Digital Marketing & Social Media in Healthcare

12.00 AM, a rainy Friday, an empty stomach… however luckily a promising agenda for a lunch session organised by Stichting Marketing at the Roularta Conference Centre: ‘Digital Marketing & Social Media in Health Care’. I must not have been the only one to find it an interesting topic since there were about ninety attendees!
The meeting started off with a lunch buffet and was to end with a case about a drug against constipation: one could say the circle was round…
First guest speaker was Nick Decrock, Managing Director at Nocus, who evangelised the growing importance of social media. He starts off with a topic that is well known to us at InSites Consulting: Doctor Google and the empowered patient. As Nick himself recently suffered from ‘whooping caugh’ he explained how also he had consulted doctor Google and that online content is mainly user/ patient generated instead of pharmaceutical company generated. Nick then explained to us another not completely new story; Facebook is not just a trend, people continuously share their opinions via social networks also opinions about brands and products. Peer to peer recommendations are trusted most which makes that conversation management becomes more important for companies (which is completely in line with the book The Conversation Manager of one of our Managing Partners Steven van Belleghem).
He not only sees a rise in social media but also in mobile media. According to a forecast there will be more people surfing the net via their mobile phones than via their desktop between 2013 and 2015 and this should be taken into account by pharmaceutical companies when developing sites , visuals, communication (will it come across well on a small screen?). Pharma companies should monitor these online conversations for their medication and spread content online. They shouldn’t stick only to content about their medication yet they can show their engagement by creating online platforms such as ‘Patients like me’. According to Nick, ROI is not the goal, yet following as close as you can get.
Next speaker was Dirk Reyn, CEO and founder of Movetis to present a business case of the communication for a new drug called Resolor, an anti-constipation drug for females. His multichannel approach was quite different from the one proposed by the previous speaker. He even started off by saying he was not that much into social media and by expressing his concerns about conversations in social media about prescription drugs because if patients were to bring up adverse effects, these would all have to be reported and put in the patient information leaflet. This is something that puts off pharmaceutical companies as they wish to avoid this leaflet becoming a very exhaustive list of side effects.
Via his business case he then illustrated how a smart use of direct email marketing and banners on targeted websites can have a strong positive impact on brand awareness and that sales representatives are not the only channel by which health care professionals can be approached. Indeed a sales force costs pharma companies a lot of money and doctors have less and less time to spend. At the same time health care professionals are increasingly spending time online which makes the internet an ideal channel for current and future communication.
This business case proved to be a success for Resolor although it did illustrate that there is still a gap between on the one hand the reality of social media platforms, the online conversations and on the other hand the communication strategies of pharmaceutical companies. It is indeed a challenge for pharmaceutical companies to deal with these online conversations – not only those of end consumers but also of health care professionals –and to find an optimal way be able to use these conversations to communicate about new medication. Still, quite a few pharma companies are already on the right track. Feel inspired by these best practice examples:

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