Pharma social media guidelines in the U.S. are starkly different, and more open, than in other countries around the world. But that doesn’t mean pharma is simply sitting out social in other regions. In the U.K., for instance, more pharma companies are now adopting country-specific social media.
The market for social media "in terms of pharma in the U.K. is almost completely different from the U.S.,” which necessitates the need for separate country channels, Andrew Ross, media relations manager of The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, told FiercePharma in an interview.
As in general advertising, product-specific brand mentions are banned in U.K. social media—except to healthcare professionals who have specifically agreed to receive messages. Still, that shouldn’t—and generally today, doesn’t—stop social media activity.
“There’s not anything stopping pharmaceutical companies from using social media in the U.K. provided it’s done in a responsible way and in line with the code of practice,” Ross said. “... Spending more money in the U.K. on social media output is definitely one of those things that need to be done because the benefit can be so big."
Disease awareness, community building, research and corporate news are all ways U.K.-based pharma social media can and are building local audience share. AstraZeneca and Bayer are two other big pharma companies that have specific U.K. Twitter accounts, but others including Pfizer have U.K.-specific social media accounts on YouTube and Facebook. In the U.K., Ross said people are on mainly on social media sites Twitter and LinkedIn, with fewer on Instagram and Facebook.
But do pharma companies need different Twitter handles in different countries? Yes, he said, because different relationships between pharma companies and their audiences—healthcare professionals and consumers— in different countries need tailored messaging to be relevant.
“As a U.K. consumer, looking at a corporate-run U.S. account or corporate-run account from somewhere like Japan, I’m not sure that would resonate with me near as well as something that was U.K.-led,” Ross said.
He also noted that with three-fourths of U.K. citizens using search engines for healthcare information online, not having a social media presence can lower a company’s search visibility.