10 Mar Establish a Social Media Presence in the Highly Regulated Pharmaceutical Industry
For pharmaceutical companies, using social media can seem like a daunting task. After all, marketers must navigate different healthcare compliance rules and regulations. If they share content that shouldn’t be posted publicly, it could be costly — not just from a monetary standpoint, but it could also impact a stakeholder’s trust in the brand, whether that’s potential investors, partners, or customers.
While managing social media may feel like a burden and a risk, pharma companies stand to benefit greatly from establishing an effective and strategic social media presence.
Keep reading to learn more about content pharma brands should stay away from, content ideas brands can post, and how using social media in the highly-regulated healthcare industry is more accessible than you think.
Healthcare Compliance and Regulations
Certain industries have regulatory bodies that govern what type of information can or cannot be shared on social media with the public. Because the healthcare industry deals with sensitive medical and patient information, regulations exist at the organization, industry, state, and federal levels. Some of the important policies and regulations in the healthcare industry are governed by:
- HIPAA and HIPAA Privacy Rule
- Health Information and Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act
- Internal organizational guidelines on social media use
At times, sharing content that violates HIPAA regulations isn’t done with bad intentions. For example, a social media marketer in the pharmaceutical industry may want to share images or videos about a positive story with a recent patient, hoping to inspire other people who may be going through a similar experience. However, this type of content may violate various privacy laws if it includes identifiable information within the post, such as the patient’s name, open medical records on the table, or a computer screen that hasn’t been blurred.
Another aspect to consider is that individual social media platforms also have their own content policies about what can or cannot be posted. With the COVID-19 pandemic, many platforms tightened up their community guidelines. For example, Instagram created a guidelines page for COVID-19 and vaccine-related content.
Social Media Content Pharmaceutical Brands Should Stay Away From
Here’s a quick list (that is by no means exhaustive) of content topics pharmaceutical companies should stay away from on social media:
- Content that may breach patient confidentiality
- Content that promises or guarantees specific healthcare-related results
- Healthcare-related content that is outdated, inaccurate, or misleading
For marketers building their pharma company’s digital presence, here’s another topic you may want to steer clear of (at least until you have a clear vision of how to address the topic): controversial healthcare-related issues or opinions. While discussing these topics may not violate any regulations, it may negatively impact how the company is perceived. Focus on building an effective and supportive social media presence — rather than aiming for social media notoriety!
Suitable Social Media Content for Pharmaceutical Brands
We covered what pharma brands shouldn’t post, but what about the types of content they can share online? Here are some examples:
Depending on the product, product-related posts can be shared provided they’ve gone through the appropriate review channels. Social media posts that are branded may need to be reviewed by different regulatory organizations before they’re allowed to be posted online.
General content about healthcare is another content type that can be shared. For example, if a marketer is establishing a social media presence for a pharma company that offers insulin pens, a general healthcare post could focus on different types of foods and how much sugar they contain.
Along the same lines, healthcare stats that are appropriately sourced can also support a pharma brand’s social media presence. For example, consider a pharmaceutical company that offers fiber supplements. One post could be a simple text-based graphic with a stat about how many Americans get enough fiber in their daily diet.
Marketers in the pharmaceutical space may also want to use the company’s social media presence to share company-specific but non-product-related content. For example, consider an Instagram post featuring photos from the company’s latest volunteer event. This provides a behind-the-scenes look at the people working at the company, which makes for an authentic and engaging post!
Building a Strategic Pharmaceutical Social Media Presence
One of the most important questions marketers have is how to develop and manage an industry-compliant social media presence for pharmaceutical companies.
One route is to develop a comprehensive social media strategy that takes all of the industry’s regulations into account. Of course, long-established industry regulatory bodies are just catching up to more modern social media platforms, so this process may be one of continuous updating. If marketers are launching their pharma company’s social media for the first time, there may also be some growing pains in terms of establishing streamlined processes that get social media content from point A to B effectively.
Another route that has been effective for many pharmaceutical companies and their teams is to partner with a social media content creation agency. Digital marketing experts specializing in building and maintaining healthcare brands have processes in place to support those in highly regulated industries, such as having multi-level review processes that ensure content can be posted from a legal and compliance standpoint.
Ultimately, the industry a company is in shouldn’t be a prohibitive barrier to strategically using social media. Healthcare brands have just as much to gain from being on social media as other companies in industries like consumer goods, entertainment, and so on.
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