Pharma companies were not active enough on social media, but they are changing at a faster rate than, say, five years ago. Major pharma players like Abbott, Sanofi, Merck Serono and Johnson and Johnson are making effective use of social media tools in brand building activities as also for talent acquisition and OTC product promotion initiatives. It is a matter of satisfaction that such initiatives have met with success and these companies have established their media presence. Due to compliance restrictions and legal hurdles, especially with respect to scheduled drugs, multinational pharma companies have preferred not to aggressively promote themselves online. In India there are a few pharma companies who have succeeded in clearing these bottlenecks and establish their social media presence. This is unfortunate since in a country like India, billions of dollars’ worth of medicines is consumed annually. The opportunities in going online are multifaceted and brand value and reputation can be enhanced with the right media thrust.
The opportunities available to pharma companies in the digital space are innumerable. These are not restricted to sharing of product information and promotional material. These companies have to determine the channels and tools that suit their brand and organization. Market leaders can build on their reputation using social media tools. Further, companies can help the public to raise disease awareness, they can assist patients find the right doctor, since more than 70% patients do an online search prior to the doctor’s appointment. They can also involve doctors in their online communication egg., YouTube video. Social media has become part of our life and pharma companies must proactively keep abreast of this trend by providing relevant information online to help consumers in areas such as information on health condition, disease symptoms, medicines, details of consultant doctors and other information.
Social media can also play a part in the daily operations of companies. And if it so for the industry in general, it is also applicable to the pharma sector. Pharma manufacturers can use social media platforms as a B2B connect tool for business partnerships, product launch announcements, trade group activities etc. LinkedIn is a very powerful networking site for B2B communication. Companies can also inform the browsing public on the standards and processes they follow. This is a reputation building measure. Online research would help in R&D operations. Social media listening and conducting online surveys on social media can educate the company on consumer needs. Further, social media is a two-way street that not only allows you to publish content about your company or industry, but also gives you a chance to listen to your customers and your competitors.
The main challenge in the use of social media in the pharma industry is legal compliance. Once these are overcome, social media marketing decisions become smooth. There are definitely many challenges in pharma industry than in many others. But there are ways and solutions to tackle them smartly. Incorporating social media plan in their brand plan is critical to achieve desired objectives.
Since social media is here to stay, pharma marketers must be updated on how global pharma companies are using social media and try to make a model for their brands in India. Moreover, they should integrate the social media communication with offline communication well so that doctor and patients are abreast of the latest developments.