11 Jul 2016

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At a recent Pharma Social Media conference in London, speakers found it helpful to compare the industry’s relationship with social media with trying to find true love:

Before starting a relationship, it’s useful to know yourself and what you do and don’t want as well as to understand and appeal to your ‘date’.

With the prevalence of social media in everyday life, over 80 industry practitioners from around Europe gathered to hear how different companies and suppliers in the pharmaceutical industry are taking the relationship forward to the next level. Common themes included:

• How to navigate the regulatory hurdles

• Overcoming the legal and compliance roadblocks

• Defining clear social media mission and objectives

• Using social listening to understand your audience, what’s on their mind and the potential risks/opportunities

• Creating useful, relevant content to inform/educate and engage

• How to assess social media impact

Sara Gorza, Legal Business Partner, Roche Group (Italy) warmed the audience up by refreshingly giving a lawyer’s perspective and a clear and coherent roadmap on how to embrace social media channels . The pharmaceutical industry has to recognise that social media is here to stay, she argued:

• 40 per cent of EU consumers use social media to look up reviews for health disease treatments , providers, medicines and doctors

• 1/3 discuss health-relate issues on social media

• ¼ of EU consumers have digitally communicated with a physician in the past 12 months

• Of all the channels, FaceBook is the most popular place to share personal health information on social media, physicians like You-Tube for its ability to provide engaging content for patients, and LinkedIn is considered the go-to source for health professional interaction

Social media presents the industry with needs/opportunities as well as risks and challenges.

However, the regulatory landscape in Europe is still behind the curve and the existing pharmaceutical regulations do not provide a framework for how pharmaceutical companies should behave on social media channels. The onus therefore rests with individual companies to adopt a self-regulatory approach based on their own risk assessment, starting with:

A social media management framework can be based upon two pillars:

• A governance process which is led by an internal social media team, including legal counsel, who define a process with clear roles/accountabilities and steps for creating, verifying approving, uploading and monitoring content, and a consistent and compliant presence on social media channels. This process also includes training for the relevant functions, a specific adverse event reporting methodology, agreed KPIs, and a protocol for crisis management

• Rules, based on legal reference points, which give general principles, clear Do’s and Don’ts for both personal online and professional online activities e.g. being transparent about your affiliation with the company, and being mindful of copyright

Devin Redmond from Proofpoint highlighted the need for companies to track and manage their social account footprint and presence, so that unauthorized accounts and scams, account hacks and abuse are detected and enforced.

Pelin Icil, Marketing Manager for Women’s Healthcare and Levitra gave a compelling case study on how Bayer overcame pharma’s reluctance to harness the emotional power of social media as part of a multi-channel marketing and educational campaign to increase awareness of birth control.

Dr Knut Schroeder, a GP, author and founder of Expert Self Care, a social entreprise aiming to help people be more savvy about their health, gave five clear steps to success based on his experience developing health apps:

• Start by researching and listening to what users want, rather than making assumptions

• Have a clear vision

• Test your ideas, and keep checking back with what users want and what they really want to know

• Involve users in the development – identify the most important problems, answer questions and provide useful and actionable content

• Involve experts

The importance of useful, relevant content was also underlined by another speaker, Andy Stafford from Nitro Digital who quoted: “Marketing is a lot like a first date. If all you do is talk about yourself, there won’t be a second.”

In this vein, Carla Arrieta from Roche Diabetes Care showcased an invite-only online education and communications platform created by Roche to help diabetes patients embed critical behaviour changes and to increase patient-doctor interaction.

She explained that Type 2 Diabetes is one of the most common chronic and expensive conditions, with less than 10 per cent of patients achieving clinical targets and 80% of treatment costs due to complications avoidable, if patients could learn to ditch unhealthy habits. This led Roche to successfully develop a private platform with emminens to help patients to adopt and embed healthier daily habits and to facilitate regular-doctor patient communication.

Sarah Mewton, Director of Marketing & Communications at Molnlycke Health Care discussed her experience of Twitter with Molynlycke and previously at Abbott. She highlighted that companies need to consider their brand positioning and use that to engage audiences’ hearts and minds, as well as thinking about how to connect and deliver messages in the most important way. She showed how the Abbott corporate rebrand gave it a platform to be more visible and engaging, whilst Molnlycke used robust content on Twitter shared with bloggers, KOLs, advocates and charities to support the growth of its OTC epidermal brand.

On social media measurement and ROI, Alex Saunders, Director Digital External Communications at GSK said it like looking for love, you need to start by truly understanding what/who you want before deciding what to look for. He suggested companies should define and refine their metrics and KPIs by defining:

• What is your overall mission and objective for social media engagement, linked to the business strategy

• What are the KPIs which will help indicate that you are moving in the right direction and base efforts on what will drive greatest impact

• Are the existing KPIs working od do the targets need to be adjusted?

In terms of tools, he explained how GSK use an array, using social listening to understand direct impact and manage risk, but also to highlight opportunity and commissioning bespoke audits to look at less tangible measures such as reputation, and to evaluate key campaigns.

He also recommended that a process to use and embed measurement is critical: including making time for ad-hoc reporting, holding regular meetings for key campaigns to understand and act on insights, and communicating results effectively to influence key stakeholders.

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