Four expert tips for social media marketing as pharma finally embraces the new norm

Social media was once scary territory for the heavily regulated pharma industry, but today it’s becoming old hat, according to Tamara Littleton, CEO and founder of London social media agency Emoderation. Big Pharma players have realized they can no longer ignore the space where many of their target audiences--patients, families, physicians and even payers--congregate.

“Social offers pharma brands a way to connect with their market over the longer-term. It is also where their customers are and whether they engage or not, or are able to on certain posts, they will be talked about," Littleton told FiercePharmaMarketing by email.

In a column for Econsultancy earlier this month, Littleton pointed out some good examples of pharma companies using social media. She highlighted GlaxoSmithKline’s Twitter account, which focuses on its company values of leadership and research, and Johnson & Johnson’s overall social media presence, which emphasizes its values around the importance of family.

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Of course, just because drugmakers are more readily joining social media doesn’t mean using it has become any easier--or that it now requires less vigilance. The job of professional pharma social media managers is demanding, and it requires a particular skill.

So how, then, can pharma social media managers field a successful strategy? Read on for Littleton's thoughts.

Be engaging. Health products may not be as central to a person’s identity as his or her car or clothing brands, but pharma’s social media voice can still make a difference. “People may not build their identities around their chosen brand of painkiller in the same way that they do with their choice of gaming console or favorite clothes brand, but a friendly, engaging social media presence can go a long way to keeping the brand at the forefront of people’s minds,” she wrote in the column.

Share content around the values of the company. Like the J&J and GSK examples Littleton cites, pharma companies can connect with patients and families by highlighting their values and the efforts their people and corporate initiatives make to fulfill those values.

Monitor content to stay in line with advertising guidelines and FDA regulations. That means keeping current on regulations and ensuring pages are constantly monitored so that “any user-generated content posted that contravenes the regulations is removed as soon as possible,” she told FiercePharmaMarketing.

Create an adverse event reporting and escalation process.  Pharma brands active on social media have a dedicated resource to manage their social media presence--whether it’s an internal person or team, or a specialist agency--but they should also have a process for reporting any problems. Littleton noted the need to report an adverse event to the FDA within 24 hours. If pharma companies don’t have a process in place to flag incidents, that one-day clock can pass quickly.

- read Littleton’s column

Special Report: Top 10 pharma companies in social media - GSK - J&J

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