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pharma: community versus audience

Community or audience on social media? There is a need to always build and grow your online audience. But has pharma developed a strategy to develop and grow an online community? What is the difference between an audience and a community? And is one more important than the other?

What are some of the distinguishing features of a community?

  • A community is interactive
  • A community brings link minded people together
  • A  community involves naming the group or events by proper hashtag
  • A community uses insider jargon, wit, phrases, memes
  • A community helps each other out
  • A community is brought together by a passion

What are some of the distinguishing features of an audience?

  • An audience listens
  • An audience follows
  • An audience shares relevant information

Which is more valuable?

  • Both are very important
  • An audience can develop into a community & made to feel a part of something

Do you need different strategies for each?

  • Yes, building a community involves a different strategy than building an audience
  • Are you starting meaningful conversations?
  • Are you engaging in the conversations?
  • Are you asking for input from your community?
  • What value do you bring to the conversation?
  • Ask yourself can the community continue without you?

Some ways for #bigpharma to turn their audience into a community?

  • Pharma could start to build a community around disease or healthcare topics
  • Pharma can work towards a shared purpose go beyond their individual needs
  • Pharma can work towards building a greater relationship between community & the organization
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how can #bigpharma set themselves apart on social media

Everyone is competing for an audience and share of voice on social media platforms. So how can #bigpharma set themselves apart on social media? Broadcasting messages and touting products don’t always work with social media. There is a need to let go of the old and look for opportunities in the new wave of engagement.

Develop a unique voice

  • Every company has a unique culture, therefore, make your message your own
  • Stop broadcasting messages and be creative with your content
  • Get your employees on board – they speak the voice of your company

Your audience is your social currency

  • Speak in a way that your audience can connect with you
  • Pay attention to the language they use
  • Make sure your social media posts fit the voice of your audience
  • Involve your audience, ask them for input

Be authentic

  • Honesty is the number one trait people want to see online
  • People trust people
  • Be informative and helpful
  • Be witty & funny
  • Be relevant

Select the right social networks

  • Know where your audience is
  • Know how the audience use their social channels

Engage, engage, engage

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general rules of social media engagement for pharma


Fact social media is about being social. Fact pharma still has a fear of social media. But with learning a few basic techniques and practice those fears can slowly dwindle away. Here are some very general social media rules of engagement for #bigpharma.

Listen to the conversation

  • Listen to what people are talking about
  • Listen to what people are saying about your organization
  • Don’t forget niche conversations

Respond in a timely manner

  • Social media does not sleep
  • Pharma needs to develop a customer service mentality
  • GSK Response Center on Twitter (@GSK_ResponseCtr) is setting an excellent example
  • Do follow others, it is only polite

Do not be tone deaf

  • Be mindful of what is happening around the world:
    • Tragedy,
    • Disaster,
    • Death of a celebrity

Hashtags are a very powerful tool

  • They allow you to join in a conversation
  • They help to identify and connect with an audience
  • They help you to identify what is trending
  • You have more engagement when using hashtags
  • Excellent hashtag research tool for medical field is Symplur

Be relevant and tailor content on every social media platform

  • Frame your content specifically for each different social media platform
  • Different things play differently on different platforms
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web traffic or audience building which is more important for pharma

Is it more important for pharma to draw traffic to its website or work on building an audience on social media platforms? Both are very important. Driving traffic to your website allows for people to learn more about your organization. Building an audience on social media platforms allows you to gain a broader reach. Of the two I would choose to give priority to working on building an audience first and traffic to your website will subsequently follow.

Why is it so important to build an audience?

  • You need an audience
  • Time spent on social media platforms is greater than on websites
  • An audience builds social currency
  • An audience gives you reach
  • An audience is made up of real people making real connections
  • An audience shares your *quality* content information with their friends/followers
  • If you don’t have an audience then how will anyone find out about your website
  • An audience makes you an authority on something

Does it really matter how big your audience is?

  • You would think the bigger the better, however, smaller audiences appear to be more engaged and share more (micro-influencer)
  • Size is not the answer what is important is to engage and build a trusting relationship with your audience

How do you grow your audience?

  • It takes time to build an audience
  • An audience has shared values and a common interest, in your organization or brand
  • Think about how you can be engaging and sharing quality content so as to grow your audience:
    • Events
    • Conferences
    • Behind the scenes (BTS)

Should you build an audience on one social media platform or several social media platforms?

  • Social media platforms are just a way or means to bring people together
  • People are on different social media platforms – ask yourself who are you trying to connect with
  • Never abandon your audience (aka zombie community)

What can an audience do for you?

  • An audience can be your most important marketing asset
  • An audience gives you competitive edge
  • An audience listens to what you have to say
  • An audience can share your posts (and linking to website will drive traffic to your website)
  • An audience can help you in understanding the patient journey, pain points, interests and this can help you to adjust your strategy accordingly
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can social media help pharma build brand trust

Social media plays an important role in building trust with the public. Pharma has a big brand reputation issue (aka trust issue). I often get asked can social media repair a brand or organization that has damaged its trust? And what does an organization need to do?

1) an organization needs to do a brand reputation audit

  • Brand reputation audit helps you to see how your brand is performing in the eyes of the consumer
  • Findings from a brand reputation audit will help you improve your strategy
  • Findings from a brand reputation audit can help you to utilize the social media platforms in the best ways possible
  • Findings from a brand reputation audit can help to understand where you need to make corrections
  • Findings from a brand reputation audit can help identify strengths and weakness of your online presence
  • Some general questions to ask yourself in brand reputation audit:
    • What are people online saying about you?
    • Are there positive or negative comments?
    • What content is working best?
    • What is the demographics of followers?
    • Are there any brand advocates?
    • What is the general sentiment from users?

2) an organization needs to listen to online conversations

  • Listen to your audience, what are they saying about you
  • Social media has become a channel to vent problems and sharing experiences with others:
    • This is a unique opportunity to listen to your customer – don’t waste it
  • Don’t get angry or upset about negative comments  – there really may be truth to what people are saying
  • Negative comments from the past – once on the web you can be sure somehow has seen it and copies and reposts it

3) an organization needs to respond and engage

  • Social media has democratized communications & the consumer’s voice is louder than ever
  • Remember social media is about being social – it is a two-way dialogue
  • Engagement opens a line of communication & shows how your organization interacts with outside world
  • Social media is a way of communicating organizational core values to the public
  • Remember social media does not sleep:
    • Are you responding rapidly to customer requests on social media?
    • Are you responding at all to customer requests?
    • Young and savvy consumers will not tolerate companies with poor customer service or response
  • Are you using automated DM (direct messaging)?:
    • Get rid of automated DM people know it is automated and not human
    • Auto DM is “inauthentic”
    • Auto DM is impersonal and convey no feeling
  • Do you have accounts that have been abandoned?
  • Do you have accounts with “zombie communities”?

4) an organization needs to empower and encourage employee advocates

  • People trust people
  • Best employee advocate your CEO
  • Employee advocates makes your organization more human and personalized
  • Trust comes from core values communicated through your employees

5) an organization needs to understand that “content is king”

  • Publish quality content
  • Content of quality beats content quantity
  • Consumers can distinguish authenticity from advertising & vanity posts
  • Focus on content the solves consumer problems
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behind the scenes experience an idea content for pharma

Taking your audience behind the scenes (BTS) can be thought of as another form of content. Remember organizations always need content that provides value. However, BTS content can be very powerful. BTS is probably the only type of content that creates a sense of intimacy with your organization.

Why take your audience behind the scenes?

  • It creates intimacy
  • It creates a larger more engaged audience
  • It is a way of reaching a new audience
  • It is an essential component towards building a relationship with your audience

Why is behind the scenes so effective?

  • It makes you human
  • People connect with people
  • It gives you exclusivity
  • People love to see the details
  • Makes people feel special, makes them feel important and they have an exclusivity

Which is the best platform for behind the scenes content?

  • Instagram stories – they disappear within 24 hrs
  • Snapchat great for connecting with younger audience (for example, think young audience = think girls = think STEM)
  • LinkedIn with video feature is good too – just keep it under 2 minutes
  • Twitter – probably images work best here since the feed scrolls so very fast

What are some ideas for behind the scenes with pharma?

  • Headquarters and what does it look like inside? Include your CEO.
  • Putting together a symposium? Show how you decide on the topics? Speakers?
  • Getting ready for a conference? A teaser for your stand would be fun
  • Research, research, and research
  • Show your team behind the scenes – teams working together on patient leaflets for example
  • Working on something new? Give your audience a sneak peek.
  • Interview someone live – for example, interviews with the scientists, or why not CEO, or colleagues
  • Take us somewhere – your research centers for example

How many times should you use or post behind the scenes content?

  • There is no magic number
  • If certain kinds of BTS are more responsive or engaging then others than go with those
  • If not engaging try a different BTS idea
  • Ask your community for thoughts/ideas
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traditional marketing and social media: a blended approach for pharma

Social media is changing the way people interact with brands and companies. Ok, so pharma companies are highly regulated. But that does not mean they cannot be creative and include social media as part of the overall marketing strategy. Large organizations such as pharma do have marketing expertise and funds. They just need to find a perfect mix.

How is social media marketing different from traditional marketing?

  • Traditional marketing utilizes advertisements and campaigns (for example television, print advertisements)
  • Social media includes social media platforms and is about conversations and engagement (for example Facebook, Twitter)

What role does social media play in large traditional organizations such as pharma?

  • At present, it is used mainly to broadcast corporate messages and not for engagement with people online
  • It is still considered an afterthought after all traditional marketing promotional materials have been completed

What direction is the field of pharma marketing heading?

  • Social media is still not considered a priority
  • Social media is not an integrated part of the overall marketing strategy
  • Patient leaflets, eDetailing, symposia, exhibition stands continue to come first
  • In the US we still see standalone DTC (direct to consumer) advertising
  • Still Playing it safe with social media platforms

How are traditional pharma marketing campaigns viewed today?

  • Non-engaging and not a two-way dialogue
  • Expensive
  • Tone deaf
  • Less inspiring since alternative media channels are becoming more and more attractive to consumers

Is traditional advertising still an effective means of marketing a new product or service?

  • Even though online and social media marketing seems to have captured the attention of younger generations, this does not mean that traditional marketing is dead
  • Traditional marketing still has a role in raising awareness of a new product or service
  • Some modifications need to be made to traditional marketing in order to be appropriate in the electronic age
  • Healthcare professionals (HCP), patients, policymakers and people are online so a well-balanced mix of social, traditional and face to face marketing would be a perfect formula for pharma
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what does social media success look like for pharma?

Social media marketing measurements are not so straightforward and easy to measure. At the same time, social media platform offer so many opportunities for pharma. When asked what does social media success look like for pharma, for me the following 5 elements are key.

Social media success for pharma is reach and/or audience

  • Reaching the broadest audience is the ultimate goal for any social media presence
  • A slow and organic building of an audience will take time (aka no overnight success) but it is the one which pays off in the long run
  • An audience gives a privilege to communicate
  • An audience gives you a competitive edge
  • An audience makes you an authority

Social media success for pharma is engagement

  • Your audience is built of people, not consumers
  • Engagement is a paradigm shift in how pharma companies and brands engage with people
  • It is all about values and interests and this relationship is built across a dialogue
  • A good mix of social media platforms allows for engaging with different audiences on different platforms

Social media success for pharma is being inspiring

  • Make content that is inspiring, not just pushing your brand
  • Always ask yourself how can I take this information and make people care about it
  • Make people enjoy what pharma does (not hate you)
  • Gain inspiration from what your audience is asking or saying online

Social media success for pharma is educating

  • Be the go-to source for information
  • Explain the research you do – break research down and make it relatable and understandable
  • Don’t just push your same old marketing messages or DTC commercials – provide something of value

Social media success for pharma is being relevant

  • Just do not tout your product (which is so evident)
  • Listen to what people are saying or talking about on social media
  • Mine the conversation (large or niche) and try to become a part of the conversation
  • Proactively try to reach your audience and answer their needs, not yours
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what can pharma learn from NASA about social media?

NASA a large organization, with over 500 social media accounts, has been able to build an audience with over 18 million Twitter followers. It is present on diverse social media platforms, from Twitter to Instagram, Facebook, Soundcloud, and Snapchat. How does NASA do it? And what can pharma learn from NASA about social media?

What do NASA and pharma have in common?

  • Both are large organizations
  • Both have many social media accounts
  • Both deal with a lot of bureaucracy and red tape – NASA is a government agency and pharma is heavily regulated
  • Both tend to be pretty traditional & not open to change

What is the overall social media objective(s) for NASA?

  • Make NASA information interesting for people
  • Reaching the broadest audience possible

How does NASA decide what gets posted? Is there an approval process?

  • Accounts are managed by civil servants and are empowered to use social media
  • No approval process, anyone can post, this can lead to mistakes but it is also powerful
  • No social media policy – everyone is referred back to existing communications policy (social media is just another method of communication)
  • No committee, no bureaucracy, just people passionate about space exploration
  • There is collaborative effort among diverse departments

Which social networks is NASA most focused on?

  • Goal is to frame the content as best as possible for each platform
  • Platforms are constantly evolving and this allows for new ways to frame content
  • The importance of influencers in social media cannot be overstated

What kind of content works best?

  • NASA uses social media to tell a story – a story of why space exploration is important
  • Content that is relevant
  • Content that educates and entertains at the same time
  • Content that is tailored to every social media platform and for your audience



The Science of Social Media: Inside NASA’s social media – John Yembrick (podcast)

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