Thinking about socializing?

Social media leverages technology and provides us the means to communicate with each other like never before. In an instant we can share information with friends and family, or reach out to people we’ve never met before who may share common interests. From videos and pictures to the written word, social media accelerates communication through immediate connectivity.

Any doubts on how pervasive social media has become? Just look at these 2014 data points cited by Digital Insights:


  • 1 billion monthly active users
  • 50 million pages


  • 255 million monthly active users
  • 500 million Tweets sent every day


  • 200 million monthly active users
  • 20 billion photos shared


  • 187 million monthly active users
  • More than 2 users sign-up every second


  • 40 million monthly active users


  • 30 million monthly active users
  • 400 million Snapchats per day


  • 1 billion users
  • 6 billion hours of video watched per month


  • 6.7 million regularly posting through dedicated blogging sites

Social media is mainstream. So mainstream, it has everyone wanting in. Harnessing social media in healthcare, however, presents both distinct challenges and opportunities. Even with a draft guidance, it is something the FDA continues to assess. Although there may be areas of ambiguity, it is clear that the agency will continue to hold companies responsible for their communication, regardless of the print or digital platforms adopted.

So where to start? Here are some key questions to ask before going too far in any direction:

  1. How are you defining social media? Don’t assume that everyone shares the same concept.
  2. Specifically, what do you want to accomplish through social media?
  3. Who are you targeting and have you validated that the audience(s) use social media? Some professionals and generations shy away from personal use, while others will use it for personal, but not professional matters.
  4. Are your social media goals aligned with your target audience needs? Has this been validated? If you don’t give people a platform and content they want, they simply will not participate.
  5. What, if any, social media channels do your target audiences already use? It’s optimal to have a strong understanding of how and why your targets are engaging and their level of satisfaction with the platform.
  6. How will you measure success?
  7. Is there multidisciplinary support for developing a social media strategy? It’s critical that leadership, marketing, legal, regulatory and medical all agree on the value and necessity.
  8. Are there any concerns from these disciplines specific to developing and implementing social media (from a content perspective? From a financial perspective? From a liability perspective?
  9. What level of support exists for keeping the social media pipe flush with content? Or how will you incent users to do so?
  10. Ultimately, how will your social media strategy support your overall brand plan? How will it add to or work in conjunction with other print and digital communication?

Like any communication with your audiences, it is essential for not only the message, but the medium to be credible. If, for example, your social media platform is going to be moderated (i.e, no instantaneous posting), then users need to know. If not all content is going to be able to be posted, then users need to know. Often the more you regulate, the more you limit the chances of adoption. A clear policy on posting for users to agree to prior to using the platform is recommended. But again, if you are providing the platform, even only through sponsorship, then you are responsible for content. Whether someone is using the platform to report an adverse event, make an unsubstantiated product claim, or even a true statement without fair balance, you are responsible.

Social media can be powerful. Very powerful. But in order for it to be woven intelligently into your brand plan, you need to start with understanding audience behavior. The platform has to provide interactivity that your audience actually values and wants. Credibly and compliantly. Social media for social media’s sake is not the answer. It must be strategically driven. It must meet not only the needs of your brand, but do so by addressing the needs of your customers.

by Jonathan D. Katz