Updated on 20/01/2023

Social networks in the pharma sector

The role of social media for the Pharma industry is increasingly central and decisive. In the previous post, we talked about the best marketing strategies to apply in the industry. In this post, we’ll understand why, by looking at some interesting statistics and successful stories.

Today, we’re all living in two worlds: one is in the “physical world”, as flesh and blood people; the other is in the digital world, as users of the internet, in all its forms, that is increasingly branched.

It is one of the most obvious and profound effects of Digital Transformation, a revolution that has changed how we live, how we communicate and socialize, but also how we manage our health. In particular, there are “places” that have become fundamental for our “online life”: let’s talk about social networks

It is a common experience, for all of us; a look at the data from around the world helps us to understand the dimension of these new social places. 

  • The number of monthly active users on Facebook, across the world, are now over 2.9 billion (Source: Statista). Each day, 1.62 billion people use Facebook (Source: Zephoria).
  • Instagram, which was born in 2010, has recently exceeded the threshold of 1 billion monthly active users (statista.com).
  • There are 330 million active users on Twitter (Source: Statista).
  • TikTok, a new Chinese social network that is hugely successful among young people, was launched in September 2016 and already has more than 800 million users (Source: Oberlo).

This impressive data is enough for us to understand the importance of social media for the Pharma industry.

In short: the vast majority of people are present on these platforms, spend a lot of time on them every day, and use them to get information, to make comparisons, to ask questions and to look for answers.

Such questions and answers are increasingly related to one’s own health and well-being: especially in this new and complicated period, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We have therefore decided to divide this post into two sections.

First, we will look at the data, which will show how important it is for Pharma companies to be present on social networks, with the right strategies and with the right “tone of voice”. In the second, we will look at some success stories, moving from theory to practice with some concrete examples.


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Health on social media: 6 statistics that say a lot

1) A Milestone survey found that more than 77% of people use search engines to begin a treatment journey. And this makes them, at this stage of the funnel, the most used, most influential and most engaging channels. In addition, 79% of users turn to social media to answer specific personal health questions (source: WEGOHealth). This must be the starting point for Pharma Industry companies, which therefore have the great opportunity (but also the great responsibility) to put on track the correct, transparent and effective campaigns on these platforms.

Where to start from? Certainly from education, through timely, understandable, and engaging information.

2) Even more specifically, we can see how people between 18 and 24 years of age tend to discuss health and wellness issues on social networks twice as much as those between the ages of 45 and 54 (getpushing.com).

Translated: consumers of the future are very familiar with social networks. Companies must also get familiar with social networks. In the business world, not looking ahead means quickly losing ground and competitive advantage.

3) Of those between 18 and 24 years of age, 90% say they trust medical information shared on social networks (searchenginewatch.com).

However, it’s not unconditional trust; fake news or misleading articles used as clickbait can also be successful and widely diffused in the short term, of course; but, fortunately, trusted information still carries weight, especially in the medium to long term, which is the timeframe you have to work within when aiming at the loyalty of patients and customers.

Therefore, building a strategy and a tone of voice that combines clarity, familiarity, and authority must be one of the priorities of social network management for companies in the pharmaceutical sector.

4) Social network management needs a coherent and well-constructed strategy and tone of voice. If this is valid for all industries, it is even more so for Pharma, which concerns the health of individuals and the community. That’s why 31% of the Pharma and Healthcare institutions and organizations have very specific guidelines regarding style, shape, storytelling, and content choices (according to the Institute for Health).

5) Now let’s move on to the medical front. According to 60% of doctors, the effective use of social media improves the quality of care provided to patients. This shows, once again, how much there is a need for correct information, but also for “closeness” between pharmaceutical companies and patients. And, for this aspect, there is no “digital proximity” closer than that which can be acquired with social networks.

Social media is also an important mine of data on individuals, which must be collected and interpreted in order to put on track marketing and customer care operations that are made to measure, focusing on personalization.

6) We talked about management, form, and content. At this point, instead, we want to dwell on “channels”, to emphasize the great importance of mobile. Today, as many as 91% of users access the internet via mobile (datareportal.com). Those who own smartphones across the world number about 4 billion (in 2016 they were “only” 2.5 billion – statista.com). 

All this cannot be ignored by pharmaceutical companies. The optics to be adopted, therefore, is that of mobile first. According to the most recent data (buldfire.com), health apps are among the 10 categories of apps most downloaded on the Apple Store. Medical apps rank among the top 20. The panorama on Android devices is roughly the same.

These apps, in many cases, have wide margins of personalization; they are also able to bring companies closer to users, with advantages on both fronts.


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Three successful stories (on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram)

1) Pfizer is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. On social media, the company focuses mostly on its Twitter channel, which is divided into different accounts according to regions.

For Pfizer, the strategy goes beyond the pill, and instead, focuses more generally the living conditions of patients. This is an approach that creates a more intimate and global link between the brand and people.

In this regard, see the recent menopause campaign (Menopause Unmuted), based on a multi-episode podcast that utilizes contemporary storytelling.

2) Now, let’s look at a campaign from Sanofi Aventis on Facebook. Here, it’s about content marketing combined with video, which is one of the most effective types of media on social networks.

Not surprisingly, videos generate a sharing rate that is well over 1200% higher than the posts that combine images and text (learn.g2.com). The campaign here focused on the T1D Challenge, which aimed to inform patients about Type 1 Diabetes and the possibilities of leading a full, functional, and happy life despite this disease. To do so, in 2013 and 2014, Sanofi Aventis followed a team of athletes with type 1 diabetes who climbed Kilimanjaro and Machu Picchu.

The campaign was so successful that it was repeated in 2015, with an expanded team of climbers. Also in this case, the approach is “beyond the pill” supported by video.

3) Let’s close with an example that concerns Instagram and influencer marketing (which often offers the best results on this platform).

The case concerns the collaboration between Duchesnay, a Pharma company specialized in women’s health and the influencer, actress and singer Jana Kramer. The aim was to raise public awareness of the morning sickness typical of pregnancy and the drug Bonjesta® that the pharmaceutical company has put on the market to combat this problem.

It’s a perfect example of how you can start from education and awareness about a widespread and common problem, to create proximity with its actual audience but, above all, with the potential audience, winning new followers, and aiming to build their loyalty.


From these examples, and from the data that we have outlined above, we can establish some important points.

Social media for the Pharma industry are fundamental: they are a formidable tool for communicating with customers, a great opportunity to win new customers, but also one of the main channels for strengthening their reputation and positioning.

Of course, it’s all about putting the most coherent and effective strategies on track. Every good strategy, after all, revolves around a very simple ingredient: aiming at individuals, getting close to patients, and establishing an authoritative but also friendly, familiar relationship.


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