Now is the Time for Pharma to Get on Board the Social Media Bandwagon
In today’s digital world, social media has become an important part of an integrated communications strategy. When utilized to its full potential, this powerful communications channel fosters meaningful two-way discussion between a company and its stakeholders. Most industries have climbed on board the social media bandwagon, however the pharmaceutical industry has been slower to make the investment in this area.
According to a new report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, just half of the world’s top 50 pharmaceutical companies participate in social media and the vast majority of those use it primarily as a one-way channel to reach patients, with limited interaction or fostering of discussion.
One of the factors commonly cited as a deterrent to pharma more fully embracing social media is a lack of regulatory guidance. Indeed, the industry had been waiting for the FDA to set the tone for several years. However, that wait is now over. In January, the FDA released draft guidance that provides direction on the promotional usage of social media.
Although these guidelines are not overly surprising – for instance, a company is responsible for content on their own digital platforms as well as any third-party site where they exercise editorial influence – they do serve as ground rules for marketers who have been sitting on the social media sidelines.
When properly utilized, social media can drive patient engagement, adherence and, hopefully, enhance care. It can also help pharmaceutical manufacturers introduce an interactive, transparent channel for patient assistance and shape the way they position their products in the market. Companies that are not fully participating in social media are missing an opportunity to engage with their patients, better understand their journey, and ultimately develop stronger relationships.
Final guidance from the FDA is expected this summer and will likely extend to the medical device and diagnostic industries. With more patients turning to social media as a forum for procuring health-related information, the pharmaceutical industry must recognize the potential and importance of contributing to the healthcare conversation.
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