Social media in all its avatars – Facebook, Twitter, blogs, other interactive community portals and smartphones have changed the way we interact with each other. These have also revolutionized the way businesses interact with us. While brands of all genres, from fashion products to automobiles to consumer goods are latching on to social media with full gusto – we don’t really see the same enthusiasm being shared by major pharma brands.
Today, whether I feel a pain in my abdomen or a zit appears on my daughter’s face – we visit Google for answers even before thinking of paying a visit to our physician. We look up symptoms and remedies, and browse through similar stories by people who have recounted their experiences online. But in spite of this ever-increasing need for fast and accurate information, and social media’s capability to provide an interactive environment, why is it that pharma majors are lagging behind in the social media space?
The strict regulatory environment existing in the pharma sector may be a cause of concern. Direct promotion to end-consumers is often banned in various markets. Further, for purposes of drug safety information, all patient feedback needs to be monitored closely. These may be seen as roadblocks by pharma brands willing to interact with their consumers on social media. However, the benefits that social media can generate – both to you as a pharma company as well as to patient communities, should be significant enough to remove any doubts in your mind.
Why go for it?
Build Brand Connect and Engagement – Firstly, a pharma brand is something that consumers place their trust on. Today, people like to ask questions and always want to know more about the why’s and how’s of medical treatment. If your brand is more approachable and interactive – people will bond more with you and this will definitely add to your brand image.
Collect Direct feedback – Social media undeniably provides scope for collecting direct feedback from end-consumers. People will post about their good or bad experiences on your wall and mention it on their blogs. This is a rich source of information that should be collated, sliced, diced and properly analyzed to find scope for drug improvements and further R&D.
General wellness forums and Apps that help Track Trends – In the fast paced lives of most people, forums that update them about general wellness tips and smartphone applications that track their performance – really appeal to people. You could use these tools and apps to get your forums going and to collect real health statistics of groups of people. This, if used effectively can help you track the latest and upcoming trends in healthcare. You will be able to quickly sniff out real issues and provide better solutions for your target segment.
Given the advantages Social Media offers – pharma companies should definitely not leave this vast source of rich information unattended. Specially, you could use social media for promoting OTC products directly to end consumers. Most importantly, you should keep in mind that the internet is blooming with health related communities, discussion forums and non-brand sponsored portals openly dissipating information about your brands. If you don’t start transmitting the right information on your Facebook page or Twitter account, someone else might very well spread the wrong information! So, act now – after all, when it is about blemishes on your brand image – prevention really is better than cure.
- Research Optimus