Updating the status of social media for life science companies

19 July 2016| by Georgia Davies

People are using social media platforms now more than ever. The consequence? Control has shifted from companies to consumers. Your audience can now regulate exactly when, where, and how they interact with your content and services, and may then respond in a very public way. The increasingly independent consumer thus poses a real challenge to life science marketing and sales teams. Leaving their conversations unmonitored can risk reputational damage and be a waste of valuable opportunities for insight and exposure.

In fierce reaction to the opportunities and dangers presented by social media, companies of all industries have tactically embedded themselves into their consumer’s conversations. Yet, for the life sciences, such movement has been somewhat lethargic, as existing regulatory guidelines on reporting obligations remain relatively out of touch. Whilst many life sciences companies are bypassing social media altogether, those that do attempt to engage with customers in this way, often do so only half-heartedly.

Social media platforms life science companies can master Image: Shutterstock

Yet, whilst manoeuvring through the social media landscape has increased complexities for life science companies, when carefully considered, it remains an opportunity with immense prospect. Indeed Dr. Matis-Mitchell, Text and Data Analytics Commercial Lead for Life Sciences Solutions at Elsevier, argues that ‘although pharma perceives some risk in using social media, it’s actually riskier not to use it’. The solution?  Life science companies must fully embrace social media, becoming social media ninjas so as to regain the ability to subtly and directly influence patients, physicians, researchers, industry, policy-makers and other key stakeholders. In doing so, further significant opportunities can be embraced:

1. Amass Intelligence

It is vital to understand who your audience is, what they say and how they engage with your material. Social media offers instant access to rich data, which, using analytics such as Klout or Audiense, can be used to segment an audience and analyse their conversation at a granular level. In doing so, companies gain an invaluable insight into the tone and topics of conversation across different groups on multiple channels. By harnessing this information, you can precisely target SEO tactics and content at an unprecedented scale, ensuring maximum interest and ultimately increased action.

2. Be part of the conversation

Directly engaging with your target audience can boost your influence and reinforce your credibility. Most plainly, people prefer things they are familiar with, known as the ‘mere-exposure’ effect. In addition, most social media channels are transient mediums, so any content you post is only likely to spend a small amount of time at the front and centre of your customers’ feeds. As such, frequent social media posting is the key to unlocking a favourable audience evaluation, increased following and heightened customer engagement. Beware, this doesn’t advocate becoming a social media ‘pest’ or sacrificing post quality. A strategic balance is required which focuses regular, targeted activity towards an audience group of interest. In doing so, you can ensure maximum visibility and ultimately reap the rewards of your increased social media presence.

Although simply joining conversations is a great way to answer public queries, complaints and curiosities, we strongly believe that the focal-point of your social media strategy should be thought leadership through content creation. Posting high-quality and original content can lead to your recognition as a source of valuable scientific contribution.

3. Measure performance and iterate to improve

Using analytic tools such as HubSpot, we found that a revaluation of our social media strategy encompassing a 300% increase in monthly activity through additional, targeted content creation and curation, resulted in 230% more interactions and a 160% increase in website visitors. Considering the results of our in-house experiment, we concluded that targeting the right people with the right content drives targeted traffic to your website and, as a long as you are providing value and carefully control your positing frequency, the saturation effect is minimal. Using metrics and measurement tools the impact is quantifiable and results clear.


For life science companies, despite a number of strategic and resource challenges, social media engagement remains an extremely valuable investment. Listening, joining and leading online conversations offers unique opportunities for market insight, exposure and brand promotion. By harnessing such opportunities, you can trigger measurable impact on your consumer engagement which can lead to increased brand awareness, more visits to your website and an upswing in lead capture.

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