Dinesh Chindarkar, Co-founder of MediaMedic Communications, in the Express Pharma series of articles titled ‘The Digital Dose for Indian Pharma’ elucidates how creating a page on Facebook can help pharma companies to initiate a responsible communication with their target audience and benefit the brand.
Facebook, launched in the year 2004, is the most popular social networking website in India with 400 plus million users which makes India #2 in the ranking of all Facebook users by country. Facebook has revolutionised the way people look at and feel about social media. Through this platform people can now stay connected, share photos and information like never before. The usage of Facebook is not restricted only to common people. Celebrities, politicians, sportsmen and also businessmen can exploit Facebook to increase their popularity and social gains. With such perks, how can this media benefit our pharma industry?
With a massive user base, it is definitely a place where the industry can leverage their corporate and/or brand presence through a Facebook page. If you have an OTC brand, you must have a Facebook presence. This may sound compulsive, but in reality, it is compulsory if you want to be seen! People have such easy Internet access these days that social media is the first place they look for further information on any product. A recent study from PWC’s Health Research Institute has established that 40 per cent of consumers have used social media to find health-related brand reviews. As a result, if pharma companies want to earn the attention of modern day consumers, then they need to connect with them through Facebook in order to influence their decisions.
Since pharma brands come under regulations, it is clear that they cannot be advertised. But category building and disease awareness are critical issues that can be addressed using this route. With so much ignorance about health, Facebook opens up a media to reach out to people. Having patient communities on Facebook where one can engage patients, communicate directly with them, share their views and opinions can prove to be an excellent outcome on Facebook for the pharma industry.
Creating a page on Facebook and having a responsible communication for generating disease awareness can indirectly benefit the brand. But before one chooses this path, they ought to be sure that what information they will communicate is what the consumer is really looking for. ‘Psoriasis 360’ was an excellent initiative by J&J that helped connect patients from across the world. They talked about how they felt, shared emotions, problems and crowd sourced solutions too. Learning from each other’s experience they adapted to life better. That was the power of this media in empowering patients.
Apart from creating patient centric Facebook pages, a company can also connect with their customers and stake holders through FB. The few MNC pharma companies who have active Facebook page with large number of engaged users are listed adjacently*
As the healthcare industry is undergoing a rapid change and patients are becoming more tech savvy, even doctors have begun to feel the need to go digital. Doctors in western countries are already using Facebook to share knowledge, retain patients, create awareness, educate about medical inventions, research etc. Gradually this trend has caught up in India as well. A specialised doctor, like a cardiologist or oncologist can create his or her own page and share information about the disease or new treatments and connect with his patients. Especially with the rise in chronic lifestyle disorders, it is changing the way doctor-patient relationship is developing. Even a simple update on water-borne disease trend observed on his FaceBook page by a family physician, helps hundreds of his patients realise the trends and helps in prevention. Community medicine is really turning into ‘community building’ online.
A lot of companies are also considering to build a social model similar to a FaceBook for doctor communities but with a closed platform. So sharing of information within a community of doctors becomes easy and secured. With this there is a personalised engagement with doctors and individual needs could be met. Also it helps understand and profile a doctor based on his behaviour and attitude. With the healthcare industry moving on to the next level where patients have a higher say and control, this is a good time to think about getting a “face” for your brand or company. In this fastest growing network, there is huge opportunity for pharma and it can do lot a more in this growing space.