Putting the “Social” Back in “Social Media”

Dear House Rules,

At our pharma company, we know how important social media is. We have a LinkedIn presence, a Facebook page, and even a Twitter feed! We use all these new media as additional ways to get our message out, whether that message is about a new product or important legislation or an article that mentions our product in a favorable light or—well, you get the idea. Still, we get almost no “likes,” “comments,” or “shares,” and sometimes I wonder if anyone’s actually reading our content. How can I engage our customers more via our social media outlets?

Helllloooo? Is Anybody Out There?

Dear Out There:
It sure sounds like you’re putting a lot of content out there. However, we wonder if you’re inviting your audience to engage with your brand? Historically, pharma has been reluctant to use social media to connect with its customers and build relationships, due to perceived risk, among other factors. It takes time to develop a winning social media strategy, but that time is well-spent when the result is a loyal, brand-aware customer base.

Being fully present on social media creates many opportunities for brands to connect with customers intimately. Think of it like building any other relationship – with your team at work, with your close friends, even with your family. Building relationships with them requires commitment, and it can be challenging to listen to others’ points of view sometimes. As authentic connections in your personal relationships can create lifelong bonds, similar connections with your customers can improve brand perception, loyalty, advocacy, and result in increased lifetime value.1

The participation of “Big Pharma” in social networks has grown significantly in recent years. According to social media analytics firm Unmetric, the top 16 pharmaceutical companies have corporate presences on LinkedIn and Twitter, demonstrating growing confidence in social and how social media are maturing into excellent marketing solutions for enterprise businesses.2 The caution and regulatory uncertainty of social’s earlier years have been overcome by the ever-evolving capabilities of the social platforms to court pharma companies and satisfy the legal requirements set by the FDA.1

So now that you know why it’s so important to employ your social media presence to connect with your customers and build relationships with them, the next question is how. Here is a quick guide to using social media to do exactly that:

•Getting to Know You:
How do you start to connect with your customers on social media? The same way you would with any new relationship—by getting to know your audience: understand what they’re interested in, the things they don’t like, how they feel about current events. What makes them tick? How do they feel about your brand and view your competitors? It’s called “social listening,” and it couldn’t be more important. Start by reviewing existing market research. Determine where there are behavioral and attitudinal gaps and fill them. Be direct and ask for their opinions, conduct surveys. Your customers will appreciate your effort to understand their pain points and how best to connect with and service them. Ongoing social listening can also help evolve your communication strategy and serve as a barometer for your engagement success.1

•Providing Content:
How much content should you publish for your customers? Although the precise amount varies, of course, many cite the 10-4-1 rule as the best practice. This rule focuses on striking a balance when publishing content on social media. For every 15 posts, 10 should be content written/sourced externally, 4 should be unique content written by you, and 1 should be “promotional.” This is only a suggestion; no one knows your customers better than you. The same thing applies to determining the best times to publish content. For example, conventional wisdom may dictate posting content during waking hours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays is best. However, if your findings during the “social listening” phase have shown you that your customers are most active during evenings or over the weekend, logic would dictate this is the optimal time to reach them.1

•Evolving the Customer Relationship:
Like any other good relationship, your relationship with your customers is ever-changing. It requires ongoing effort and is most successful when there is open and honest dialogue. Learn from your customers’ conversations, assess which creative is most engaging, and keep things fresh with a steady stream of new content. Your customers need a good reason to come back and remain engaged. In addition, pharma-focused communities require ongoing monitoring for adverse events (AEs) and inappropriate user-generated content.

You may feel overwhelmed by the perceived risk or the resourcing burden of social media management. Fortunately, it is much easier today to find partners who are experts in the needs of pharma clients and can simplify AE monitoring, community management and comment moderation. Partners can provide 24/7 community management that weaves together layers of human and automated moderation, based on a brand’s established guidelines.

You said you have a Facebook page—that’s great. Facebook may be the best social channel for you to get started with this new strategy. It provides the most robust moderation tools and highest level of control for pharma brands. It also has the largest audience, almost one-third of the global population. Another benefit to Facebook is its Messenger app. Tech news aggregator VentureBeat reports that 49.4% of consumers would rather message a business than call it.3 Meeting your customers where they are is ideal and necessary. In-bound customer queries can be highly meaningful engagement points, and positive service experiences will build brand advocacy. These are opportunities for your company to enhance its relationship with customers through exceptional service.1

Over time, you will doubtless find that your investment in time and commitment pays huge dividends when it comes to building strong relationships with your customers.

1. http://www.pharmavoice.com/article/2018-01-pharma-social-strategywant-brand-social/. Accessed February 19, 2018. 2. https://unmetric.com/pharma-social-media-trends-report. Accessed February 20, 2018. 3. https://venturebeat.com/2016/08/26/3-stats-that-show-chatbots-are-here-to-stay/. Accessed February 20, 2018.

House Rules

Sunny Beth White

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