Development of social media in the pharmaceutical industry

Having worked with clients in the pharmaceutical sector, it was obvious that marketers were aware of the benefits that social media could bring for a good while.

However there were a number of barriers to get over:

  • Pharmaceutical companies didn’t know how much was being said online. A number of the clients that I worked with had attempted to do discussions sizing projects using the likes of Nielsen to undertake the work
  • Regulations around the area left a void, it has taken a few years for the ABPI to try and bring itself into the social web
  • Pharmaceutical companies needed to understand the implications and resources required for adverse reporting events. Research released by both Nielsen and Visible Technologies indicated that adverse reporting events were not going to overwhelm existing reporting processes

There are pressures for pharmaceuticals companies to use social marketing:

  • Social platforms are becoming part of everyday life
  • Physician-only communities have ridiculously high CPM numbers; it would be hard to justify these prices
  • Marketers increasingly have to get creative with their spend; pharmaceutical companies are now restricted in what they can spend on events and tchotchkes such as branded pens, mugs or post-it pads
  • Pharmaceutical marketing spends are under pressure in companies that have previously enjoyed a blockbuster portfolio that insulated marketers from to a certain extent from economic considerations. These companies now face a ‘patent cliff’ where products lose their protection from cheaper competition and yet have nothing to replace it

For agencies all of this offers a number of challenges and opportunities. The old ways of working with process-field PR campaigns that weren’t outcome-driven or lazy media buying will no longer do.

Instead there are a number of opportunities:

  • Field sales force teams with greater actionable intelligence based on healthcare professional (HCP) social media profiles
  • The ability of pharmaceutical companies to move beyond drugs to a solution sell for medicines to manage chronic conditions. Patients can be encouraged and treatment reinforced through specialised communities
  • Programmes in partnership with patient groups can be more more outcome-driven with near real-time measurement and optimisation
  • Issues programmes can co-opt unengaged groups utilising network analysis to find the best targets

More information:
Pharma Challenges: Adverse Event Reporting and Social Media – Bloomberg Law
Adverse Event Reporting – Visible
the realities of adverse event reporting in social media
Patients, social media, and adverse event reporting | eyeforpharma
Pharma’s Social Media Trials and Tribulations
White Paper: Social Media in the Pharmaceutical Industry – Astra-Zeneca – (PDF)
Social Media and the Future of Adverse Event Reporting
How Pharmaceuticals Can Avoid the Side Effects of Social Media | MIT Sloan Management Review
Listening to consumers in a highly regulated environment – Nielsen – PDF
UK pharma won’t have to ‘trawl internet’ for adverse event reports – PMLiVE
Hesitant Pharma Marketers Risk Losing the Social Audience – eMarketer