“My My, Hey Hey, social media is here to stay,” as Neil Young almost said. Yes, social media is now an established part of pharmaceutical communications, with most companies having an active presence across multiple platforms. However, there is substantial variance in terms of approach, with some companies engaging on multiple fronts and others largely using it as a broadcast channel, distributing content but not really engaging in dialogue.
Regardless of approach, we still get asked “what is the point of Pharma ‘doing social media’?” Sometimes there is a sense of resignation, that social media is ‘just something else we have to do now’, or that it is a risky activity that people would rather avoid. We tend to take the opposite view, that social media is central to demonstrating a company’s purpose and keeping true to the values stated on their shiny corporate websites.
A clear social media strategy can enable companies to demonstrate their commitment to transparency and being a trusted partner to the healthcare community and society as a whole. As an industry that works to improve and extend human life, pharma has important contributions to make to conversations around sustainability, public health, and access to healthcare. It can also have an important voice regarding potentially controversial topics, such as health inequality and vaccine uptake.
By engaging with the wider community, pharma has the opportunity to educate itself and others on topics of crucial importance. It can create positive perceptions for individual companies and the industry as a whole, cement partnerships, and build trust.
Our top five reasons for pharma to fully engage on social media are:
- To support a modern corporate profile of a company that is accessible, transparent, and engages with the world on equal terms
- To demonstrate a corporate commitment to seeking transparency and dialogue with key stakeholders to improve understanding of their needs
- To establish a leading role in appropriate conversations that will affect the delivery of healthcare
- To highlight corporate social responsibility programs and other initiatives that help to differentiate the company among key stakeholders, including future and current employees
- To increase the reach of disease awareness campaigns and other public-focused activities, e.g. collaborations with PAGs and other partners
Keeping these points in mind can help to provide direction for social media strategies and help our colleagues to see it as a unique opportunity, rather than a ‘nice to have’ or even a burden on time and budgets.