Social media marketing has become an attractive channel for pharma marketers, as more people turn online for health advice.

Brafton recently covered an eMarketer interview with Digitas Health’s Bruce Grant where social media marketing was the topic of conversation. Grant noted that the pharmaceutical industry remains well behind the rest of the world in terms of channel adoption and implementation into the marketing mix because of regulatory concerns, not out of fear that the networks won’t deliver​ ​results. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to outline specific social media guidelines for pharma marketers in the United States, despite several claims that it would produce such terms, but this hasn’t stopped brands from finding their own best practices.

The advantages social media marketing provides brands outweigh some legal concerns, and a new eMarketer report, “Social Media and Healthcare: Challenges for Pharmaceutical Marketers,” suggests that pharma brands are stepping off the sidelines and testing out new methods for generating interest in products online. Kantar Media and Manhattan Research estimate that approximately 45 percent of U.S. adults already use social media for health-related purposes, so demand for credible online pharma and healthcare resources is high among Americans.

Because there are no specific guidelines, many brands rely on intuition to guide their strategies.

A new survey from KPMG asked pharma and biotechnology companies about their plans for social content marketing, discovering that 43 percent of respondents will increase their use of networks like Facebook and Twitter to engage with patients. Seven percent of brands say their budgets will remain the same. While social media may seem like a more attractive option for health-related brands, they must be careful with what they publish, how they engage with followers and with audience targeting initiatives. Because there are no specific guidelines, many brands rely on intuition to guide their strategies. In fact, it may be beneficial for companies to focus on crafting educational custom content for readers, rather than straightforward promotional copy.

The Digital Health Coalition conducted a survey to understand the main challenges and fears of pharma marketers today. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said their main challenge is measuring the effectiveness of their social media marketing efforts. This is not an uncommon obstacle for any marketing department, and goes to show companies need to work with social savvy teams who can help them understand the real-world benefits of social metrics.

Ted Karczewski is an Executive Communications Associate at Brafton. He works to develop his own voice and apply his passions to the evolving world of SEO and content marketing, but he doesn't shy away from writing for fun. After graduating from Suffolk University, Ted used his Communications degree to test out Sports Journalism before Marketing at Brafton.