SOCIAL MEDIA AND NETWORKING FOR PHARMA MANAGEMENT AND REGULATORY AFFAIRS
By Alex Twersky, Marketing Consultant and Career Expert
As the role social media plays in our lives continues to expand, its relevance has also extended to the world of commerce. In the pharmaceutical world, a growing number of companies are using social media to engage stakeholders and customers alike. All major pharmaceutical players have a social media presence, and how they apply it generally advances the dialogue on topics as diverse as medication use and wellness.
Some companies use social media as a direct channel of communication with patients and healthcare practitioners, while others are more active in encouraging vibrant discussions on forums, or inviting comments on their various postings, from Facebook to YouTube. According to some studies, while larger pharmaceutical companies have a defined social media presence, it’s the smaller, more boutique ones that really tap into the power of the medium to create dialogue between them and their patient stakeholders, and among the patients themselves.
All of this social media chatter makes it all the more important that pharmaceutical companies, regulators and healthcare providers take notice. Accuracy in posts is the objective, and unless these key players get involved and engaged in the social media sphere, there is a strong possibility that inaccurate, or worse yet, misleading information, can wind its way into the conversation.
Some stakeholders are taking social media to heart, and surprisingly, the more conservative corner of the industry – the regulators – are leading the charge. Regulatory bodies like the FDA have a very well defined social media presence, particularly on Facebook. The European Medicines Agency is highly active on Twitter. Sometime in 2014, the FDA is expected to set guidelines on social media usage, a standard that will likely draw some of the pharmaceutical players from the sidelines and into the fray.
A key stop on any patient’s journey to gathering more information and doing research on specific medications is Wikipedia. This is not merely a fad – Wikipedia is a vital patient resource, and hence should be on pharma’s radar screen because it’s in everyone’s best interest to ensure that the information contained within those pages is accurate. And since Wikipedia is a social medium to the extent that the information posted and updated there is driven by individual users or groups (hence, a socially-fueled platform), the content there needs to be strictly scrutinized and monitored.
While social media use pervades all gender, income, education and age categories, it’s obvious that younger people are much more likely to turn to social media as a preliminary source of information than the older set. However, as the population ages, the “digitally informed” will form a larger block of the constituents that pharmaceutical companies serve and wish to communicate with. The sooner pharma gets on the social media bandwagon, the more effectively they will be able to tailor it to become an effective and accurate communication channel.