The Best New Platforms, Trends, and Advertising Strategies to Leverage in Social Media

What is the latest in the social space? That is what PM360 wanted our readers to tell us, especially as it relates to life sciences marketers. We are always seeing new platforms pop up, big platforms introduce new features (and occasionally agree to massive sales), new trends emerge that alter how social is being used, and changes/restrictions placed on advertising opportunities. Readers told us what they found most interesting and industry-relevant in each of those areas.

Jeremy Mittler

New Advertising Strategy: Privacy-Safe Machine Learning Health Segments

In recent years, the increasing pressure on technology companies to protect users’ privacy has quickly changed the advertising landscape. For example, Facebook recently removed detailed targeting options related to sensitive topics, including health causes. But social media is still an important channel for healthcare marketers to reach relevant HCPs and patients. Advertisers need new data strategies to continue connecting with the right patients, even as more platforms rightfully add new protections for consumer information.

The key to delivering clinically relevant messaging on social media now lies in using privacy-safe machine learning to find audience segments that are most likely to be in need of a specific therapeutic. For social channels, in particular, health audience segments combine the strong reach and engagement of these platforms with high-quality targeting to help with the ultimate goal of driving scaled ROI.

Bonnie Southcott

New Advertising Strategy: Radius Marketing

While Google Ads has executed changes this year making things more difficult for life sciences marketers, one of their offerings is piquing our interest: radius marketing. This effort goes beyond traditional geotargeting (i.e., by state, zip code, or other large geographic areas) to deliver display ads when a person enters a location as specific as a building. Imagine the power of engaging a patient, caregiver, or HCP as they enter a center of excellence pertinent to the disease or condition that a brand treats.

Radius marketing with Google Ads is just one example of the bigger trend that is key for today’s life sciences marketer: personalization. Data now provides us with the opportunity to identify discrete actions taken by users in our digital ecosystem, providing us the information to deliver the right message, to the right person, at the right time.

Erin Fitzgerald

New Advertising Strategy: DEI and Conferences

More and more life sciences marketers are focusing on social platforms and offerings that help address Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the HCP community. It’s no longer enough to have “reach” in the specialties and regions that matter most to a brand—social platforms must have dedicated recruitment and engagement campaigns that drive diverse representation and equitable healthcare on a global scale. We’re seeing more partnerships between life sciences companies and key opinion leaders who are engaging the physician community online in conversations around health equity through interactive editorial or events.

Additionally, our internal research indicated conferences are still a key source of vital information as 74% of physicians look to congresses and meetings for treatment information. Yet, attending events in-person can be very costly and time-consuming. Many physicians are hoping the changes brought on by the pandemic are here to stay as 82% prefer the option for virtual to remain. This is another large area of opportunity for social platforms to fill.

Eileen O’Brien

New Platform or Feature: Life Unfiltered on BeReal

Social media users have an increasing desire to see “life unfiltered,” expecting imagery of diverse and real people. COVID helped spur this movement towards “realness” with a focus on health on social media, including the conversation around mental health. It also accelerated the evolution from overly produced videos to snippets shot on an iPhone from home.

One example of the craving for life unfiltered is the fast-growing app BeReal, which asks friends at a different time every day to simultaneously capture real photos and share their authentic life. It will be interesting to see how brands can fit into BeReal, but for now, this is a platform exclusive to friend groups.

Healthcare brands also must tell authentic stories on social media. Not only do patient stories need to be genuine, but healthcare companies need to lead with their actions on topics such as environmental, social, and governance (ESG); disease awareness; and research. Consumers also want to hear directly from the people behind a brand. According to a Sprout Social Survey, 70% of consumers report feeling more connected when a brand’s CEO is active on social. It’s up to us to help healthcare get real, or should we say BeReal!

Corina Kellam

New Platform or Feature: Twitter Upgrades (Non-Elon Related)

It’s hard to mention Twitter without a big, nervous exhale these days (referring to Elon Musk’s takeover), but our HCP and consumer audiences are there and targetable, which is obviously the crucial first step, and we’ve been impressed by their new formats.

Twitter’s branded notifications give the feel of a 1:1 conversation between the brand and a follower who has interacted with a certain type of content, serving them related content that mentions the user—very cool and attention-getting, and worth the work with the right call-to-action (CTA)!

Twitter’s interactive text ads are the most interesting format since Facebook’s Interactive Experience and we are dying for a full roll-out. It allows a brand to include links to multiple URLs from one post—this could mean even linking to HCP and consumer landers.

Rose Sumrall

New Platform or Feature: Stories on TikTok

Stories has been a popular feature across social platforms and TikTok has been testing out ways to incorporate stories into their own. Shifts like this may make TikTok a more appealing platform within the healthcare and pharma landscape (disease-state education most specifically), as stories limit engagement opportunities and require less community management.

Overall, TikTok offers a plethora of opportunities for pharma brands, whether that be through organic content, branded campaigns, or creator partnerships. Intrinsically, TikTok is looking to shift traditional advertising’s status quo; it’s tagline, “Don’t make ads. Make TikToks,” highlights the importance of brands learning about their audience(s) prior to posting to see what will engage them. The platform offers pharma marketers an outlet to be more creative, and to produce material that genuinely resonates with patients, caregivers, HCPs, and beyond.

However, targeting capabilities are still extremely limited. For example, if a healthcare company dedicated to alleviating autoimmune diseases is trying to build up a community related to lupus nephritis, TikTok would be a great extension of Facebook or Instagram. But if a brand is trying to reach patients likely diagnosed with Crohn’s disease leveraging targeted ads, the waste would be too high due to the current inability to narrowly target by health condition on TikTok.

Leah Cunningham

New Trend: Thumb-stopping Edutainment

The average social media user scrolls the height of the Empire State Building at least once every day. Therefore, the idea that content must be “thumb-stopping” has never rung truer. One trend that lends itself well both to this goal as well as to our industry is “edutainment.”

The concept is simple enough—entertain your target audience while simultaneously teaching them something about your brand. But the execution, especially in our regulated industry, is where we need to flex our creative muscles. Thankfully, social media has proven itself a fit stage for this type of content. A prime example is on TikTok, where the HCP community has flocked to provide healthcare content to the general public. From cancer treatment, to sexual health and HIV/PrEP education, and even social counseling videos from mental health professionals, the platform has become a rich source of medical information. The hunger for patient-friendly language delivered in a quick and accessible manner pairs well with the visibility that social platforms offer to HCP voices and, potentially, our brands.

While this is but one avenue to explore in the edutainment space, the way our brands capitalize on this marketing art form will ultimately be what gets patients’ thumbs to stop.

Kelly Gentile

New Trend: Partnering with Endemic Creators

We are seeing more brands partner with “endemic creators,” which are creatives who are experts in specific social media channels. Previously, brands would work with influencers who were actively creating content across multiple channels. During the early days of TikTok, it was preferred that content partners be Instagram creators who had a presence on TikTok. We now recommend that brands partner with platform endemic creators because of their targeted expertise.

These creators have grown their entire following in one place, allowing for more genuine connections with consumers and increased, organic engagement. This trend allows brands to focus on meaningful and authentic engagement which results in a more effective spend versus trying to drive assets across multiple platforms which will not drive the genuine connection consumers desire.

Ali Hussey, Lizzy Cooke, Sara Bafundo, and Chris Green

New Trend: Short-form Video

When audiences watch videos, they’re receiving 10-fold more behavioral and sensory cues than a flat image. This means that audiences are truly engaging with and connecting with brands when viewing their video content. In particular, short-form video is a trend that is currently dominating social media.

In a world where one in four of the top TikTok videos is under 34 seconds, and where Facebook recommends keeping videos under 15 seconds, advertisers must be authentic to quickly engage users. When brands speak the audience’s language in an accessible way, they can “stop the scroll” and capture genuine interest from their audience.

As social evolves towards shorter forms of video—and towards video as a whole—we are seeing users warm to the medium in healthcare. Explosive growth of platforms such as TikTok and Instagram Stories, as well as multimedia chat services like Facebook Portal and video calling, has normalized the use of video channels and creation of video content to broader, non-tech-savvy audiences. In turn, people have grown more comfortable using video as a bona fide conversation tool in the health space, such as through eDetails (for HCPs) or video consultations (for patients).


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