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What Social Strategizing Means in the Biotech Industry

Several research surveys have shown that patients are using social media to increase their knowledge of their disease or express their emotions about it. Physicians look to social to increase their knowledge base, while also sharing their own work and what they’ve learned from medical conferences.* This creates tremendous opportunity for the biopharmaceutical industry to be a part of these conversations and help educate both patients and healthcare professionals.

The 2016 State of Social Marketing

But doing so in a compliant and authentic way can sometimes be a challenge with all of the potential roadblocks, like promotional rules, transparency laws, or HIPAA compliance. Focusing on what you can’t do isn’t going to help you develop your social media strategy. Take a step back and think through these questions to get started on the right track (or reevaluate your current social presence):

✅  How will social media support your company objectives? What will social media help you achieve?

✅  What audiences are you planning to reach on social? What channels are best to reach them on?

✅  Does your organization have a story to tell? How can it be adapted for social?

✅  Does your organization have the internal governance and structure to support a social media presence? What does success look like?

In order to answer these questions, you will have to do some research. Conducting research takes some resources, but in the long run, it saves you money. How? It helps you target your approach and spend your time where it is necessary.  A simple way to figure out what is going on in social media among your target audiences is to get on social media yourself!

Once you’re “on” social media, you’ll need to actively peruse each potential platform and “listen” to the conversations, learning what your audience is talking about and how they’re expressing their stories.  You may find during this process that the social channel you planned to use doesn’t have the audience you thought it did.

Solutions like Simply Measured can help you identify relevant conversations and shared link in your industry.
Solutions like Simply Measured can help you identify relevant conversations and shared links in your industry.

Despite not having finalized social media guidance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there is enough out there about promotional do’s and don’ts to help guide you. If you have been in this regulated industry for any length of time, you generally know what you can and cannot do. If you are new to the industry, I suggest you partner closely with your legal and regulatory colleagues to learn about the rules of engagement.

While it is easy to jump into all the cool and innovative ways you can leverage social media, like live events and fun GIFs, thinking through why you are on social in the first place is critical. This will help keep your content focused on your company’s objectives, and even help you prioritize what is truly important and be able to say “no” if it doesn’t fit.

Understandably, it can be hard to get started on creating a social strategy, but here are the first steps to take:

✅  Gather inputs from internal stakeholders to understand ways social may support their efforts

✅  Conduct a social listening audit to understand what your targeted stakeholders are already saying about you, your areas of interest, how often they are saying it, and who is already talking to them

How to Conduct an End-of-Year Social Media Audit

✅  Map your audiences and check them against the various channels you could be on or are already on

✅  Outline your objectives and prioritize them–think about what you can truly accomplish now and in the first year, and add a stretch goal

✅  Create regular checkpoints to measure and listen to refine your social strategy

✅  Problem-solve for limitations

✅  Don’t leave your social strategy on a shelf…share it, present it, reassess it!

I’ve always believed that for any company looking to engage successfully on social media, no matter the limitations, they have to remember what social media is all about. While the channels are evolving and new ones come out all the time, at its heart, social media to me is about learning, connecting, and sharing.

So, what does social strategizing mean in the biotech industry?

It means that, despite our regulated industry, we can find ways to connect with our various stakeholders in meaningful and engaging ways.  If you are there for the right reasons, you will reap tremendous value.

*M.L. Antheunis et al., Patients’ and health professionals’ use of social media in health care: Motives, barriers and expectations. Patient Education and Counseling 92 (2013) 426-431 

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Julissa Viana

Julissa Viana has more than 20 years experience in healthcare communications. She currently leads global social media at Celgene Corporation, a biopharmaceutical company.

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