As COVID-19 social media fatigue sets in, pharma begins to restart other health conversations

Kate Callan, newly tapped to head Evoke Kyne social media, hopes to see pharma companies continue to use popular COVID-19 lockdown-era tools such as LinkedIn Events and Instagram Live. (Evoke Kyne)

COVID-19 fatigue is setting in with many people, and for pharma companies, that means an opportunity to return to social media messages on other health topics.

Evoke Kyne and its new social media chief Kate Callan have been tracking social media conversations throughout the crisis, and the latest numbers show a 65% drop in global conversations around COVID-19, from 204 million weekly mentions in mid-March to just 71 million in late May. The mood around those conversations is also shifting away from disgust, which is still the top feeling at 34%, toward feelings such as anticipation, now at trending at 15% of the conversation mood.

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“We’re definitely seeing in general on social media that people want to hear about something else besides COVID,” Callan said. “I think it’s just the fatigue of every single week everything being consumed by COVID. People in general want to hear more things like the good news stories that have popped up on social media as well.”

Hashtags have swung from apprehensive tags, such as #CoronavirusLockdown, to more inspiring and hopeful ones, including #HopeFromHome and #StaySafe.

Social media strategy suggestions are changing, too. When the health crisis and lockdowns initially began, Evoke Kyne counseled clients that were not directly involved in treatments or vaccines to slow or stop posting on social media.

Now that consumers are signaling readiness for other health topics, Evoke will continue to tap social listening to draw up new social plans for pharma. The group is analyzing conversations that reflect patients’ needs or problems and then working to create solutions,

“For some clients, that’s getting back to what we were doing. In general disease awareness, focusing on support and education because that’s what people are needing at this time. For others, it’s just getting up to speed on what the company has been doing in general because people are ready to hear about those things,” Callan said

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Chronic disease communications will be especially important moving into the non-lockdown COVID-19 era on social media, she said, as companies need to offer new kinds of support and tools and let patients know they’re not forgotten.

Callan, who was named executive VP and head of social media at Evoke Kyne this week, has been shaping pharma and healthcare social media plans for more than five years. However, the COVID-19 disruption has both shaken up and accelerated social like never before. The abrupt switch to mostly digital communications, for instance, meant pharma had to move more quickly and adopt new strategies to reach patients and healthcare professionals on social.

As stay-at-home orders lift, Callan is hopeful some social and digital shifts will remain in “the new normal.” Shifting medical conference content to more digital engagements, experimenting with Instagram and tapping influencers there, and moving more quickly to create content would all be welcome to Callan as more permanent pharma changes.

Social media platforms that saw big spikes in engagement, such as LinkedIn Events and Instagram Live, are tools she hopes to see pharma companies investigate in the aftermath of COVID-19 shutdowns, she added.

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