While social media is still relatively new, it has been heralded as one of the most significant changes in the way that people communicate with one another. Despite this, the pharmaceutical industry has been slow to become involved with social media, fearing compliance and regulatory breaches and preferring to stay with the more traditional routes of communication, such as representative visits and emails. However, the growing popularity of social media, combined with a number of positive examples from both within and outside the pharmaceutical industry, has led to an increasing number of pharmaceutical companies looking to grow their social media presence and build on the unique opportunities these platforms offer.
Social media covers a range of different online, interactive sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, and these different platforms have a considerable reach and following, with many sites boasting millions of users and daily visits. Despite the rapidly growing popularity of social media, the pharmaceutical industry has been slow to embrace it, constrained by compliance and regulatory concerns and bound by a traditional reluctance for change. However, the successes seen in other industries and the increasing use of social media by key customers – in particular patients and physicians – means that the pharmaceutical industry can no longer afford to ignore social media, and several companies have taken the leap with Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and a YouTube presence.
Social media is constantly evolving and new sites are regularly emerging; however, it is expected that the longer-standing platforms such as Facebook and Twitter will continue to dominate, particularly in relation to the pharmaceutical industry. As such, most pharmaceutical companies are creating social media teams to both manage their online social media presence and ensure a robust strategy that takes advantage of the range of benefits that social media provides. Social media gives pharmaceutical companies the opportunity to engage directly with patients and physicians and rapidly respond to questions, requests for information, and negative opinions on products. More advanced companies are utilizing social media to understand unmet needs, design clinical programs, and discover thought leaders. However, there is still a note of caution, with compliance being at the forefront of many pharmaceutical companies’ minds, and, while the industry is starting to embrace social media and build on the many opportunities that it affords them, without clear finalized regulatory guidance, remaining compliant will continue to be main challenge facing the industry.
Social media is a relatively new method of communication
Pharma-specific platforms are growing in popularity
There is little legislation or regulation around social media for pharma Several pharma companies have pioneered the use of social media Bibliography
Pharmaceutical companies use social media in a range of ways Patients use social media to obtain information and make connections Healthcare providers mainly use social media to stay informed Pharma does not tend to use social media to interact with payers Bibliography
How will it evolve?
Opportunities and challenges for pharmaceutical companies Bibliography
Figure 1: Pharmaceutical companies’ ranking based on social media score
Figure 2: Current and planned social media platforms used by pharmaceutical companies
Table 1: Overview of the top pharmaceutical companies on YouTube, based on number of views Table 2: Comparison of diabetes management methods – insights gathered from social media
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