Social Media Marketing for Prescription Drug Companies

At a time when nearly every company can be found promoting their product or service on at least one social platform, there are a few industries that are cautiously engaging in this marketing practice due to a lack of precedent.  In particular, we would like to call attention to the pharmaceutical industry and its social media efforts over the past few years.  An informal survey of seven multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies was recently conducted to gain insight into how these companies are utilizing social media.  The investigation and associated report, produced by Joy J. Liu and Kellie B. Combs of Ropes & Gray and published via Bloomberg BNA Insights, also brings to light some of the issues presented by these platforms in the absence of regulations or guidelines by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA has issued marketing guidelines that broadly apply to all online mediums; however they were written and published at a time when companies had much less direct contact to users and potential users of their product.  Also, these regulations are not social media specific.  The social media environment allows companies to intimately interact with consumers like never before. Likewise, consumers have unparalleled access to information via other users or the actual manufacturers.  Prescription drug and biomedical companies are left to address issues presented by social media marketing – such as monitoring and correcting content posted on their pages – on their own.  The industry has long awaited the arrival of guidelines, which were first formally discussed by representatives in the field in 1996. The matters discussed at that time included communication of product information on websites, chat rooms and other news groups. Since then, however, technology platforms have increased in quantity and provide more exposure, leaving many aspects of modern-day social media still untouched.

SocialMediaAs evidenced in the report’s interviews, Facebook emerged as the most extensively used social media tool by all seven companies.  Each company’s Facebook presence was established prior to an important change that Facebook made to its policy in 2011. Before this change, companies could prohibit users from commenting on their company page. This practice was dubbed as “whitelisting,” and offered a much more low-risk option for social media management.  Since the elimination of this setting, such companies have decreased their Facebook use due to the need for increased monitoring. Also, many companies claimed that the volume of work required to properly maintain and manage their Facebook pages was not worth it (as it relates to revenue).

The use of Twitter was found to be inefficient for many companies due to the 140-character limitation on each post. Twitter accounts also require correction about product information, which creates an endless labor of online monitoring for the companies.  Other social media platforms, such as YouTube, Pinterest, SlideShare and Tumblr, are also employed by some companies and must be monitored on a case-by-case basis using best practices as they see fit.

Overall, Ropes & Gray’s report found that there is a general sense of hesitancy towards engaging in social media marketing and that advocates within the companies are tasked with presenting a strong strategy and related return on investment that must be approved before launch.

For more information on strategic ways to leverage social media within this specialized sector, contact La Voz marketing.  We can recommend useful and risk-adverse ways to build an influential online presence and drive revenue back to your company.

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