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When people think of social media, pharmaceutical companies aren’t exactly the first things that come to mind.
Nevertheless, pharma companies need to remember that their audience hangs out on social media. In other words, why shouldn’t your company have a presence there too?
For example, you should expect that your customers are talking about your brand on social media platforms. You at least want a share of the voice, right?
That’s why we put this guide together to explain how pharmaceutical companies should be doing social media in 2021.
Still, pharmaceutical companies must maintain a delicate balance on social media. It’s important to keep your message centralised to avoid any legal or PR mishaps.
Follow the tips and strategies below to get social media right for your pharmaceutical company in 2021.
Familiarise Yourself with the Regulations in Each Country You’ll Operate
Remember, only the United States and New Zealand allow direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising. Google also allows prescription drug advertising in Canada, so tread lightly there.
If you want to reach U.S. audiences, the FDA has a whole set of pages dedicated to helping drug companies understand how to stay within the law while posting on social media. That’s why social media ads for pharmaceuticals are still loaded with disclaimers and side effects or links where you can find these pieces of information.
Fortunately, advanced targeting lets you strictly control which ads you display in each country, if any. Just remember to check the unique regulations in each country you want to operate in.
It’s also smart to keep your organic posts free from blatant advertising. Instead, focus on promoting more informative content on health conditions rather than prescription drugs.
Remember that each platform has specific rules on how you’re allowed to market prescription drugs and devices.
LinkedIn and Pinterest are some of the strictest with both platforms completely banning paid ads for prescription drugs, herbal supplements, and similar substances of any kind.
Forgetting paid ads for a minute, here’s a cheat sheet for creating organic content on the top platforms.
Facebook is one of the most popular platforms for adults over 30. For the 65-and-up crowd, there’s no question.
Think about this as you create content for Facebook. What conditions might people in these groups struggle with? What questions and concerns might they have? Which of your products might they already buy?
Facebook lends itself well to multiple content formats too. Copy, infographics, images, video – it’s all fair game here.
Twitter is fast-paced, so it’s an ideal place for sharing relevant industry news and company updates. Make use of your branded hashtags here.
Don’t forget to keep a social media expert handy to monitor replies and shoutouts as well. Twitter is often the first place customers go when they have a question or complaint, so customer service is key.
LinkedIn might not allow paid ads in pharmaceuticals, but you can still use the platform to connect with other professionals.
It’s especially important to read the room here. Your audience on LinkedIn will include doctors, medical assistants, insurance reps, and other pharmaceutical reps – even competitors!
Think about how you want these people and their organisations to view your brand and what kind of content they’ll find valuable that only you can provide.
Most Instagram users are young: under 35. Instead of infographics on topics like type-2 diabetes management, your audience here might care more about healthy pregnancies, migraine prevention, and fitness.
Keep your Instagram feed loaded with visual content like images, infographics, and short videos.
73% of all U.S. adults use YouTube. In many ways, YouTube is even more popular than Facebook as a social media platform.
YouTube’s popularity also stems from its search engine status. That’s right. YouTube is the second largest search engine only behind Google.
Run a search for your brand on YouTube to see what accounts and type of content dominate the results. Those sneaky autocomplete suggestions can help you find related searches as well.
Strive to dominate the message for your brand on YouTube. Create short videos to answer questions about your products and the conditions your products treat.
Social media is all about connecting people. 72% of people say they feel more connected to brands when their employees share content on social media.
As a pharmaceutical company, you’re already in a great position to turn your employees into advocates or influencers because you have pharmaceutical reps on your side.
Even if they aren’t comfortable using their personal profiles for work, employees can set up dedicated work profiles on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to share their knowledge and experience with their audience.
On the flip side, use your branded social media profiles to highlight quotes and stories from your employees. You can grab people from across the company – developers, technicians, hospital workers, etc. – for videos and images with quotes.
Gilead Sciences uses a video interview to highlight the work their scientists have put in behind the scenes:
Videos like this are valuable because you rarely see this side of pharmaceutical companies.
Bayer follows a similar strategy. The giant’s Facebook page highlights the heart-warming story of an employee who volunteered in the ICU during New York’s COVID-19 outbreak:
Pharmaceutical companies have a huge job to do educating customers not only about their products but also about disease prevention.
The truth is, people often view prescription drug companies as predatory. That’s just the facts. They know you make money when people get sick – especially with chronic illnesses.
That’s why it’s so important for pharmaceutical companies to devote a huge chunk of their content marketing to disease prevention. Use your social media presence to educate followers on topics like:
Use your social media accounts to show customers that you genuinely care about their health and you want them to live a healthy lifestyle – regardless of whether they buy your products or not.
Plus, (as long as you attach the proper disclaimers) general health-related content marketing is much more accepted by regulators and social media platforms.
Bristol Myers Squibb, for example, made this Instagram video to educate their audience about AFib:
Video is where it’s at – no matter your industry. Pharmaceutical companies have really jumped into the video trend headfirst too.
Visit any brand’s social media page, and you’ll see plenty of video content queued up in their feed.
Brands in other industries aren’t always keen on video content because, frankly, it costs quite a bit to produce well. But pharmaceutical companies generally have the marketing budget available to spend on high-quality videos.
Plus, video gives you a chance to connect with your audience on a deeper level. It’s much more engaging than an article about, say, heart disease facts.
You should assume your competition is already producing excellent video content on a consistent schedule because they probably are.
Pfizer’s Facebook page has tons of videos organised into different categories. Here are just a few:
Gilead, meanwhile, started an entire series with different episodes on their COVID-19 response:
Johnson & Johnson also has a strong video presence. The health and pharma company recently launched a series called “The Road to a Vaccine.”
Infographics are a great runner up after video for engaging your audience. Plus, infographics work well with the type of content pharmaceutical companies create on topics like disease prevention and health.
Plan an infographic schedule for each platform. Again, consider your audience on each platform and what types of health problems they might face.
It’s smart to follow the World Health Organization here for inspiration. The WHO dedicates specific days and entire months to raising awareness on certain diseases and important health facts:
Keep an eye on these campaigns as you create your infographics and remember to use relevant hashtags. Since these are international events, you’ll gain instant traction from anyone browsing the hashtags. Score!
General health advice works well for infographics too. Think about common misconceptions or things most people might not know – like how to do proper CPR on yourself or what to do during a health emergency if you’re alone.
If you’re like most pharmaceutical companies, your social media pages are already swamped with questions and concerns from people all over the world.
In a best-case scenario, you’ll have someone who understands the various health laws and regulations managing your social media messengers to respond.
That’s not always possible though. In that case, a chatbot makes a smart alternative.
You can set chatbots up with the correct answers to questions you commonly see. Not only does this keep your audience engaged, but it also guarantees consistency and safety from your brand’s social media presence.
If you don’t want to set up a chatbot, it’s probably best to just turn off messaging capabilities entirely. Instead, direct followers to your official contact lines.
Like it or not, pharmaceutical companies have to devote time to combating misinformation about their brand and products on social media.
Social listening tools make it easy to see what people are saying about your brand across different social media platforms. With AI analysis, some tools can even gauge general emotions associated with posts mentioning your brand or products.
You can monitor both social media posts and articles anywhere on the internet as well. That gives you a chance to see who shares what about your brand and what kind of commentary social media users add.
When you see patterns, especially negative ones, that lets you know you might need to produce some content to counter the narrative. Companies like Moderna and Pfizer, for example, have had to put extra time and energy into content touting the safety of their vaccines.
Lots of this has involved sharing the production and development processes behind the vaccines:
Visit any pharmaceutical company’s social media page and you’ll notice they all have one thing in common: human faces pepper their entire page.
Every page we looked at while researching for this article included not one, but several human faces in their Facebook cover photos:
Why do you think they do this? To humanise their brand.
It’s easy to see pharmaceutical companies (and any large company for that matter) as an amorphous blob devoid of emotion. Sorry, but that’s just the reality.
That’s why every pharmaceutical company prioritises human faces, connections, and emotions in their social media content.
Want to stand out from the competition? Don’t hire actors or use stock photos. Enlist the help of your real scientists, reps, and other workers to be the face of your brand on social media.
Going back to video, we see pharmaceutical companies going out of their way to prioritise individual stories both from their workers and patients.
Why limit yourself to a single corporate page? Run a Facebook search for “Pfizer” and you’ll find that the big pharma company has not only individual pages for each country they operate, but also dedicated pages for each prescription drug.
Country pages are extremely smart because they help you keep your messaging consistent with regulations in each nation. Why try to please everyone at once when you can set up dedicated pages to abide by each country’s laws?
Individual drug pages also make it easy to target specific audiences as opposed to running ads from your brand’s corporate page – which gets super confusing.
One thing though. Just make sure you keep your branded corporate pages centralised around a single team as much as possible. It’s important to keep your messaging consistent no matter the language.
Social media is also the perfect platform to show customers how you give back in various ways. And not only how you give back but how you live up to the causes you promote.
Most big pharma companies are proud of their diverse teams, spanning ethnicities, backgrounds, and religions. You can’t visit a single brand’s social media page without seeing diverse photos.
Even the cover photos each highlight people from a wide range of backgrounds:
You also don’t have to scroll far down the page to see pharmaceutical companies highlighting contributions from women and people of colour:
Bayer has a whole series of images on their Facebook page dedicated to uplifting the women behind their brand and explaining what they do:
You might not be able to run paid ads in most countries (or at all on LinkedIn), but you can use social media to build an incredible team.
Both LinkedIn and Facebook are great platforms for showing people why your company is a great place to work and promoting your available positions.
Those employee spotlight videos are good for more than humanising the brand. They also help attract top talent by showing that the company appreciates its employees.
Pfizer has an entire Facebook page dedicated to careers, and it’s got a whopping 243k followers no less.
The page shares behind-the-scenes content and images of Pfizer’s employees working or just celebrating holidays.
Stories are also a great place to promote your careers. Use Stories on Facebook and Instagram to share behind-the-scenes videos, images, or repurposed content from your employees’ profiles.
Livestreams are perfect for connecting with your audience to answer questions and concerns publicly. To keep the topic focused, choose a single topic for each livestream and field questions beforehand. This will give you a chance to vet the questions and their context.
Viewers can watch your expert answer the questions on the livestream. Reddit AMAs are also a great option for connecting with your customers one-on-one. You could also repurpose the best Reddit AMA questions into a video series on Instagram or Facebook later.
A quick search on Reddit tells us that plenty of vaccine recipients have started their own AMAs but no official ones from Pfizer seem to be available. That could be intentional.
Lots of pharmaceutical companies have largely dropped their social media content at all. At a certain point, the regulations and planning start to outweigh the benefits of maintaining a presence.
Plus, each platform enforces strict rules on paid healthcare and pharmaceutical content to protect themselves from lawsuits.
It’s important to either hire a social media team experienced in pharmaceutical regulations in the companies you operate. You could also hire an agency. An agency with experience in pharma has the time and resources to keep up with the changes while publishing engaging content to boot.