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Making Facebook Work for Pharma and Healthcare

Is your brand leveraging social platforms, particularly Facebook, in its advertising? Often for pharma and healthcare companies, navigating the platform can bring challenges that make entry difficult. Let’s explore why it’s important for brands to develop a Facebook strategy and the challenges that may be stopping them.


Typically, when brands want to reach medical professionals using social media, LinkedIn is the platform that is top of mind. Intuitively, this makes sense because you can target against profession, place of work, and interests. Also, it IS a professional social media platform, unlike Facebook or Twitter.


However, there are several reasons why Facebook is a good or even better fit for medical professional audiences.


· Better Targeting – Through a partnership with Healio, a site for healthcare professionals with in-depth clinical information by specialty, NPIs (National Provider Identifiers) can be imported into the platform to target the audience with precision.


· Usage – According to research conducted by Microsoft, 65% of these professionals use social media for professional purposes that include:

o Professional Networking

o Professional Education

o Organizational Promotion

o Patient Education

o Public Health Programs

o Patient Care


· Cost – Facebook inventory, particularly when compared to the cost of endemic site inventory, is incredibly inexpensive.


· Scale – Facebook (when combined with Instagram) is the largest source of display inventory on the web. Because pharma and healthcare campaigns require a high ad frequency compared to other industries, the ability to deliver multiple impressions is critical.


· Engagement – Interaction with advertising on Facebook is 2-4 times higher than ads on endemic websites.


On the patient side, many of these key benefits of advertising on the platform also hold true. The one exception? Targeting. Because of privacy laws, it is impossible to apply the same precise targeting. However, this holds true on any website, not just Facebook. It is possible to use category and keyword targeting that signals interest in a specific condition or medical treatment. In Microsoft’s social media research, patients had a significantly deeper relationship with social media, spending considerably more time with it and consuming more content.


Social media is one of the few places where the online behaviors of medical professionals and patients converge. Being able to deliver persistent messages to both audiences using social media will help drive awareness, consideration, and trial of a brand’s products. eMarketer’s Social Media Forecast report predicts Americans will spend almost an hour a day on social platforms in 2020. 56% of that time will be spent on Facebook and Instagram (the platform is owned by Facebook and ads can be deployed to both easily from Facebook’s Ad Manager). This represents a massive opportunity to connect with both target audiences seamlessly.


So, with so much opportunity, why have pharma and healthcare brands not made social media a larger part of their advertising approach? This hesitancy is driven by a few factors.


· Creative Restrictions – Facebook limits the amount of text that can be placed in an image or video ad to 20% of the image or video. This makes including ISIs incredibly difficult, if not impossible.


· 3rd Party Ad Serving & Measurement – These are also restricted on Facebook, making it difficult to pull the data into internal reporting systems for a more holistic view.


· Monitoring – Federal regulations require that pharma brands monitor and reply to comments on paid advertising, an additional layer of oversight that is not required in other media channels.

The Path Forward


These challenges can seem more prohibitive than the challenges other industries face because there are federal laws and regulations that govern them. However, there are safe and compliant ways to address them.


· Creative Restrictions – Your agency can work directly with Facebook to secure exemptions to the text restriction so that important safety information can be included. Brands can also test using unbranded ads for Facebook.


· 3rd Party Ad Serving & Measurement – Facebook will provide front-end campaign data. Driving the campaigns to brand websites will allow you to track back-end campaign metrics via your analytics platform. While this will require an additional step to integrate into 3rd party ad server data, the benefits are worth it.


· Monitoring – Because of the value that social brings, consider leveraging your agency’s social listening capabilities to meet this requirement. Because the benefits of social listening extend beyond social media, e.g. building personas, identifying trends, qualitative research, informing creative development, etc., this is an investment that will pay for itself many times over. To build a valuable brand, it is critical to listen to your audience. At Underscore, our SocialFuse™ social listening tool focuses on actionable insights to help drive brand success.


Still on the fence? Here’s the biggest reason to find solutions to the Facebook challenge – navigating the cookie-less world. Facebook is 1/3 of the digital advertising triopoly that includes Google and Amazon. In a post-cookie world, Underscore expects these three platforms’ share of inventory will continue to increase. Figuring out how to make Facebook work before cookies is a thing of the past that will help protect your brand from feeling a negative impact from the change. Facebook dominance is here to stay for the foreseeable future. It’s time to figure it out.

Erica Hawthorne // Director, Digital at Underscore Marketing - a worldwide strategic media company providing ROI solutions in the health & wellness, healthcare and pharma space.


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