Pharma and social media: A qualitative look

analysis social mediaKEY TAKEAWAY: Analysis of two social media accounts, Twitter and Pinterest, show that the majority of followers were either industry people (media, agencies) and that patent followers were not engaging with the pharma brand. However levels of engagement vary by condition.

I just completed a social media analysis for a client to take a deep look at their social media efforts around two conditions, diabetes, and MS. The key findings are as follows:

  • People within the industry represent the greatest number of followers.  These include, as determined by email addresses, media people, agency people, marketing companies and analysts.
  • Engagement with patients was extremely low, indicating that the information was no “worth sharing” or was posted at the wrong time.
  • One of the highest engagements came in the diabetes circle where a recipe for a cake was shared by 17 people.
  • MS patients were most interested in topics from “living with MS” to new therapies in development.
  • Most posts were not “well thought out” as far as giving the audience something to think about.
  • There were numerous missed opportunities to “join the conversation” with patients/caregivers, but pharma seemed to be the odd man out often posting things that were irrelevant to the current conversations.

pharma social media

A wealth of opportunities here…

1ne:  Pharma needs a dedicated social media person who can listen to current conversations and join in with relevant information at the right time not pre-approved posts that are not relevant.

2wo: Trust is an issue and pharma needs to acknowledge this, but in order to win the trust of patients/caregivers, we need to take baby steps and earn the trust of one patient at a time.


3hree: Listening can provide valuable insights.  One diabetes patient, for example, wanted to know what meal at Olive Garden was best for a Type 1 diabetic and while a wealth of patients answered her post pharma missed an opportunity to chime in with some suggestions or important information.

4our: There is an opportunity to share information about new products in development without promoting them.  When a story breaks, about a new potential product within MS, patients are all over it and want links to information.  While it is risky, we are not in this business to “play it safe”; put patients first help them get the information they are looking for.

5ive: Patient stories go a long way to build credibility but pharma must be transparent about the relationship with these patients.  One of the most shared stories was a patient sharing her experience with working with her doctor to get approval of an MS drug by her insurer.


Social media is, above all, a conversation.  If people are talking about the highs and low of therapies you wouldn’t interrupt the conversation with a bulletin that’s irrelevant but that seems to be happening a lot.  It’s not the number of followers, that number is irrelevant, it’s what the people within your social media circles do with the information you want them to share.