The survey, released in April, from PwC and the Healthcare Research Institute titled “Social Media ‘likes’ Healthcare” reveals opportunities for pharma to engage with consumers through social channels. With the days of social media being just for Gen-Xers behind us, the use of social networking sites has increased from just 5% of all adults in 2005, to half of all adults in 2011. Specific to pharma, about one-third of consumers are now using social media as a go-to resource for health discussions. The survey dissects consumer usage of social media for health information and in the process, found some key opportunities for pharma to improve their social media strategies.
1. Be on-demand:
Consumer expectations for the ability to contact pharma companies via social media are increasing as the division between their everyday social interactions and digital interactions continues to fade. Research shows that 70% of consumers expect healthcare companies to reply to requests for information made via social media within a day of the inquiry being posted. Even more so, 40% of them expect a reply within a few hours. Efficiently responding to requests for information can be challenging for any pharma company, amid the requirements to protect consumer privacy and allow time for legal review before the reply can be sent.
Tips for success:
- Set expectations: let consumers know that in order to keep their best interests in mind while operating in the regulated pharma industry, responses to their requests will require more time than they might experience from social interactions with other industries. Communicating this expectation can be achieved through a quick reply to someone’s tweet or Facebook post or prominently displaying your policy within your social profile
- Proactively prepare: anticipate the requests that might be made through social media channels. Begin drafting potential responses and/or create the decision tree that will need to be activated upon the receipt of a request. Reminder: make sure all of your replies are personal, both in tone and content.
2. Be valuable:
This is obvious, right? But when was the last time you asked your consumers how your company can provide value to them through social media? When asked which services offered by drug companies would be the most valuable, consumers said the top three items were:
- Discounts or coupons
- (tie)Voice complaints/seek customer service and Information to find the cheapest medication
- Treatment reminders
Two of the top three services relate to financial assistance. Pharma being lesser promotional industry relative to the retail industry makes it difficult to directly satisfy this request but that doesn’t prevent the consumer expectation that pharma should offer promotions and discounts through their social channels. The association between social media and customer service is, as mentioned in the first opportunity, very apparent.
Tips for success:
- Highlight existing resources: Use social media profiles to direct people to your existing resources for financial assistance, insurance information, and any promotions that you may have.
- Personalize reminders: create online tools or social applications that allow your consumers to create personalized and customizable treatment reminders.
- Monitor profiles daily: Pay attention to your social media profiles for customer service requests. There are many community management tools such as Hootsuite that can alert you when a request has been received.
- Conduct research: Don’t let this research be the determining factor. Ask your consumers via social media or traditional methods, what they think would be the most valuable.
3. Be trustworthy:
Although consumers are using social media to share their lives in a larger capacity, privacy and security issues still remain a top concern. When sharing health information online, consumers reported they’re most concerned that:
- Their personal health information will be shared in public
- Their information will be hacked or leaked
These concerns signal that consumers would be more open to engaging with pharma on social media if they had full transparency into how we’re planning to use the information they share with us in these engagements
Tips for success:
- Use discretion: Ensure that your interactions with consumers via social media are made public only when applicable and private when necessary.
- Be upfront: Be open and transparent about the data you’re collecting and how it will be used. Show the value to the customer that their participation is helping your brand serve them better.
As consumer usage of social media for health information continues to rise, so do their expectations for communicating with pharma. By monitoring the shift in these expectations for healthcare in social media you will find valuable insights that can inform the social strategy for your pharma brand.