Insights on Today's Healthcare Consumer

Health Care Marketing Gets Social

Posted by Brent Walker on Mon, Apr 21, 2014

social media connectionsIn January, the FDA released new rules for how the pharmaceutical industry can use social media. Drug makers had largely avoided social media over concerns that actively engaging with consumers or patients via social media would lead to adverse event reporting or incur regulatory wrath. Regulatory concerns, however, are not the only problem.

A widespread lack of knowledge about how social media works– and how to quantify engagement success– had drug makers worried about a loss of content control and scrambling to understand the possible ROI.

Pharma Slow to Adopt Social Media; Insurers and Providers Also Lag Behind

Only 10 of the top 50 drug makers, for example, have a discernible presence on the three most widely used social media channels-- Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. 22 other companies have Twitter accounts, 17 have YouTube accounts and 15 have Facebook accounts… but simply having an account is no indication of actual usage or interactivity.

Only Johnson & Johnson ranks highly for reach, relevance and interaction, according to the IMS Social Media Engagement Index (download the full report here). Johnson & Johnson, however, has a strong consumer product business with over-the-counter products, like their analgesics and tearless baby shampoo, so it’s no surprise that the company has an equally strong social media presence.

Interestingly, while Novartis and Merck have strong consumer product businesses that might lend a similarly aggressive social media outreach strategy, these companies have yet to adopt such an approach. It’s not just the pharmaceutical industry that’s avoided significant adoption of social media – health care insurers and providers are also under-utilizing social media as a marketing tool.

If social media isn't part of your marketing strategy, it should be. Here’s why – and how – to embrace social media in 2014.

40% of consumers say that information found via social media impacts how they deal with their health.

Nearly 1 out of every 2 consumers make health care decisions, at least in part, based on information found on social media. It is absolutely critical, therefore, that health care providers establish themselves as reliable, trustworthy sources for accurate information in these channels. If health care providers are not active on social media, this creates a void that is filled by individuals with opinions that may be trusted, but are not always factually accurate.

90% of 18 to 24 year olds say they trust medical information shared by others on social media.

Failing to participate in the conversation means health care providers are opting out from a vital opportunity to influence healthy behaviors and shape opinions.

A prime example of this is the recurring controversy surrounding the “anti-vax” movement. Despite the enormous body of evidence indicating otherwise, the anti-vaccine movement continues to gain a following, in part, due to its strong presence on social media. Engaging with consumers is a critical component of health and wellness education.

Health care consumers use social media to get information, discuss health-related issues and seek support.

Nearly one in three consumers discusses health-related issues via social media and 25 percent of Internet users watch health-related videos, according to Mediabistro. 1 out of 4 Internet users with chronic conditions uses social media to find people with similar health issues. Consumers are demanding and consuming social health care. Whether you are health care provider, hospital, insurer or pharmaceutical company, it’s time for an active presence.

Next Steps: Getting Active on Social Media

Does maintaining an active social media presence sound like a lot of work?It doesn’t have to be.

Health care providers and insurers want to share what they know to help people. Social media is a powerful platform for facilitating this process and organizing the knowledge in a way that makes it useful to as many people as possible.

And you can be a thought leader without creating extra work. Atomize content pieces by turning an existing email newsletter or blog post into smaller, digestible content for social media. Get the conversation started by sharing a surprising stat, a recent research breakthrough, or a seasonal health tip/reminder.

In 2014, an active presence on social media is absolutely essential for every health care provider and organization.

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Brent Walker

Written by: Brent Walker

As Chief Marketing Officer, Brent's primary responsibilities include leading marketing strategy and execution for c2b solutions, development of c2b solutions' proprietary consumer segmentation model and insights products, research on healthcare consumers’ motivations and behaviors, and providing marketing guidance to c2b solutions clients.

Tags: Healthcare Consumerism

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