Facebook wants pharma money

KEY TAKEAWAY: Facebook wants pharma money and they want it for everything from advertising new drugs to clinical trials but obstacles still remain. 

CNBC recently said “some drug companies have been reluctant to use Facebook due to concerns that patients will share sensitive information like medical side effects and adverse events”.  However, patients will tell you, if you listen, that they are afraid to post or follow health conditions on social media due to retargeting.

Two months ago I was doing some research for a client on MS and social media.  For more than two days I received “suggested posts/groups’ to follow/read.  When I had my client do the same thing she became incensed telling me “this is last things MS patients want”.

Can it be done?

However Facebook can become a valuable tool for pharma marketers. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Social media is about being informed, not being sold, when it comes to health care[/inlinetweet].   Pharma can leverage social media, but it’s going to require some belt loosening with regulatory and legal people as well as dedicated social media marketing people who understand what their audience wants and needs in information.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]The key challenge is being able to have a conversation without having to have every word cleared by your M L R team.[/inlinetweet] When it comes to adverse events pharma can monitor social media and give patients who report an adverse event an eMail address or URL to report their event.  The idea that pharma would ask someone on social media for their name and address is beyond comprehension.

The Facebook problem…

In an editorial in today’s Times called “Facebook wins, Democracy Loses” the Times brutally tore into Facebook over the latest scandal involving fake accounts buying political ads.  They went on to say..

Anyone can deploy Facebook ads. They are affordable and easy. That’s one reason that Facebook has grown so quickly, taking in $27.6 billion in revenue in 2016, virtually all of it from advertisers, by serving up the attention of two billion Facebook users across the globe.  A core principle in political advertising is transparency.  None of that transparency matters to Facebook. Ads on the site meant for, say, 20- to 30-year-old home-owning Latino men in Northern Virginia would not be viewed by anyone else, and would run only briefly before vanishing. The potential for abuse is vast.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Can a disreputable supplement company, for example, post an ad that looks like a pharma ad? [/inlinetweet]You betcha and who do you think will take the fall?

We tested a facebook post targeted at depression suffers that had good information about getting help for depression and it did very well.  The key was that the post was informational, not a sales pitch.  If someone wanted more information it took them to an unbranded site that was rich in content.  When we rad the post traffic spiked with a majority of users going to the unbranded site and onto the branded site.  However, when we changed the post to “a sales pitch” it did very poorly.

The lessons are there if pharma wants to really learn.