#pharma can understand patients better through #socialmedia

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A lot of discussion around being patient-centric or patient first during #efpphilly.  #pharma you can learn a lot through social media platforms about patients.

finding patients on social media platforms

  • get the right hashtag
  • try using symplur
  • participate in tweet chats on dedicated medical topics (symplur is great for this)
  • follow medical conferences on twitter
  • #pharma conferences some patient participation here also
  • during awareness days
  • clinical trial updates

listen to patients online

  • what are they talking about
  • what problems are they trying to solve
  • what kind of information are they seeking or sharing

each platform a different audience (so listen to all)

  • ways of communicating may differ on different platforms
  • younger more popular on certain social media platforms than others
  • family friends pretty popular of FB
  • twitter is fast, information and engagement can be overwhelming at times
  • patients are always experimenting with ways to use social media platforms (for example emergence of patient influencers)

engage with patients online

  • besides listening ask questions
  • answer questions quickly
  • experiment with UGC (user generated content)
  • get input / feedback on the content before posting
  • provide useful content not advertising

integrate in your social media strategy

  • integrate findings into your social media strategy
  • refine often, social platforms are evolving fast
  • a lot of experimenting still ongoing on social media platforms

online movements highlights for #pharma

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The printing press in Europe allowed for wider distribution of ideas and information. Today social media platforms are the new means to reach the general public.

defining online movements

the internet provides democracy

  • social media platforms are the place for public discourse, exchange of opinions, comments and information
  • it means connecting people
  • it means citizen journalism versus traditional journalism
  • it means online movements
  • it means social causes


  • able to reach people faster
  • lower costs then traditional media methods
  • provides channels were people can be heard
  • can be accessed by mobile


  • not having access to a device, mobile device or internet
  • not having the skills and knowledge
  • censorship of platforms in certain geolocations
  • lack of trust of social media platforms
  • willingness not to search information online and to be on social media platforms

does one platform work better

  • all platforms can create a social movement
  • important is hashtag identifies the online movement:
    • #ThisISMyLane
    • #ThisIsOurLane
    • #boycottIngramAdverts
    • #epigate

when are followers, shares and likes important?

Image by Alexandr Ivanov from Pixabay 

I get asked these questions all the time by #pharma.

How important is the number of followers on your social media platforms?

  • well it is the number one criteria by which all are judged upon on social media platforms
  • look at who is following you and not only the number of people following you
  • look to see how many of the followers really have an interest in your content
  • need followers otherwise your message doesn’t get any where
  • the bigger the brand the more followers you should have 

When are shares of your content / posts important?

  • everyone’s wish is for content to go viral
  • everyone likes to see sharing of their content – it gives a certain psychological high
  • not all likes and shares are the same though – are your followers sharing because it is good content
  • when people share it means they are introducing your content to others
  • sharing of content may also make you vulnerable and set you up for judgement

How about the importance of likes?

  • the question to ask yourself is what do you do with the likes you receive
  • likes could mean that content was relevant
  • likes can also be viewed as an engagement

“Likes are always an indicator of social standing, at my age,” says an anonymous 17-year-old survey respondent. “As someone who gets anxious and occasionally struggles with self-esteem, the amount of Likes on my posts can be both hugely uplifting or depressing.”

2017 January The New Statesman

How important is engagement?

  • it is where people thank you
  • it is where people criticize you
  • it is where people turn for answers
  • it is where relationships are built

Is how fast your audience grows important?

  • yes
  • it must be organic
  • don’t buy followers
  • create content relevant for your audience

social media democracy and what does it mean for #pharma

Image by Johannes Plenio from Pixabayh

Social media platforms have become the public place for public discourse and exchange of opinions, comments and information. What does this mean for #pharma.

What do we mean by social media democracy

focuses on the empowerment of individual citizens and promotion democratic ideals through the spread of information

It means connecting people

  • social networks have broken down the barriers
  • social media is a virtual public platform where people can be heard and share information
  • it allows for an open and collaborative networking

It means citizen journalism versus traditional journalism

  • citizens are news producers
  • citizen journalism is not filtered when compared to traditional news media which is edited
  • citizen journalism can have an active role in movements
  • citizen journalism and mainstream media can build relationships and work together

It means online movements

  • #ThisIsMyLane 2018
  • the NRA (National Rifle Association) told doctors to *stay in their lane* doctors created a viral movement in response

It means social causes

#pharma getting inspiration from your followers

Image by Dean Moriarty from Pixabay

To stand out and grab attention in a noisy social media world you need to be creative. One way #pharma can get more creative with their content is to let your followers inspire you.

Start by listening

  • what is your audience talking about
  • what problems do they need solved
  • what questions are they asking
  • ask questions yourself

Start by following hashtags

  • hashtags create a sense of community
  • hashtags go with new photos or videos
  • hashtags help you stay up to date on topics your audience is interested in
  • hashtags work better on some platforms than others

Start by following where discussions are taking place

  • tweetchats
  • forums
  • comments
  • reviews
  • groups
  • trending hashtags

Start by what seems to be working with other #pharma companies

  • find out what kind of content is trending
  • what are followers saying about your competitor
  • how are they building a relationship with followers
  • are your followers getting the information they need from some else
  • which content gets the most engagement

Try experimenting with UGC (user generated content)

  • develop a model 
  • test the hypothesis or model
  • if successful then add as part of content strategy
  • always monitor and analyze what your audience is saying

#pharma needs to grasp the power of UGC

Marketing is changing. Today the power is shifting to the consumer, deciding what they want to consume and where and how they want to consume content. How can #pharma grasp the power of UGC (user-generated content).

What is UGC (user generated content)

Why is UGC important in marketing today

  • It is trusted more than traditional advertising
  • It is more authentic 
  • People trust people

What are some of the challenges for #pharma for using UGC

  • Regulatory and legal
  • The need to have a team in place that will monitor, track and engage
  • Requires a different approach in order to succede in this field
  • Agility and speed and are important in order to grab consumer attention
  • For a traditional large organization democratization of content is challenging because they are used to a more controlled advertising and messaging

How can #pharma over come the challenges

  • Publish a content policy
  • Let the audience know what is allowed and what is not
  • Seek permission in using UGC
  • Acknowledge and give credit

A priority for #pharma and for a successful UGC campaign

  • Have a team in place
  • Make sure the team is organized and assigned specific tasks:
    • Create a UGC campaign
    • Track UGC campaign
    • Engage with your UGC audience – once people start to engage someone needs to respond
  • If needed make adjusts to UGC campaign
  • Make sure it all happens with authenticity

Running a UGC campaign, points to keep in mind for #pharma

  • Listen to your audience:
    • What are they talking about
    • What is relevant to them
    • What do they care about
    • What problem are they trying to solve

can #pharma work with influencers

The following article was shared on LinkedIn The latest Instagram influencer frontier? medical promotions, Big pharma is partnering with influencers to sell new drugs and medical devices. by Suzanne Zuppello got a lot of people commenting. In my opinion, #pharma should not work with influencers to promote their products. However, #pharma does not have an array of influencers within its own organization, that can help communicate the core values and success stories of the organization.

Employees are social media influencers

  • largest asset in any organization is it’s employees
  • it makes your company human
  • it also enables you to reach a broader and diverse audience
  • it can support engagement efforts

CEOs are social media influencers

  • a human being creating a human connection making you a better leader
  • it builds trust – people trust people
  • it builds authority – you become a thought leader in your sector

Company researchers are social media influencers

  • research is the core of your business communicate this to your audience
  • enables a platform of discussion and dissemination of research findings 
  • enables focus on impact of your research findings on impact of daily life

Company HRs (human resource) are social media influencers

  • allows to create contacts that a company may never have have come in contact with 
  • allows for increasing job posting visibility
  • allows for opportunities to come in contact with *passive candidates* (those not actively seeking)

Corporate is a social media influencer

  • it can be a very powerful executive voice
  • reflects and speaks your core corporate values
  • builds your reputation
  • great for customer service
  • allows for responding when being pulled into political and social causes

#pharma so what do you want to accomplish with social media

The first question you need to ask yourself with social media is, what are your objectives? You have a sales target but what is your social media target?

Is it just an extension of your traditional advertising?

  • Remember TV ads are designed only for TV
  • Are people watching your ads on social media
  • Do you ever ask yourself why would anyone click and watch this
  • Are your social media and traditional media complimenting each other (as it should be)

Is it about telling the latest research?

  • Are you posting research in a timely manner
  • Are you presenting scientific data that people can understand
  • Are you dedicating time to producing and curating research content
  • Social media is an excellent forum for discussing research

Is it about employees advocacy?

  • Remember employees are your greatest asset
  • Employee advocacy can: 
    • Increase brand reach and greater audience
    • Humanizes your brand
    • Support engagement efforts
    • CEO participation on social media is important

Is it about promoting your success?

  • Are you producing content that is useful and relevant for your audience
  • Are you producing content to promote yourself (aka vanity content)
  • Are you looking for validation or engagement on social media

Is it about engaging with your audience?

  • Do you know who your audience is
  • What do they care about
  • Do you interact with them
  • Are you building a community

planned authenticity is it for #pharma

In their book LikeWare: The Weaponization of Social Media and in their interview P.W Singer and Emerson T. Brooking talk about planned authenticity. What is planned authenticity? Is it something that #pharma can learn from? If yes, then how can they use it?

Definition of planned authenticity?

  • According to P.W. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking authors of LikeWare: The Weaponization of Social Media: planned authenticity is personally engaging with followers, fans, or audience but doing it in a manner that the world is watching with the double goal of 1) mass scale broadcast and 2) creating an immediate one on one 
  • It is about being real online

Who using planned authenticity?

  • Taylor Swift
    • She isn’t fake, she harnesses the power of online authenticity
    • She scrolls through her IG feed learning about the lives of fans and tapping into meaningful comments
    • She even coined her hashtag #Taylurking
    • Comments from Swift are real: driver’s license, breaking up with  boyfriend

How does it work?

  • Need to understand your audience
  • Need to listening to your audience and what they are talking about online
  • Need to engage with your audience

Would it work for #pharma?

  • People (employees) make up the #pharma organization
  • Employees are real people that can engage with people online
  • Employee advocacy #pharma’s biggest asset encourage them to connect with people online

What can #pharma learn from this?

  • Are your messages really having an impact and creating connections with your audience
  • People want to connect with people that are authentic and real
  • Online audience can spot content, people and brands that are not authentic

social content as an extension of #pharma traditional advertising

#Pharma still continues to see social media as an add on of traditional advertising. There needs to be a communications strategy that will combine social media and traditional media. Call it a modern communications plan.


  • Communications or PR staff would write a press release
  • Send to traditional media outlets (journalists, TV, radio)
  • Hope journalists would pick up the story
  • No relationships with the audience was formed

Social media

  • Bypass traditional media filter
  • Allows for fast and easy access to information
  • Allows for instantaneous information
  • Provides for a two way conversation
  • Has allowed for consumers to express themselves

How is #pharma using social media today

  • Still looks like an add on, that is content is not adapted for social media
    • still TV ads on social media (TV ads are designed only for TV)
    • Are people watching your ads?
    • Do you ever ask yourself why would anyone click and watch this?
  • Social media content is still an uncreative process
    • content should be designed for social media
    • try to limit vanity content

What are some of the challenges today for #pharma communications staff

  • PR or communications will have to let go of controlling the message
  • Will need to respond to the wants and needs of the audience
  • Will need to understand how the audience is using social media and traditional media together

How can #pharma combine traditional and social media to benefit the organization

  • Social media and traditional media should compliment each other
  • Traditional media will allow for a broader audience whereas social media a more targeted audience
  • You are providing options for your audience with both social media and traditional media
  • You cover more generation span