By Tiffany Ryan, VP, Account Services, Palio
While consumer’s communication pathways continue to become more virtual – teens are texting instead of calling, moms are connecting and arranging playdates through Facebook, and college students use Twitter over e-mail, DTC marketing still relies on traditional pathways for communication. Risk aversion remains a prominent roadblock in embracing new technologies and communicating with consumers on their terms.
The next generation is connected – they’re exposed to more ideas and they’re receptive to other’s opinions, whether it’s someone they know from the neighborhood or a stranger halfway around the world. They’re also in control; for brands it’s no longer about “having a visible online presence.” Instead, it’s about the engagement you offer the consumer when they do find you.
Customers and patients are talking about their experiences with brands on social platforms, whether marketers like it or not. This user generated content is visible and trusted by their peers. Marketers have two choices: let consumers drive their messaging, or ensure the brand has a consistent and appropriate voice by engaging in the dialogue. This is a huge step for DTC marketing as it means taking a risk, incorporating social strategy into the marketing mix, and cultivating an army of brand ambassadors. The absence of a social media strategy equates to missed opportunities to influence behavior and help consumers and patients make informed decisions. So how do we get there?
Take calculated risks. The FDA guidance has been vague, at best, so DTC marketers need to work with what we have, which requires establishing parameters and operating within the framework. No one is suggesting flying blind and tacking up a social presence for the sake of having representation. A strategic approach requires thinking about the conversations you want to have and the content you need to prepare to support it.
Don’t have too many cooks in the kitchen. Think you need to have the entire organization involved in social media to be successful? Think again. Executing a solid social media strategy requires having a few people who understand how to manage a social media program successfully, establishing goals and measuring against them at regular intervals. If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. DTC marketers need to engage legal and regulatory early in the process. The goal of this up front collaboration should be to lay out specific parameters and guidelines that allow for efficiencies downstream.
Empower people to share. More than 80 percent of consumers are online looking for health information – from their PC, mobile phone, Facebook friends and other mediums, creating a network for sharing and dissemination of key information. Extending the value of these platforms are word-of-mouth marketing and third-party endorsements – some of the most powerful marketing tools available. DTC marketers need to make it easy for information to be shared, whether that’s through widgets on a Facebook page or short, succinct messages that can be repeated and retweeted.
Don’t get hung up on ROI. Not every social interaction is going to have a hard-dollar return. However, there’s value in a strong reputation, good customer service and listening to your customers. Social media is not an advertising campaign. It is a relationship-building tool that takes time but is worthy of the investment. Customers and patients may not want to be a fan of their anti-itch medication, but they’ll ask their doctor about it if one of their friends or a community of users gives it high marks. This can translate to increased sales over time, but it doesn’t happen by magic or in a vacuum.
Billions of dollars in consumer brands are embracing social marketing. DTC needs to join the party. See an example of someone doing it well? Share it here!
Palio is an advertising agency revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing to create experiences that will Never Be Forgotten.