Innovative use of social media in pharma

innovationKEY TAKEAWAY:  An innovative and disruptive digital agency, Greater Than One, have found a way to successfully address the problems of patient engagement by thinking outside the box.

Over the course of research that I have been involved with, over the last year, patients have expressed interest time and time again in engaging health care professionals to answer their health questions.  Social media, with its increased usage and penetration, would seem like the perfect channel to engage health seekers, but while pharma has increased its usage of social media engagement, one on one conversations, with patients seems to be “off limits” for most because of regulatory and legal concerns.


Greater Than One recently lead the very first Facebook-powered live chat for patients on behalf of a pharma client. Over the course of an hour, a KOL and patient advocate received dozens of questions from around the globe on heart failure in real time. How?  They custom-built a technology-aided process that allowed for questions to be answered, fully reviewed via MLR and posted to patients— in a dramatically reduced timeframe. By using this solution, they were able to post live content by the KOL and patient advocate virtually in real-time with MLR approval in 120 seconds.  That alone is amazing, but it gets better.


The exact process Greater Than One used was to develop a customized solution that streamlined the flow from content generation to review to posting, while ensuring that the compliance teams had complete visibility. Questions came in on Facebook and were flowed to a three-part display. The KOL  answered the questions in a second module. After final streamlined legal review, the answers were posted as a reply to the question. The Q&A was also promoted on Twitter.  Even more amazing, the whole process only took 2 minutes.


Over the course of an hour, the team fielded a question every three minutes, far exceeding pre-event estimates. Nearly a million people saw the live chat kickoff post, and answer time was held to an average of four minutes.


This type of work requires clients who trust your agencies experience and results. Using social media effectively requires an understanding of the digital space that transcends any one channel. Because Greater Than One has been a digital native for 16 years, their clients trust them not only to create smart campaigns that drive brand goals forward both online and offline, but to execute in complete alignment with legal and regulatory restrictions. Earning this trust takes time and marketers who understand that today pharma has to blaze new trails to reach empowered patients.


While the debate around social media marketing intensifies Greater Than One feels that there are a lot of opportunities for pharma brands to really engage patients.  We are marketing in a digital world, and social is unquestionably one of the key pillars of this world. If a pharma brand defines effectiveness as the ability to reach, engage and learn about their target audiences, then social offers several unique advantages:

  • It’s “live” — Social media happens in real-time, with user expectations for responsiveness and interactivity that surpasses other channels.
  • Your audiences use it — Social media is ubiquitous. Not only does it have global penetration among patients and caregivers, but physicians, nurses and other HCPs are increasingly likely to use social in a way that aids their clinical practice. Moreover, people from all audience segments are very likely to be using social media in their personally lives as well.
  • It’s a unique opportunity for voice— On social media, marketers have the opportunity to speak directly with audiences.
  • It’s innovative — Social has been around, by digital standards, for a lifetime — but there are still enormous opportunities for pharma marketers to do novel, interesting work in the space. Social’s future belongs to the bold.

gto innovative

This is the type of DTC marketing innovation and disruption that we really need in our industry.  It’s good to see that there are still some great agencies, leading the charge in new ways to reach patients who are in need of answers to complex health questions.  Now if we can convince other pharma brands to follow this lead..