2018 Social Media Trends for Healthcare and Pharma Companies

Mark Twain once quipped that you should never let the truth get in the way of a good story. He’d clearly never had to deal with stingy FDA regulations, HIPAA restrictions and other compliance issues.

For healthcare and pharma companies, it seems like even simple emails must be sent over to legal for review. And with legal compliance and red tape galore, social media might just seem like one more unnecessary hoop for healthcare and pharmaceutical companies to jump through.

However, less is becoming the new more in the social media world. Brands are publishing fewer social posts and focusing on creating better-quality content and videos that can be promoted. If you’re looking to improve your social media marketing efforts, consider these recent reports and trends as you revise or create your new social media strategy.

Less is more

Three years ago, Facebook drove more referral visitors to publishers than Google sites. But according to the 2018 Content Trends Report by BuzzSumo, social sharing has since been cut in half. With changes to the Facebook algorithm and a rise in dark shares (private sharing through apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, etc.), marketers and publishers are rethinking their social media sharing strategies to be more selective.

“If you are going to share something with your audience you want to make sure it is well researched and authoritative from a trusted source, thus it is possible people are more selective in their sharing,” states the report.

It will take more time for marketing teams to produce this level of content, but if you’re committed to publishing fewer social media posts, there is then more time to focus on producing, promoting and amplifying your content.

Promoting social media content

Another study, “7 Social Media Trends in the Pharmaceutical Industry” by Unmetric in 2017, specifically analyzed pharma brands on social media and found that they are also publishing less social content. In this Forbe’s article, Umetric explains this could be because “Companies may have already spent too much on content and [are] not necessarily reaching as wide an audience as before. Brands could also be reallocating money from content creation to content promotion and giving a longer shelf life to content.

Even while they are publishing less content to Facebook feeds, the study found that pharma companies are seeing higher engagement on their posts, mainly in the form of likes, “which suggests paid promotion is largely responsible for the increase.”

By creating just a few high-quality pieces of content, you can focus on putting your promotion budget behind content you know reflects your brand’s expertise and authority. It also makes promotion easier as it is hard to get your influencers, or your own staff, to share content every day.

Videos for social media

The researchers of the Unmetrics study were surprised to see some pharma brands using Facebook Live and videos, but it’s a worthwhile tactic. The study explains that “the nature of video (requiring more production costs, effort and time) could explain the reduction in the amount of content that’s coming out now as opposed to a year ago.”

Another analysis of pharma’s social media content found that in 2016, pharma brands received more shares and comments per video than for any other type of content.

Video content is constantly becoming a more powerful tool for all brands on social media, but for healthcare and pharma brands, video is one of the best ways to connect with an audience. Educational and helpful video presents a compelling opportunity to show your brand cares about your customers and to build an online community. Video — especially live video — also helps break down the barriers that regulations and guidelines create.

[RELATED: Content Marketing for Pharma and Healthcare – 5 Tips to Improve a MAT Release]

Examples of social media content from a healthcare brand

Boston Scientific’s Facebook page represents the idea that less is more. In February, the medical tech and pharmaceutical company capitalized on Heart Month by posting various types of content including videos that tell patients’ stories, graphics with interesting stats, a quiz that tests heart-health knowledge and user-generated content.

They didn’t post every day, but each post served a very focused purpose. As the research above suggests, Boston Scientific favors less content with greater quality, like the professionally produced videos. Along with these high-quality videos, the quiz proved to be a valuable asset, which garnered 580 reactions, 26 comments and 140 shares. The high number of reactions suggests that the post may have also been promoted.

This quiz is a great example of how to use interactive content that also teaches Boston Scientific’s audience about cardiovascular disease. This knowledge may help their audience feel more confident about the disease’s warning symptoms or have a better understanding of what their loved one with the disease might be experiencing.

Educational content, such as that quiz, helps Boston Scientific demonstrate that they are an authority on the topic and that they can be trusted as a source on cardiovascular disease. At the same time, the user-generated photos help build a community of people who have been positively impacted by Boston Scientific’s products and want to help spread heart-health awareness.

Quality over quantity

Now that there’s more competition on social media and Facebook’s algorithm has decreased engagements and traffic referral, healthcare and pharma brands should focus on the idea that less is more. Don’t feel pressure to post frequently, but rather provide your audience with high-quality, carefully crafted content.

This will allow you to have more resources for producing video content, as well as focus on content promotion to reach your targeted audience. Publishing fewer social media posts will also allow you to take the time to ensure your content meets the proper compliance guidelines.


This post was originally published in November 2015. It has been updated for relevance and comprehensiveness.

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