Digital Insights: Social Media Dislikes Pharma?

How do we measure the impact of social media? It’s a question being addressed by most drug companies, who have their own theories and formulas.

By Michele V. Wagner, Senior Digital Editor

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How do we measure the impact of social media? It’s a question being addressed by most drug companies, who have their own theories and formulas. Consultants at PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute addressed this hot-button issue in their recent report, “Social Media Likes Healthcare: From Marketing to Social Business,” based on survey responses from more than 1,000 consumers and 124 pharma and healthcare executives.

The report found that social media is changing how people engage in healthcare decisions, and with healthcare providers, but the pharmaceutical industry is lagging behind the rest of the healthcare industry in gaining consumer trust via social media.

According to survey responses, only 37% of consumers trust information from pharma companies while doctors (61%), hospitals (55%) and health insurers (42%) all appear to be more trustworthy on venues such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. And only 28% of respondents were likely to share information they had read on pharma social media with other social media participants.

 Other findings of note:

  • 42% of consumers have used social media to access health-related consumer reviews. Nearly 30% have supported a health cause, 25% have posted about their health experience, and 20% have joined a health forum or community.
  • More than 80% of individuals ages 18–24 would be likely to share health information through social media, while nearly 90% of individuals would engage in health activities or trust information found via social media. 
  • Less than half (45%) of individuals ages 45–64 would be likely to share via social media, while 56% would be likely to engage in health activities.

Even though drug companies may be the least trusted players in the social media healthcare arena, the report suggests that “Markets can shift quickly, and social media enables organizations to gauge the pulse of the public to diffuse a problem or tap new opportunities.”

For legal reasons and without guidance from FDA, pharmaceutical companies have had an uphill battle from the start. However, pharma’s social media participation is increasing every year across all channels: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube and extending to other outlets such as interactive games and forums.

Drug companies have been slow to leave the starting line, but maybe for our industry social media is a marathon, not a sprint.

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