By Natalie DeMasi,
A recent Forbes article paints a picture of the pharma industry as being slow to jump on the social media bandwagon because of regulatory risks and uncertainties. Citing the IMS Social Media Engagement Index, Ed Silverman notes that the industry “ranks poorly in terms of reach, relevance and interaction” regarding its social media initiatives. However, the industry is making strides in its current efforts to support small patient communities struggling with their disease states.
Cutting Edge Information’s newest digital marketing study shows that 58% of surveyed companies have social media strategies that are no more than two years old, and 19% of surveyed teams have strategies that have been in place longer than three years. Even in their nascent states, however, pharma social media strategies have been able to reach people in need by creating forums for patients and loved ones to visit for moral and medical support.
Only a day before Forbes posted its article, writer Simona Supekar offered a heartwarming testimony about how online forums and websites helped her cope with a rare disease. Her article underscores how important it is for people suffering with diseases to confide in others with similar struggles – even if those people are strangers who live halfway around the world. Although Supekar may not have been visiting pharma-sponsored sites, her story is indicative of the impact pharma may already have on individual patients.
Many companies have created online forums as support networks for patients and their loved ones. I have recently written about a few customized online communities that can greatly impact patients, but many of these support groups can also be found on mainstream platforms like Facebook. Figures 1 through 3 show popular therapeutic areas that are represented on pharma-sponsored Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest sites, according to secondary research conducted by CEI analysts. In these graphics, the larger the circle, the larger a presence the therapeutic area has on the social media platform. These data suggest that central nervous system (CNS), diabetes and oncology patients have many options for online support. But there are also options for endocrinology, respiratory and immunology patients – to only name a few.
Many current social media efforts target small patient communities, so Silverman is right in arguing that these pharma initiatives do not reach a large audience. But pharma strategists may intentionally need to limit these initiatives to better target small patient populations affected by their companies’ drugs. Instead of creating large platforms to cater to a wide audience of consumers, pharma has waded into social media waters with smaller initiatives targeted at patients who may need it the most.
For more information about social media strategies, check out CEI’s new digital marketing report.