The Pros and Cons of Facebook and Twitter for Pharma brands

In the second of a series of guest blogs, Casey Ross, Senior Social Media Strategist at FCB Health provides a whistle-stop tour of the opportunities open to pharma brands who are looking to include Facebook or Twitter in their social media marketing strategy, as well as the pitfalls to watch out for. Over to you Casey...

Choosing a social platform is an important decision which requires a lot of research. This is especially the case for branded pharma. You must have a deep understanding of the functionality and features these platforms offer to find success.

Let's take a quick look at the pros and cons of Facebook and Twitter for the branded pharma space.

The advantages of Facebook for pharma brands:

With over 2 billion users and over 70 million users belonging to health-related groups, Facebook is usually the first platform to explore, and for some very good reasons:

  1. Ability to moderate comments  the option to hide/delete/report post comments provides extra security to handle adverse events and allows a ‘crisis’ to be managed more easily.
  2. Targeting  despite the recent elimination of data partners, Facebook still has some of the best targeting on social. The combination of a huge user base, the largest set of user data, and precise targeting helps to ensure your message will be served to the right audience. 
  3. Real-time social engagements  having an open timeline which allows users to comment means you have real-time insights into your product and the opportunity to offer prompt customer service.
  4. Option to whitelist – whitelisting provides the ability to disable comments and likes/reactions. Whilst this can be useful for branded pharma to avoid adverse event reports and unwanted posts, remember, this is social media. Turning comments off also removes the multiple benefits of interacting with customers. Ask yourself - do you want to use Facebook as an engagement tool or a broadcast one?
  5. Flexibility with the 20% text rule  this allows for additional text for legal/regulatory compliance, but this 20% text rule only applies to ads. It's worth remembering that ads with higher amounts of image text will be shown to fewer people. [You can learn more about this here. With Facebook you can also link in with its text overlay tool, which lets you test your image to ensure it will run properly].
  6. Instagram tie-in  branded pharma is slowly embracing the power of Instagram. Facebook makes it very easy to place ads from within Ads Manager and use Creative Hub to build posts. [Quick tip – To see how many of your Facebook fans are on Instagram, simply create a campaign, target your fans and chose Instagram as the placement].

Things to consider when using Facebook for pharma:

There are many advantages for pharma brands when using Facebook, but as with all things, there are also some aspects to be aware of, namely:

  1. Different versions of Facebook across devices and browsers  there are many different versions of Facebook to be aware of. For instance, Facebook isn’t laid out the same way on an iOS app, iOS mobile browser, android app, android mobile browser or desktop (Chrome, Mozilla, Firefox, and IE).

    Some changes are minuscule but everything matters in a highly regulated environment. The best way to counteract this is to use the Rx Page template or QA all versions of Facebook on a daily basis to ensure there have been no changes and all links are working properly. [Quick tip: Changes usually rollout on iOS first]
  2. Page architecture changes  in the branded pharma space, compliancy is everything. Unfortunately, Facebook can make changes to the platform without notification. Even small changes to the page architecture can be challenging because it’s easy for a page to get knocked out of compliance by the FDA.

    However, the good news is that Facebook does have a specific ‘Rx (pharma) Page template’ to ensure compliancy. The Rx Page template is available to any Page within the following categories: Drugs, Health Company, Medical Equipment Manufacturer, Medical Equipment Supplier, Nursing Agency, and Pharmaceutical Company.

    Features include:
    * Consistent tabs – tabs will always remain the same in the same order
    * Pinned Post  the pinned post will remain above all other content at the top of the Page
    * Safety Information  the Safety Information section will remain visible on the right side of the page. 
  3. Sudden changes to ad units  in their efforts to combat misinformation last summer, Facebook has recently made a number of major changes to link posts. The updates came much earlier than scheduled and forced some brands to change their posting and paid strategy. 

    As we continue to see, all social media platforms are coming under pressure to address misinformation, as well as privacy issues. Since Facebook is the largest platform and under scrutiny, they expect to make more changes over the coming months, which may impact pharma brands - the trick is to be on top of these quickly and adapt as necessary.

The advantages of using Twitter for pharma brands:

Twitter may not have as many active users as Facebook, but 336 million people still represents a strong target audience for pharma brands. Twitter requires a different approach to Facebook however as it has its own set of pros and cons for pharma brands to consider. The pros are: 

  1. Pharma-friendly ad units – the ‘ads without profiles’ ad unit allows a brand to run promoted tweets without a handle and with all social actions disabled (no replies, retweets, likes). This is great option to drive traffic to a website or generate brand awareness with a video or photo.
  2. Ability to exclude users from targeting – the 'tailored audience lists' is a helpful tool for preventing specific users from being served your ads and is an effective way to deal with trolls.
  3. Better organic reach  organic tweets can still reach users: In Q4 2017, I calculated organic reach on Twitter was 10%, compared to 2% on Facebook.
  4. Consistent account/page layout  twitter rarely makes changes to the page/account architecture. If a change is coming I find they provide notifications and updates which allow for ample time to make adjustments and to notify clients.
  5. Strong customer service  twitter has really embraced customer service. I really like the fact that they provide the necessary tools to help brands be successful in assisting their users.
  6. Transparency – it's refreshing to find that Twitter acknowledges their problems and actively works hard to address them. They continue to work toward a safe and effective platform for users and advertisers. 

What pharma brands need to be aware of on Twitter:

When considering a Twitter campaign, pharma brands can protect themselves from reputational damage by considering the follow early on:

  1. Bots/spam/trolls – the relative ease of creating a Twitter account (name, phone or email, and password) and greater anonymity, can result in more active trolls on Twitter than Facebook. This could become problematic to your budget when you’re being charged per engagement/impression and receiving spam/irrelevant engagements.
  2. Open environment  Twitter is a wide open channel and only the author can moderate comments, brands cannot hide or delete inappropriate replies on your content. This is troublesome when profanity is in a reply to a tweet and the only option is to delete your tweet - which could be in the middle of promotion.
  3. Targeting – In my opinion Twitter doesn't have the same capabilities and user data as Facebook. This can lead to unqualified users seeing and engaging with your ads. This can deplete your ad budget if you are paying per engagement/impression.

So, is social media worth it for pharma brands?

Answer - Yes! Social media is definitely where branded pharma should be.

With many tailored Rx options provided by each platform, along with a moderating service like Crisp (ensuring all Adverse Events will be captured), social media is becoming less and less daunting. The ability to glean insights from a real-time focus group is invaluable, as is a brand having a social presence to meet patients and caregivers where they actively are.

These platforms can also help meet brand objectives. Whether it’s building a CRM list with Facebook's lead generation ads, sending users to a website with Twitter and Facebook website drivers, or generating awareness, having the team in place and total client buy-in can lead to a lot of great things!