According to Pew Internet as of May 2013, almost three quarters (72%) of online U.S. adults use social networking sites, up from 67% in late 2012. When we first started asking about social networking sites in February 2005, just 8% of online adults said they used social networking sites. In addition six out of ten internet users ages 50-64 are social networking site users, as are 43% of those ages 65 and older. However there is a huge difference between actually posting on a social media site versus reading others posts.
It is estimated that 46% of adults use social media for health related purposes (source:Manhattan Research 2012) but what is missing from this data is exactly what “use” entails and how consumers use social media by health condition. There are a lot of variables to consider such as whether users are researching a health condition or looking for support and advice from others on how to live with chronic health problems. Market research is needed to determine exactly how consumers and patients are using social media by health condition.
What about ROI?
The running joke within pharma is that DTC marketers don’t grab a cup of coffee without doing an ROI analysis on that first cup and having a weeks worth of meetings to determine how to fill the coffee cup and how close to the top the coffee should be. I have always believed that everything we do should drive brand objectives but it’s now becoming apparent that social media can drive brand objectives in an era of brand touch points.
It’s ironic that pharma is looking to digital to reduce costs at the same time that more investment is needed to make digital marketing effective. Implementing a social media program in a regulated marketing environment is not easy but we can either make DTC marketing relevant or continue with the standard web site and SEM while consumers use other options to help them make healthcare decisions.