Fearful of Marketing Pharma on Facebook? I'll Show You How Patients See It


If you are a pharma marketer, does the thought of Facebook bring on heart palpitations? If so, don’t worry, you are definitely not alone. FDA regulations, MLR reviews, negative comments, tough questions -- are all daunting prospects. While those concerns are valid, keep in mind patients see your Facebook presence as a positive and the power of the nimble, consumer-centric space Facebook provides cannot be underestimated when it comes to connecting with them.  

The Pew Research Center published a study in 2016 that found 79% of internet users (68% of all adults) use Facebook.  Over half access it on a mobile device, making it a very personal experience and a natural place for patients to turn to with questions or concerns.

Patient empowerment begins with research. Facebook has become a key resource of information for patients. Many consult social media about their health issues before going anywhere else because it provides the human context many patients yearn for. Instead of filling out a generic website “contact us” form and sending it into the ether, questions get answered in near real-time and that is a win-win for all.  

The patient feels heard and, hopefully, empowered with an arsenal of new information, and the pharma company has gained insight into the real-life concerns of its target market. Educational and informative posts, patient quizzes and seasonal reminders further engage consumers and get them talking about the brand while connecting with each other, forming a supportive online community.

In turn, companies have the ability to directly communicate with and build trust with current and potential patients and caregivers. Consider this scenario, a patient is prescribed a medication for a chronic illness. They are educated by their doctor about the medication and why they need it. When they go to fill the prescription, it is not on their insurance policy’s formulary of covered medications, leaving them to either pay the full cost or walk away.

They turn to the brand’s Facebook page and have their question or concern addressed quickly with real options - a savings card or medical assistance program like RXHope that provides necessary meds to those who cannot afford them.  This makes the patient realize they have an ally in a potentially stressful situation and their concerns are being recognized.

Facebook is not to be feared but should be viewed as a tool in helping pharmaceutical companies listen to the voice of the patient, and engage. With responsive and helpful community management, information can be exchanged, frustrations can be diffused, customer appreciation can be expressed and brand loyalty built.

In a recent interview, Customer Service expert Shep Hyken speaks about the importance of making it easy for customers to be successful. Having the ability to hold an open and transparent exchange on Facebook is a huge advantage in achieving that success. My advice to any pharma company thinking about dipping their toe in social media? Do it! Don’t be scared, be prepared because on Facebook, we are all in it together.

Erin LaFavor