Social Health Strategy - Social Media as a Part of the Omnichannel Strategy

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At the recent Xpectives.Health event in Boston, DHC Co-Founder Mark Bard presented the latest findings from his recent work on Social Health Strategy. As demonstrated by the latest stats on consumer social media usage (Not a spoiler: It’s still increasing year over year), people are living all facets of their life on social media. That means pharma marketers need to deeply understand how to educate and engage customers, both patient and physician, on social channels.

Source: Meltwater Global Digital Overview 2023

A lot of times we talk about social media, and we’re not doing social media, we’re doing media within social.

Paul Murasko

Head of Digital Innovation & Marketing Operations, Azurity Pharmaceuticals

Healthline Media’s SVP of Marketing Kate Gallagher joined Mark on stage to analyze the latest patient research on social media attitudes and trends. Some highlights from the most recent social data on both physician (sourced from SERMO) and patient (sourced from Healthline Media):

  • 53% of physicians say social media for professional use has reduced their reliance on other clinical resources (SERMO)
  • 64% of physicians want more content and services from pharma companies in social media (SERMO)
  • Of people living with health conditions who use social media 73% are interested in engaging with pharmaceutical brands on social media (Healthline Media)
  • Among consumers living with health conditions who follow pharma on social media, 53% want access to patient education and content offered by pharma companies (Healthline Media)

“We’re seeing a trust gap begin to emerge on social. Consumers are 63% more likely to trust health and wellness information websites than they are to trust properties that are more broad, like news sites. Likewise, they trust HCP influencers 76% more than general wellness influencers. It shows us that consumers are looking for specificity and transparent authority – specifically backing up information with sources, brought on by the recent spread of misinformation. And, audiences are also very interested in having pharma directly engage with them in their social communities. This is definitely a shift from what we had seen in the past.” – Kate Gallagher, SVP of Marketing, Healthline Media

Both Mark Bard’s slides and a newly available report based on the latest patient research from Healthline Media are available for download now.

Along with Mark and Kate, pharma marketers Steven Xie (Director, Omni Channel Innovation Migraine Portfolio at Pfizer), Alison Reichert (former Head, Digital & Omnichannel Marketing, US Oncology, Takeda Oncology), and Paul Murasko (Head of Digital Innovation & Marketing OperationsHead of Digital Innovation & Marketing Operations, Azurity Pharmaceuticals) discussed the social health strategy implications and opportunities found in the data. Initial thoughts on the compelling number of eyeballs (and minds) on social had panelists thinking not about the impressiveness of social as a channel but of the importance of layering social into a larger communication plan. Even here, the “omnichannel” buzzword is present. But this language around bringing social under the larger omnichannel umbrella proves that thinking around social is innovating and evolving.

I think all the numbers are great, there’s a lot of people engaging, but at the end of the day you have to really ask yourself what is really the role of social for your brand, and where it really sits in your omnichannel ecosystem. What other channels are going to play the role in your overall, or either consumer, or HCP engagement, and activation journey? It’s a larger question, marketers should be really thinking about versus just looking at social in a more kind of siloed approach. That’s very important these days, because when you think about how ultimately social is going to help you drive that engagement, and action, convert the audience, and effect that behavioral change you intend to drive, you have to really think about what the roads are for from paid search, from your display ad, from social, from TV, and you have to look at that holistically.

Steven Xie

Director, Omni Channel Innovation Migraine Portfolio at Pfizer

For us to change as an industry, we have to start not looking at social as a standalone silo, on both the consumer and the HCP side of the house. It’s a lever. It’s a lever within an omnichannel strategy, and you have to understand what the overarching strategy is, and where that brand plays. We often lose sight of it because we get focused on a channel, or in social we get focused on is it Facebook, or Twitter? And once again I view those as just a median. It’s what are you trying to do? Are you in a launch? Are you at the end of a product lifecycle? What are you trying to do? What messaging are you trying to get out there? (…) It’s not a digital strategy, it shouldn’t be a social strategy. You have a brand strategy, and you should execute an omnichannel approach against those strategic imperatives. And social is a lever just like the Salesforce, just like media, just like everything else that you’re going to execute against, and just make sure the dots are connected, and more importantly it’s not just the engagement in social. I think the one thing we have to really start understanding is how we’re going to use that data. It’s that data, and that insight that actually drive that next best action, the next best lever.

Paul Murasko

Head of Digital Innovation & Marketing Operations, Azurity Pharmaceuticals

Panelists were also quick to remark that when thinking about how to achieve that social engagement

it goes back to marketing 101 and asking ourselves “do we really know our customer?”
When we think about the why physicians are on social media, and how pharma can create relevance, I think it’s incredibly important to not only think about HCPs as prescribers, but also as business owners, and as brands.

Alison Reichert

former Head, Digital & Omnichannel Marketing, US Oncology, Takeda Oncology

We often forget HCPs are just like us. At the end of the day. They have their family, they have their hobby, they love silly cat video as well, after a busy day at work. It’s really not that different at the end of the day, how physicians use social media versus the rest of us. They want to find helpful information there, they want to have entertainment, and then they want to be helpful to patient they serve. When you look through that lens, how you prioritize and allocate the resources becomes a lot more clear

Steven Xie

Director, Omni Channel Innovation Migraine Portfolio at Pfizer

The other question this discussion inevitably raises in the words of Mark Bard “How do you get it done? How do you get all those moving parts to actually do next generation social strategy?”

All agree that the best approach is a mix of common sense, test and learn, and above all, communication.
At the end of the day, if you don’t try it, you actually will never figure out where the boundary will be.

Steven Xie

Director, Omni Channel Innovation Migraine Portfolio at Pfizer

You do have to just jump in, however you set boundaries. You don’t try to boil the ocean on the first pass. You start getting folks comfortable understanding what you want to do, paint the concept, the picture of where you want to head, but realize that it’s a journey. And the key is to continue to learn. I can’t emphasize enough that although this is a channel discussion, this all goes back to data, and we have to glean insight from this data, and let that data then determine what is the next best action for that HCP.

Paul Murasko

Head of Digital Innovation & Marketing OperationsHead of Digital Innovation & Marketing Operations, Azurity Pharmaceuticals

If content is put out regardless of who it’s intended for, (unless it’s behind a walled garden) it is for everyone. That’s something that we need to think about: how we position it when it’s going through the approval process. That’s an assumption we need to make going in, thinking about its relevance to everyone that could potentially touch the content regardless of its intended audience.

Alison Reichert

former Head, Digital & Omnichannel Marketing, US Oncology, Takeda Oncology

As the healthcare industry continues to embrace the digital age, it is essential for marketers to recognize the power of social media and its potential for driving change in the way patients and physicians understand, communicate, and care for health. Next steps to help marketers leverage social media as a crucial component of the omnichannel marketing strategy, ultimately driving engagement, conversion, and positive outcomes in the healthcare industry should include:

Research and analyze

Gain a deeper understanding of the latest trends and statistics related to social media usage among patients and physicians. Review Mark Bard’s slides and Healthline Media’s report to obtain relevant insights.

Evaluate existing strategies

Assess your current marketing approach to determine how social media fits into your overall omnichannel strategy. Identify potential areas for improvement and integration.

Know your audience

Invest time in understanding your target customers—both patients and healthcare professionals. Learn about their social media preferences, needs, and expectations to create relevant content and strategies.

Develop a plan

Formulate a comprehensive social media strategy that complements your overall marketing objectives. Ensure that this plan aligns with your brand strategy and includes clear goals, target platforms, content types, and success metrics.

Test and learn

Implement your social media strategy and continuously monitor its performance. Analyze data and insights gathered from your social channels to optimize your approach and make data-driven decisions.

Collaborate and communicate

Work closely with your marketing team, as well as other relevant departments, to ensure a consistent brand message and seamless customer experience. Encourage open communication to share insights, challenges, and best practices.

Stay informed and adaptable

Keep yourself updated on the latest developments in social media and the healthcare industry. Be prepared to adjust your strategy as needed to remain relevant and effective in an ever-evolving landscape.