Pharmaceutical Communication over Social Media Channels: 24/7 Management Challenges [chapter]

Tiago Costa, Teresa Borges-Tiago, Flávio Tiago
2018 Digital Communication Management  
Social media marketing is evolving rapidly and gaining popularity within academia and firms. This chapter highlights the major challenges posed by social media to the pharmaceutical industry, assessing the presence of major pharmaceutical firms on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube and characterizing their digital engagement strategies. This study gathered data from the top 20 pharmaceutical companies' official websites, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts and
more » ... ined variables such as Internet presence, engagement, fans/followers, and network structure. Findings from this study show that not all pharmaceutical firms are present on social media, and some platforms are used more than others. Notably, the digital engagement strategies varied between the analyzed social media platforms and remained similar on the two periods. Results also show that the level of engagement assessed was not associated with firm size. In several firms, the communication was mostly directed to the general public. Depending on the company, country-based communities were found. This work can be of interest to practitioners aiming to compare and assess their digital activity. It could also assist future researchers focusing on pharmaceutical social media marketing activity, since few researchers have analyzed this using more than one social networking site. This led to misconceptions related to pharmaceutical marketing practices and induced the need to unveil the true meaning of pharmaceutical marketing. Pharmaceutical marketing, as a sub branch of marketing, evolved over the years from a more product-oriented strategy to a consumer-oriented strategy, following global trends [2] . Back in 1994, Levy [3] stated "pharmaceutical marketing is the last element of an information continuum, where research concepts are transformed into practical therapeutic tools and where information is progressively layered and made more useful to the health care system" (p. 327). His definition emphasizes the value of information flow. In the last two decades, there has been a major shift from traditional media to digital media, changing profoundly the way information flows. The race for information access turned patients, physicians, and all other healthcare stakeholders more demanding. In order to reduce these pressures and establish a long-term relationship with the different stakeholders, pharmaceutical firms need to follow marketing trends and move on to digital communication channels, such as social media. The emerging importance of social media in business organizations is raising the awareness of decision-makers toward this theme. An ongoing dialog on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube between firms and consumers impels the search for new management communication models. In response, this chapter analyzes the online posture of 20 major pharmaceutical firms. For this purpose, data were gathered directly from their official social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and their performance online was analyzed. This chapter is organized in the following manner. The next section summarizes the literature related to pharmaceutical marketing and social media. The third section presents empirical evidence from the pharmaceutical firms. The last section offers concluding remarks about these findings. Theoretical framework Pharmaceutical marketing According to Fischer [4], pharmaceutical marketing practice is mutating. The author states that the major approach in the 90s and the beginning of 2000 was increasing the sales force, allowing intensified diffusion of scientific information. However, Fischer explains that spending on this approach is decreasing over time. Nowadays, pharmaceutical firms are abandoning the commercial model based on sales force and are adopting a more multifaceted communication strategy. Through Figure 1 , Fischer explains this new strategy, composed of more channels of communication which interface with other stakeholders (e.g., patients, payers, healthcare organizations, and professionals), surpassing the almost unique channel based on communication with physicians. The spreading of communication channels and potential message recipients is perceived as a major trend in pharmaceutical marketing [4] (Figure 1) . Physician-oriented model Pharmaceutical marketing budgets are largely being allocated to communicate with physicians [4] . According to Fischer [4], in this type of communication, pharmaceutical firms
doi:10.5772/intechopen.75990 fatcat:d4cwv6bt5nbz3fqvspesed37oe