Kinga Papp of MediaCom started her Pharmaceutical Information & Pharmacovigilance Association (PIPA) 2012 session by asking the audience how many were using social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. As expected, almost everyone confirmed that they are, to some extent, part of the social networking revolution. Reality is that word of mouth has gone digital, and therefore social media cannot be ignored. People will talk about medicines whether the pharma companies that produce them participate in the discussions or not.
Particularly when it comes to health, the general public is very interested in using online media to connect and get the information they need. Health is, in fact, the most popular topic online. This is evidenced by the 59 mill Google blog results for “medicine” and more than 15,000 health and wellness related iPhone apps available. But it is not just the general public who likes to use online platforms and social media to talk about health. Medical professionals are extremely active in social media and new technology. More than 50% of survey respondents use tablets. Given these patient and Health Care Professional behaviours, the right use of social media provides great business insight, and ability to engage with people talking about medicines.
Social media now rivals television in terms of reach, which is yet another reason for pharma companies to pay particular attention to this relatively new way of interacting with customers.
So how should pharma companies go about developing and implementing a social media project?
Here are some of the recommendations Kinga provided:
Ensure that the objective of the project is to help patients. If this is the objective, regulations will not stop pharma companies from embracing social media.
Social media is about the people, what they want and what benefits them. Be on the target group’s agenda and communicate without intruding.
Plan social media projects using the SMART approach (Strategic, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Targeted).
A project owner needs to be dedicated to the initiative.
Marketing, Regulatory, Legal, and Pharmacovigilance need to cooperate for the project to be effective.
To avoid comments made on social network platforms having legal implications, software based and manual moderation need to be in place.
Kinga mentioned Eli Lilly as a company that has successfully used social media. The company used social media to target exactly the people they wanted to reach to recruit for their US trials. This resulted in a 10 – 20% saving in their recruitment costs.
Another example is Pfizer Israel, who has developed an app that can locate nearest public toilet for people with overactive bladder. These people are normally very nervous about leaving their homes. The success of the app is evidenced by its +50,000 downloads to date!
At the end of Kinga’s talk there were a few questions from the audience. One question was around the involvement of Medical Information in social media projects. Kinga responded that connecting a brand with something useful and being where the audience wants to be are key aspects. Medical Information is connected to what people want to talk about, so needs to work closely with Brand Managers who may not have this awareness.
“How do we know social media is not just a fad?”, was another question. The response was that current versions of social networks may not be available in future, but other means of people connecting in the same way will be available.
Someone in the audience remarked that in terms of reporting adverse effects social media can create noise and drown out real concerns. Kinga’s response was that a report through the social media route would, in effect, be no different than somebody calling about an adverse effect.
Armand Brevig of Reprints Desk (Reprints Desk offers a solution which allows display of scientific articles on iPads in a seamless and copyright compliant way) asked about the cost effectiveness of social media vs. traditional media. Kinga responded that Social media tends to be 40% more effective in terms of value for money than traditional channels. She encouraged the audience to look at social media as another tool in the box and not as a replacement for other channels.