Facebook and Pharma: 4 Things to Consider when 'Building a Community'

Posted by Haley Carter on

In the first of a series of guest blog posts about social media marketing in the pharmaceutical sector, Haley Carter, Associate Digital Strategist at Hill Holliday explains how pharma brands can make the most of unbranded Facebook community pages.


"The balance of what's in News Feed has shifted away from the most important thing Facebook can do - help us connect with each other." Mark Zuckerberg on why Facebook's news feed will begin to prioritize "meaningful social interactions" from friends and family as opposed to posts from brands and media.


Advertisers looking to execute an unbranded digital strategy for their pharma clients can take advantage of this shift on Facebook and here’s why. 

Pharma brands have a unique opportunity to facilitate a connection among those deeply impacted by like-conditions, helping patients to feel understood and validated in their experiences, and allowing them to make connections with people they would otherwise not have had the opportunity to. The decision to execute a community-building initiative on social will depend on your business goals, but if you identify an opportunity for your brand, here are four things to consider:

  1. Is your audience eager to connect with fellow patients, either on Facebook or other platforms?

People often go online to better understand their medical condition, learn about treatment options and support resources, and share their individual experiences in coping and management. If you don't know anyone in your real life that shares your experience, online forums and discussion groups are a necessary outlet for patients to feel understood and supported. In cases of rare and uncommon diseases, it's especially difficult for those suffering to know and connect with people going through the same experience.

Research your audience to find out if they’re in online health forums and disease-specific sites, or scrub Facebook to find advocates in the community who are using that platform to spread awareness. If your audience is eager for connection related to their condition, give them a place to do so.

  1. Can your brand align to a commonality that your audience will rally behind and advocate for?

It's common for patients to feel misunderstood in their disease if there's a lack of broad knowledge of their condition. "The Spoon Theory" is a creative way to help people understand what it's like to live with chronic illnesses and as such, patients of chronic illnesses often affectionately refer to themselves and each other as "spoonies".

Recognizing a certain passion for advocacy and connection among your audience is important when considering the success of launching a community-building strategy.

This year’s #RareDiseaseDay 2018 prompted hundreds of conversations among an affected community on Facebook. This day was amplified with the support of Novartis' newly launched Facebook page for rare auto-inflammatory diseases, with their beloved mascot, Hope the Giraffe, as the champion of the community (note - this campaign can only be viewed by US audiences). This group is eager to raise awareness of the conditions that have so heavily impacted their lives, and are likely to find themselves engaging with and sharing disease-related content in an effort to promote awareness and advocacy.

  1. Pay to reach your audience, but use content to provide a unique experience

Take advantage of the insights that Facebook holds on individual interests, demographics, and behaviors, to reach your target audience with news feed sponsored content.

The Facebook news feed timeline is an endless entertainment hub of perfectly-tailored videos and news articles. Getting people to notice your content is increasingly important for brands advertising on the platform. It’s crucial that brands are providing their users with content that’s visually capturing, patient-focused in tone and messaging, and platform-friendly.

Unbranded campaigns are effective in capturing the right people, but a successful community-building strategy will give people a reason to engage with the content and continue to come back.

  1. People want to connect with content and fellow patients, not brands

And, unfortunately, people definitely do not want to connect with pharma brands.

Instead, allow conversations between people to foster naturally. Once you’ve captured your audience’s attention through content and provided a space of commonality for them to feel safe, the community should build itself.


You can read more from Hill Holliday here.

For more information on pharmaceutical and healthcare compliance in a digital age, visit the Crisp website.

You can also get a free guide on how to stay compliant with your activity on social media. Simply click on the image below to download our practical guide for pharma professionals - 'Adverse Event Reporting in a Digital Age'. 

Download our free guide to Adverse Event reporting

Haley Carter

Written by Haley Carter

Haley Carter is Associate Digital Strategist at Hill Holliday. Haley manages the social media channels and oversees paid social and content for multiple consumer-facing global pharma brands.