platforms to gain real-time feedback and deeper clinical insights from their advisors. Within3 has been privileged to work with several of these companies and highlights one company’s experience here.

A top 20 pharmaceutical company chose to use a digital platform to replace its traditional healthcare professional engagement of one live meeting per region with six virtual meetings during the year. The company now receives feedback within one day after each session instead of the usual 15 days, and feedback is six times more frequent. As research suggests, advisors indicate they like the virtual solution and prefer them to live settings. One advisor even posted while on vacation, adding, “I had difficulties answering all questions as the Internet on my cruise ship is very fickle…I did try to answer as much as possible.”

Increased participation, greater collaboration, quicker response time, doing more with less, and successfully navigating the MLR system—valuable.

An advisor interrupting his cruise to participate—priceless.


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