Natalie Karaminas, Account Director, PR & Creative Communications, shares the value of social media in building online communities to spark a movement
The words “Pharma are wary of adopting social media” are spoken quite often in the healthcare communications industry. But is this really the case? More and more each day I see that the industry is embracing this form of communication, from corporate engagement on Twitter, to disease awareness campaigns on Instagram, to CEOs posting the latest organisation information to their personal LinkedIn pages to provide a human voice. Yes, there are rules that need to be followed when posting on social media to mitigate risk but taking the plunge and exploring social media as part of an external communications strategy, is a risk that I believe is worth taking. Especially now, when social media is increasingly becoming a key source of news, awareness-raising, and solidarity among the public and healthcare professionals (HCPs) alike. We can nudge people to take action through content-sharing, collaboration, and interaction – the perfect blend for community building and inspiring behavioural change.
We can nudge people to take action through content-sharing, collaboration, and interaction – the perfect blend for community building and inspiring behavioural change
Building communities through social media means connecting
There is no catalyst for change greater than a community of like-minded individuals coming together, discovering what they care about and building connections. Connections that empower a community to speak up, spark discussion and drive change. In the world of Pharma, there is no better way to create a movement for change than social media. Maximising the influence of popular online social communications channels can enable companies to reach their audiences in a way they never have before; from congress updates to driving HCP engagement, to disease awareness and activation activity that unites patient voices.
Tapping into the patient voice and catapulting a message
Part of community building via social media means tapping into influential patient voices. There has been a boom in recent years of the expert patient influencer – someone who is living with a chronic condition, whether that is a skin condition such as rosacea, or a rare disease such as vasculitis, and dedicating either time, or even their career, to discussing and spreading disease awareness. By engaging with these social influencers and partnering to spread awareness of a topic that is meaningful to them and their followers, we can amplify reach of a message, catapulting this across social media. One voice with a targeted following can inspire others to follow suit. The result? A social movement, inspired conversations and an empowered community.
Being quick to adapt to the current environment
In light of the global COVID-19 pandemic, companies have had to adapt social media strategies rapidly. We have seen this in corporate communications, from companies such as Sanofi and Novartis, as well as in disease awareness, with communications that demonstrate an ongoing commitment and support to stakeholders during this challenging time.
As part of our work with the Beyond the visible rosacea disease awareness channel, developed by Galderma, we had to be quick to respond to the pandemic, swiftly changing focus of their Rosacea Awareness Month activity during April, from planned viral social media activity to a low-level influencer engagement initiative that was respectful of the current environment. It was important that we closely monitored this environment, taking into account the boom in social conversation around the virus during the peak time of COVID-19 in March and April, which would inevitably surpass conversation around rosacea with the virus at front of mind. As such, Beyond the visible engaged with popular rosacea influencers to create content that would provide support to patients in the midst of the pandemic, highlighting the toll that stress and anxiety can take on their rosacea and mental well-being, with hints and tips to manage this. A strong sense of community was fostered and conversations were sparked with the message “you are not alone”.
Community building takes more than just posting
The challenge with community building on social media is: How can Pharma interact in real-time and have authentic two-way conversation? If we take Instagram for example, responding to and liking comments on owned posts, as well as liking, sharing and commenting on other users’ posts, increases engagement, pushing you up the elusive “Instagram algorithm”, ultimately increasing your reach. When external communications require levels of approval (compliance and all that jazz), this can be a barrier to responding in real time and seizing the moment.
But writing a comment and hitting the reply button isn’t the one and only way for conversation. With engagement tools (polls, quizzes, questions) plugged into various social media platforms, we have the opportunity to not only interact with patients, but to gain valuable response insights. Let’s show we care by sharing our insights back to the community in a “thanks for sharing” post… because we really are listening. It may not be the entire solution to the challenge of fostering a two-way conversation with patients, but it’s a good start.