SUMMARY: Social media continues to be used by online health seekers, but there is also a high level of health misinformation. Using social media for DTC can be effective if you have a story to tell in short messages. Still, DTC marketers should be aware of what’s being said around certain health conditions via social media.
BMS has been running an ad for Optivio on Twitter that makes no sense because of FDA guidelines. In fact, most clicks were either analysts or journalists which asks the question “how can you target lung cancer patients on Twitter?”.
According to Annual Reviews “in general, we do not have the cognitive capacity, motivation, or time to evaluate all the information that we encounter online. However, motivation is increased when we are to research a topic regarding our own health condition or symptoms. Even under these circumstances, the assessment of source reputability and the veracity of information is an extremely difficult task”.
NBC News studied health misinformation and found “the most viral pieces of fake health news pushed far-reaching conspiracies between governments and medical communities and suggested ditching common medical treatment of life-threatening diseases for unproven cures. The top 50 articles garnered more than 12 million shares, comments, and reactions this year, mostly on Facebook”.
Despite the rise in online health seekers, pharma is not part of the solution to combat fake health news. While DTC marketers can be satisfied with their website traffic, they, in general, don’t understand that visitors to their websites don’t mean a damn thing compared to page views and bounce rates.
Unfortunately, to fight social media, misinformation requires a response in internet time, not after pharma organizations have a chance to develop and get website content approvals.
With a new administration due to take charge my feeling is that social media’s day of reckoning is soon coming. They have become too big and have too much influence to continue to go rogue.
So should social media become part of your strategy? It depends on what you have to say and if your audience finds it valuable. If a new drug, for example, has a unique message, I would definitely recommend social media, but if you’re saying the same thing you say in TV spots, you’re probably wasting your time.
The most logical way for pharma companies to fight fake health news is for their websites to become the “go-to” source for health information around the the health condition they compete in. Content that informs, educates and talks to online health seekers is more important than sales talk.