Plan, plan and plan some more: Alimera’s recipe for social media success

One of the social media ads Alimera Sciences and Pascale created to drive awareness of the drug and DME. (Alimera)(Source: Alimera)

Social media can be scary, especially for branded pharma. But Alimera Sciences is convinced that with fastidious prep—and plenty of it—pharma companies should have nothing to fear.

The company knows from personal experience. When Alimera decided to go all in on an integrated social media campaign to promote its diabetic macular edema drug Iluvien, it first tapped marketing veteran agency Pascale to help smooth the way.

The Iluvien social media campaign began on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube with the goal to raise awareness not only of the drug—which is a 36-month time release implant to treat DME—with potential patients, caregivers and healthcare providers, but also of the condition itself. One of the problems with DME treatment is that patients are often treated too late, said Mike Padilla, vice president of U.S. marketing for Alimera, and so more early intervention disease awareness and education is needed.

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Alla Clancy, senior marketing manager at Alimera, said the company decided on social media to get the word out because that’s simply where the audience is today.

“Because social media is such a huge daily part of life now, as a pharmaceutical company we wanted to ensure that we were part of the digital social media conversation. People might be talking about us or what they’re dealing with on a daily basis, why not engage directly with the consumer and physician? Not just have them talk about us and us be silent, but actually be part of that conversation and craft the narrative that we want out there in the digital world,” she said.

Making sure the company could engage in those kinds of conversational exchanges and real-time discussions, however, required a lot of preparation before the campaign launch, including carefully outlining the strategy, process and exact plans to internal stakeholders to make sure everyone was on board. The team also created pre-approved Q&A scripts with questions that patients or caregivers might ask, along with answers authorized by medical legal review. 

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Padilla said the prep was an important sell-in as well as an assurance to executives.

“A lot of folks in pharma are not very well-versed in integrated digital marketing. From lead-nurturing to social media, it’s still very foreign to us,” he said. “The best thing that can be done, from an executive point of view, is that we had a lot of discussions about the value of an integrated plan involving social media, what that meant and what that would look like exactly.”

Digital agency Pascale worked with Alimera via processes and tools it has created specifically for branded pharma products. For instance, its response protocol is a “living and breathing tool” that helps created pre-approved answers to questions that might arise while still feeling lively and human, Christian Rodgers, head of digital at Pascale, said.

While the team emphasized the importance of preparation for branded pharma on social media, it also advised other pharmas thinking about the platform to make sure to follow FDA guidelines for social media, ensure the content of the ads or marketing materials link up with actual facts and clinical data, and create more content than they think they’ll need.

“Having a steady content strategy and content flow is important. It’s like a hungry beast that wants to be fed,” Padilla said.