Social media covers a range of different online, interactive sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, and these different platforms have a considerable reach and following, with many sites boasting millions of users and daily visits. Despite the rapidly growing popularity of social media, the pharmaceutical industry has been slow to embrace it, constrained by compliance and regulatory concerns and bound by a traditional reluctance for change. However, the successes seen in other industries and the increasing use of social media by key customers - in particular patients and physicians - means that the pharmaceutical industry can no longer afford to ignore social media, and several companies have taken the leap with Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and a YouTube presence.
Social media is constantly evolving and new sites are regularly emerging; however, it is expected that the longer-standing platforms such as Facebook and Twitter will continue to dominate, particularly in relation to the pharmaceutical industry. As such, most pharmaceutical companies are creating social media teams to both manage their online social media presence and ensure a robust strategy that takes advantage of the range of benefits that social media provides.
Social media gives pharmaceutical companies the opportunity to engage directly with patients and physicians and rapidly respond to questions, requests for information, and negative opinions on products. More advanced companies are utilizing social media to understand unmet needs, design clinical programs, and discover thought leaders. However, there is still a note of caution, with compliance being at the forefront of many pharmaceutical companies' minds, and, while the industry is starting to embrace social media and build on the many opportunities that it affords them, without clear finalized regulatory guidance, remaining compliant will continue to be main challenge facing the industry.