How to harness the power of social media in your life science PR strategy

20 July 2023| by Paul Avery

How to harness the power of social media in your life science PR strategy

In the ever-changing landscape of the life sciences industry, public relations (PR) plays a vital role in shaping perceptions, managing communication channels, and nurturing relationships with important stakeholders. As the industry continues to evolve, driven by technological advancements and ecosystem changes, PR strategies must also adapt. One significant factor that is driving this evolution is the widespread influence of social media.

Social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook were originally created for personal connections, but they have now evolved into powerful tools for sharing information and engaging with stakeholders. This digital revolution presents both challenges and opportunities for life science companies. On one hand, it can increase the impact of crises, but on the other hand, it can also boost brand visibility, foster trust, and cultivate relationships with important industry stakeholders.

As such, understanding how social media shapes PR strategies is vital for any life sciences company. This blog will dissect the different ways in which social media is redefining PR in the life sciences industry, which you can harness to boost your life science PR results.

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Social media in boosting PR reach and engagement in the life sciences

Social media has altered the playing field for PR professionals in the life sciences, offering opportunities to enhance brand visibility, improve reputation, and develop lasting stakeholder relationships. 

With billions of active users worldwide, social media platforms offer an incredible opportunity for life sciences companies to spread their messages globally. Moreover, these platforms provide tailored targeting options, allowing firms to reach the right audience at the perfect time.

More than just expanding the audience reach, the interactive nature of social media platforms fundamentally reshapes PR engagement. The two-way dialogue fostered by social media allows organisations to not only broadcast information but also collect feedback and engage directly with stakeholders. For B2B life sciences PR, where the audience comprises professionals who value technical content and meaningful discussions, this interactive dynamic promotes trust, opens up communication channels, and fosters loyalty.

Harnessing influencers to boost reach and impact

In the age of digital communication, the importance of influencers can't be overstated. Especially in the life sciences sector, influencers emerge as industry-specific thought leaders and experts, often referred to as Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs). These individuals hold a significant amount of influence, commanding trust and respect within the scientific community. Engaging with these influencers, particularly through social media, can dramatically enhance the reach, impact, and credibility of PR campaigns.

When a respected KOL endorses or shares your content on their social media platforms, they not only increase the visibility of your content but also lend their credibility to your message. This third-party validation can be instrumental in building trust with your target audience, as individuals often place more trust in their peers and experts they admire than in corporate messaging. These influencers are often key scientific figures across academia and industry, but they can also include media figures such as editors, journalists, and business analysts. 

However, it's important to note that effective influencer collaboration is more than just about identification and outreach; it's also about alignment. To truly leverage the power of influencers, companies need to strategically identify KOLs who not only have significant reach within their target audience, but also share their values, interest areas, and goals. Mutual benefits and shared values are crucial for a successful and sustainable influencer collaboration, as this ensures that the content shared is relevant and authentic, which enhances audience engagement and builds long-term trust.

Navigating PR in the world of dark social

Dark social, a term coined by Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic, refers to the sharing of content that occurs outside of what can be measured by web analytics programs. This includes sharing through private channels like email, instant messaging apps, and private social media profiles. As these channels continue to grow in popularity, understanding and leveraging dark social has become an important part of a PR strategy.

Dark social can pose challenges for PR professionals because it lacks the traditional tracking methods found in public platforms. However, it also presents a significant opportunity. Sharing through these private channels can often be a strong indicator of high-quality, engaging content. If someone is taking the time to personally share content with their close network, it typically signifies a higher level of interest or engagement with that content.

Therefore, one of the first steps to harnessing dark social is to create compelling content that people want to share. With this in mind, content that sparks conversation, provides value or inspires people is more likely to be shared through personal messages. Similarly, making it easier for your audience to share content privately, such as including shareable links or making your content easily downloadable, can also enhance your reach in dark social.

Lastly, even though you cannot directly track dark social shares, there are tactics that you can employ to glean insights. For example, the use of trackable links or UTM parameters can provide some visibility into private shares. PR professionals can also engage with their audiences to understand their sharing habits. Surveys, feedback forms, or social listening can provide insights into what type of content is being shared, how it's being received, and where it's being discussed.

Leveraging social media for real-time feedback and communication

The fast-paced nature of the life sciences industry necessitates immediate, real-time communication. Social media can help full this need, enabling swift communication and providing a means for instantaneous market feedback. The ability to share updates in real time allows companies to relay developments, announce collaborations, and respond to industry trends promptly. It also provides a direct channel for stakeholder feedback, which can be used to adjust and fine-tune messaging as needed.

In the context of B2B life sciences PR, rapid two-way communication promotes transparency and accountability, qualities that are highly valued by professional audiences. Swift responses to queries or comments can showcase an organisation's commitment to customer service and meaningful discussions, while real-time feedback can guide the future PR strategies, helping organisations deliver more effective, targeted campaigns.

Amplifying content distribution through social media

Social media can significantly enhance the reach and impact of content in the life sciences industry. It not only enables broader distribution of content like press releases, product announcements, and educational materials, but also ensures that the content reaches a larger audience.

The interactive nature of social media promotes active engagement with your content. Audiences can comment, share, or even start conversations around the content, enhancing its visibility and credibility. This peer-to-peer content sharing often leads to a wider audience reach, increased brand awareness, and can even lead to unexpected market insights, generated by the ensuing conversation on social media networks.

Additionally, tracking which content resonates most with your audience, by analysing likes, shares, and comments, allows for continuous optimisation of your content strategy. It enables life sciences organisations to understand their audience better and tailor future content to meet their interests and needs.

Managing PR crises through social media

Social media provides a vital tool for managing PR crises in the life sciences sector, allowing for real-time monitoring and swift responses. Social listening tools can detect emerging issues early, providing a window of opportunity to prepare a well-thought-out response. In addition to early detection, this proactive monitoring helps identify the sources and major influencers in the conversation, which could be pivotal in crisis management.

When a crisis hits, social media serves as an immediate, direct communication channel to various stakeholders. Transparency is key during this phase. Regular updates about  the current situation, the measures taken, and what stakeholders can expect can help manage perceptions and reduce panic or speculation. The ability to promptly respond helps curtail the spread of misinformation and assures audiences that the situation is under control.

In the aftermath, social media engagement data can offer valuable insights into how well the crisis was handled. The nature and volume of responses, shares, and sentiment can shed light on whether the message was perceived positively or negatively, which aspects of the crisis management were appreciated or criticised, and how the crisis has affected the life science brand's reputation.

Understanding your audience through social listening

Social listening refers to monitoring social media platforms for mentions and conversations related to your brand, competitors, or relevant industry topics. For life sciences companies, it provides valuable insights into stakeholders' perceptions, needs, and concerns.

By understanding the sentiments and trends prevalent among the target audience, companies can align their communications to address the audience's interests. They can also identify key influencers in their industry whose opinions are highly valued and use this insight to guide their influencer outreach strategy.

Moreover, social listening enables life sciences companies to spot emerging trends, issues, or opportunities in their industry. It provides an early warning system for potential crises or negative sentiment and allows businesses to understand the impact of their PR campaigns by tracking changes in sentiment and engagement.

Measuring the success of PR campaigns with social media analytics

Social media analytics offer quantitative measures of the effectiveness of PR campaigns. By analysing metrics such as reach, engagement, sentiment, follower growth, and share of voice, life sciences organisations can assess the impact of their campaigns and refine their strategies.

Reach indicates the number of unique users who have seen the campaign, providing a measure of the campaign's visibility. Engagement metrics like likes, shares, and comments reveal how the audience is interacting with the campaign, indicating its resonance. Sentiment analysis helps gauge public opinion and mood concerning the campaign, while share of voice compares the brand's visibility to that of its competitors.

These metrics provide valuable feedback that can be used to refine future PR campaigns. Continuous monitoring and analysis allow for adjustments in real time, ensuring the campaign stays relevant and effective. It also aids in reporting the campaign's success to internal business stakeholders and justifying the investment in PR activities.

Looking ahead: The continued influence of social media on life sciences PR

In conclusion, social media wields significant influence in the life sciences sector, far beyond mere promotion. It plays an indispensable role in crisis management, content distribution, audience understanding, and campaign analytics. Through real-time responses, influencer collaborations, and control over narrative, it allows companies to navigate PR crises effectively and increase their reach and visibility.

Furthermore, social media facilitates a more profound understanding of the audience through social listening, enabling businesses to craft more focused, impactful communications. Additionally, it offers quantitative metrics that make PR campaigns' success tangible, aiding in the continual refinement of PR strategies. This holds true even in the shadowy realm of dark social, which offers potential for unique audience engagement if handled with care and an open mind around whether comprehensive trackability is truly essential for delivering a successful PR program.

In essence, to maximise their PR efforts, life sciences organisations must fully utilise social media. They need to leverage its tools and platforms as integral components of their communication strategies, ensuring a more comprehensive and effective approach to their PR campaigns.

At BioStrata, we understand the vital role of social media in modern PR strategies, particularly within the life sciences industry. Our team of scientific and marketing specialists is ready to help you develop and implement a comprehensive public relations strategy that integrates social media, influencer collaborations, crisis management, content distribution, audience understanding, and campaign analytics.

Ready to take your life science PR to the next level? Learn more about BioStrata's PR services and explore how we can help you boost your PR strategy in the life sciences.

Learn more about our life science PR services