Tim Weinheimer's picture

Wait Not For FDA Social Media Guidelines

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:59:]]Pharma marketers have become quite accustomed to rules, limitations and delays. Adding to this complexity and quandary is the further delay of the FDA social media guidelines. In fact, according to a recent post on John Mack’s Pharma Marketing Blog, it appears that the FDA has dropped social media from its 2011 Guidance Agenda.  But wait not for those guidelines! Successful social media in the pharma and healthcare space simply requires more careful planning with a dose of persistence on initiatives you should be doing already. And if you’re not already doing it, start today!

Yes, legal, medical and regulatory limitations make pharma interactive and social media challenging, but these stipulations also make us better marketers as we have to work that much harder to find solutions that follow the rules. So accept the FDA’s delay as an invitation to burn that midnight oil and uncover new ways to better understand your customers and educate your teams. Social media is and will continue to evolve as an essential component to any successful pharma brand marketing mix so make these three investments a required line item in your budget for this fiscal year.

Three Pharma Social Media Planning Essentials

1. Create Your Social Media Playbook

Know the current FDA limits coming and going. Document for your brand teams and the company your own policies regarding social media usage related to activation, engagement, content and distribution of information. This can start by outlining how you will use social media, what your blogger guidelines might be, and even ethically how to address social media issues that will arise. Bake this in as a part of your employee handbook or other training programs. It’s also a good idea to share your social media policy playbook to educate partners not just internally, but externally as well.

2. Listen: Your Customers Are Talking

A strong social media engagement strategy starts with listening. In most cases, the conversation about your brand is already underway and customers are reviewing your product and services and openly discussing their needs. "Lurking" (as it is called by many message board and social network users) is an effective way to unscientifically find out what your customers are saying about your brand, their general sentiment toward your company, and possibly even what product solutions they seek. On a more formal level, setting up an ongoing conversation audit and online influencer identification will provide a brief analysis of conversation volume, share of voice, and key discussion topics along with a list of most relevant bloggers for your brand’s target/category.

There are thousands, even millions of global searches ever day related to consumer health and wellness needs, topics, issues and purchases. For example, today, there are 550,000 monthly Google reported searches (adwords.google.com) for the topic of “lower back pain” alone. Thinking about your brand in the world of search, brainstorm your top 10 to 20 keywords you want your brand to be known for or associated with and simply conduct some raw keyword research to know and understand in laymen’s terms the choice of words web searchers are using to find what they are looking for. This insight with help you shape a more exact set of search terms you’d like your brand to be known for and how best to ultimately improve your website or other digital destination page rankings in search.

3. Don't Start From Scratch

You likely have an enormous amount of already approved and tested, informative content at your fingertips. In fact, you may have projects already in the works that lend themselves well to social media. Identify opportunities where you can provide educational, fact-based, relevant content via blogs, social networks, video and photo sharing sites, RSS feeds, social bookmarks, and start sharing that content today.

All of these tactics can be done smartly today once you have your social media playbook in place and ensure that your content is relevant to your customers. Are you ready to start your playbook, conversation and content audit today?