Social Media for Pharma?

stethoscope social mediaHave you been looking for a way for your brand to engage in social media? Are you unsure of what the draft FDA guidance on social media means? Looking for some tips to help get you started? If so, you’re in the right place.

Social media has been an integral part of the digital marketer’s toolbox for several years. It is especially useful for driving brand awareness and generating site traffic. Unfortunately, due to the tightly regulated nature of the pharmaceutical industry, many have been reluctant to implement social media campaigns. Brand marketers have avoided them due to a lack of clear guidance from the FDA, and medical/regulatory review teams have refused to approve social campaigns due to the fear of receiving a dreaded FDA letter.

With the release of draft guidelines by the FDA in January, our industry has been provided with long-awaited parameters. Final guidelines have yet to be issued, but this is a step in the right direction. Slowly, pharmaceutical marketers are dipping their toes in the water. Here is a quick overview of the FDA’s guidance:

  • Brands are responsible for monitoring the content they publish. Content that is repurposed, posted, or used in an inappropriate way is not the responsibility of the pharmaceutical company (as long as the individual repurposing the content is not employed by the pharmaceutical company).
  • Pharmaceutical companies are not responsible for content published by associations and other partners that it provides with financial support (eg, unrestricted educational grants). Content and assets provided are the responsibility of the pharmaceutical company and must still go through typical FDA sampling.
  • Pharmaceutical companies and their representatives must clearly identify their association with brands when participating in conversations.
  • Fair balance is still in full effect. As with any other promotional medium, claims must be counterbalanced with the risks of the drug.
  • FDA submissions of interactions do not have to be submitted in real-time. Conversations that take place can be sampled after the fact to keep brands in compliance.

You can access the full document here.

Feeling more comfortable with the guidelines? Are you ready to deploy a social media campaign? Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Start with a strategy. As obvious as this seems, people are so anxious to implement a social media campaign, they dive in headfirst. Ensure you identify the goal of your campaign so you can measure the results of your efforts.
  • Engage in conversations with your audience. People use social media to connect with people, rarely with brands. Talk to them about topics that matter to them and are appropriately linked to your brand (eg, an antidepressant sponsoring a support forum providing tips to patients and caregivers on ways to remain positive and the importance of adherence).

According to a 2012 channel preferences research report published by ExactTarget, Facebook and Twitter rank at the bottom (4% and 1%, respectively) of channels participants want used for promotional messaging. This accentuates the importance of finding a healthy balance between brand promotion and human interaction. You can access the research here.

  • Messages must be relevant and fresh. They must take into account the context, location and intention of your audience. Not every opportunity that arises to share your marketing message should be taken. Selectivity is part of the secret to success.
  • Be flexible. The future is unpredictable. For brands to thrive in social media, they must be ready to act in the blink of an eye. Editorial calendars should not be set in stone.
  • Listen closely to the feedback of your audience and take action. The most insignificant of posts can take on a life of its own, leaving marketers scrambling to control the fallout.
  • Always have a social media crisis plan in place. Sitting idly by and not taking action is tantamount to brand suicide. Does anyone remember #mcdstories, #askJPM or #myNYPD? If not, hop on Twitter and search for the aforementioned hashtags. All are examples of hashtags that turned into “bashtags” and left their respective marketing agencies scratching their heads and scrambling to minimize the damage.

Although the pharmaceutical industry is heavily regulated, social media is an opportunity to connect with your audience and should not be overlooked. With the draft FDA guidelines in hand and a sound strategy, you can now connect with consumers through social media.

CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION:
Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at blog@ochww.com.
Please allow 24 hours for response.

This entry was posted in Branding, Content Strategy, Digital, Healthcare Communications, Media, Pharmaceutical, Social Media, Strategy, Technology and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.