Research shows that social platforms are the primary location patients go to find out more about disease. Traditionally, there has been a low volume of health care providers (HCPs) that commonly engage with social media for disease and drug education, but it is on the rise.
While many regulatory requirements and standards still need to be addressed before a life sciences company can leverage a digital platform, digital and social have become crucial to enable effective outreach during the COVID-19 pandemic. Working within the guardrails of compliance review to enable direct communication on these platforms and segmenting audiences appropriately remain the fundamentals of life sciences social media.
Life Sciences Social Media Advertising
In general, social media has risen as one of the most effective modes of marketing a product or service. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat have begun utilizing advertisements as a key aspect of their marketing campaigns. Facebook particularly has become a platform for the exchange of information between healthcare providers and potential patients.
Direct-to-patient Facebook advertising is widely popular, as life sciences companies have grown bolder with their outreach efforts. According to Pathmatics, spending on Facebook mobile ads alone by pharmaceutical and health-care brands reached nearly a billion dollars in 2019, tripling over two years. Although data protections and regulations are in place, life sciences companies can work around obstacles and reach consumers on a personal level to create a more personalized digital experience. Targeting geographically with social is straightforward, though it becomes more complex when segmenting by audience type (patient, caregiver, doctor).
Life sciences organizations can partner with third-party companies like DMD to help display targeted advertisements to healthcare providers, as these larger sources have a community of opted-in doctors looking for disease and branded content. These companies are committed to providing relevant information, and provide data consisting of 100% first party sourced, authenticated records. This approach to doctor outreach increases coverage for digital ad campaigns and allows life science companies detailed insights into doctor behavior via added tagging functionality.
Using Social Media for Disease Education
Disease education has been a key objective for life sciences companies for years (especially those in the rare disease space), though recently in the last few years new engagement strategies have emerged.
Disease Awareness for Patients
Companies have incorporated patient influencers into their consumer engagement strategies, taking on patient ambassadors to help influence and inform potential buyers on social media. These influencers produce content about life with their illnesses and conditions that is then viewed by a potential audience of others in the same situation. The presence of relatability in their content motivates a curious follower to act similarly, which gives way to the purchasing process of their marketed product.
Companies such as WEGOHealth aim to help life sciences companies connect with ‘the world’s largest network of patient leaders’. Life sciences companies can see results such as 7X increase in engagement rate and 2X higher key activation rate in spreading the word in the patient communities, having the power to reach and treat more people faster.
HCP Influencers in Disease Education
Not only do life sciences companies seek to educate patients on disease, but they are also finding new ways to do the same for doctors.
Twitter hub partnerships can be an extremely valuable tool for LS companies looking to deliver information effectively to a wide audience of specified patients. Companies like MPN Hub directly provide information to patients with diseases and can be very useful as a resource of spreading a brands name and message in the area.
Another route that LS companies can take in expanding outreach is through collaboration with institutions already possessing a large following. This avenue can be extremely effective, as large institutions like Mayo Clinic likely have drastically more followers than most individual HCP or LS companies. Partnerships with large organizations can help LS companies advance individual agendas and goals through existing channels.
A more targeted approach to HCP engagement via social media is finding niche social platforms for doctors only. Platforms such as Figure1 allow HCP’s the opportunity to become more educated in their areas of expertise with updated information on interesting cases and clinical discoveries while also driving growth on the platform itself. The social networking service reports more than one million users today.
The Power of Social Media Data
The capabilities of social media are widespread; a clear application in today’s data-first world is the collection of data. By analyzing hashtags and key phrases on platforms like Twitter, information can be gathered on the extent of influence from different HCPs and competing companies.
There are many ways companies can utilize social media data, including surveys and questionnaires and influence analyses. Surveys are a useful tool allowing the patient community to be engaged with opportunities to opt-in for further information and gives them agency in the relationship with life sciences businesses.
Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook can be analyzed closely to uncover trends in posting, hashtags, and conversations to both gauge user influence and take advantage of conversion opportunities. An influence analysis of Twitter can reveal the leading active social media HCP’s with extensive influence, which can then be used to promote a product more effectively.
An analysis of drug mentions on these same platforms can provide valuable insights for possible growth opportunities. This information can provide context in understanding the state of competitors and their consumers. Language processing on tweets including a sentiment analysis can uncover what people are feeling and saying about a product and therefore how companies can alleviate those problems. When looking to see what users are speaking negatively about competitors, companies can capitalize on these incongruities by both seeing where their individual strengths lie and getting indirect feedback about patients want and need.
It is also worth noting that data scraping comes with risk; any adverse events found by a company are that company’s liability to report to the FDA. If deciding to scrape for your own drug mentions, ensure this process is integrated closely with existing adverse event reporting capabilities that can scale to meet a potential influx of mentions.
Key Takeaways on Life Sciences Social Media
Managing social media is time-consuming for any business but it’s where life sciences companies need to be in order to appeal to the widest audience of potential patients. Life sciences companies can use digital platforms to advertise directly to both patients (both unrealized and diagnosed) and HCPs given appropriate audience segmentation; specifically, they can use this targeted audience in developing disease awareness content and collecting data to better their campaigns’ effectiveness. Finding the right partners to fit your unique patient population and disease area will help identify the right level of investment in social media platforms.
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Coauthor and contributions by Alexandra Hatsios.