Category Archives: Social Media


Pharma Social Media Conference 2017 Recap

Recently, we sponsored and spoke at the Pharma Social Media Conference in London, 28 June 2017.

The conference programme consisted of an exciting day of presentations by high level executives from companies such as GE Healthcare, Roche, Bristol-Myers Squib and Teva Pharmaceuticals.

Rebecca Joslin, Senior Director, Global Digital Engagement Strategy Lead, Shire, summed it up neatly: “Social media is a trust economy”. This sentiment really resonated with the audience.

As did “Reach you buy, engagement and loyalty you earn” from Jannick Friss Larsen, Senior Manager, Customer Experience, Europe, Teva Pharmaceuticals.

A recurring theme throughout the conference was that online users’ expectations have changed. No longer judged by just the most recent interaction with a pharma brand, the customer experience needs to be as good as any found online in the consumer world. As our Commercial Director, Andy Stafford said in his presentation: Put the user at the heart of your digital marketing activities. Research → Test →  Improve → Analyse → Repeat.

There was a general consensus that the starting point should always be the brand’s business/marketing objectives, as pointed out by Alex Saunders, Head of Global Digital Communications, GSK and also mentioned by our own Andy Stafford, who was name checked by a few fellow presenters for his comment “Better digital starts with a clear strategy”.

Andy-Stafford-Pharma-Social-Media-2017A key point highlighted by Aslihan Unal, Digital Strategy Group Manager, Janssen in her presentation: “Move Beyond Reporting to Real Measurement & Evaluation Which Showcases Social Media Benefit, Performance & Real World Benefit” is that  disease awareness is a key topic for patients, who are taking more control of their health management. Preventative care is becoming more important, particularly with Millenials, who reach out to their peers on social media as reliable sources of information about the disease, the treatment, and what questions to ask their healthcare professionals. It’s a win-win for everyone: Aware patients result in higher disease management which results overall in a healthier community.

An underlying sentiment was that HCPs are people → they are researching, you can engage with them when they are off-duty. No longer should the focus of pharma marketing be on features/benefits/products. Instead, find out what info is valuable to them through and where they spend time researching/interacting online through social monitoring and then create a social strategy that resonates with them.

If you’d like a copy of Andy’s presentation “Digital Outcomes Through Social”, please email us at We look forward to hearing from you!


Pharma Social Media Conference June 2017

The Pharma Social Media Conference returns to London next week, 28th June, and our commercial director, Andy Stafford, will be presenting at this one-day event.

Attendees will learn how to create engaging and compliant social media strategies for the Life Sciences and Pharma sectors.

Andy will speak on the topic Digital Outcomes Through Social.

When: 28th June 2017, 12:30-12:45
Where: One America Square, London, EC3N 2LS

We’ll be exhibiting at the conference, stop by and say hi if you’re attending. We’d love to speak with you!


Cancer Research UK Gets Social With HCPs

Cancer Research UK aim to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured. More people than ever before are being diagnosed with cancer in the UK, and in particular, rates of oral cancer have risen dramatically in the last 10 years. Cancer Research UK, supported by the British Dental Association and accredited by the Royal College of General Practitioners, developed an Oral Cancer Recognition Toolkit to promote and support the early diagnosis of oral cancer by dentists and GPs. The toolkit includes a video, recognition and referral aids, case studies and other resources to help support best practice in the prevention and early detection of oral cancer.

Nitro Digital was chosen for the project based on its in-depth knowledge of the healthcare space and its methodical, multidimensional approach to strategising and executing successful online marketing campaigns and its knowledge of how to connect and engage with HCPs online. Taking the lead from Nitro, a tactical digital strategy and plan were developed to harness social media channels to drive awareness and targeted visitors to the appropriate toolkit. The campaign was timed to run for two weeks during Mouth Cancer Action Month (November 2016), and the toolkits were placed on two key healthcare websites, chosen specifically for their relevant readership. Nitro launched  a two-pronged social media planning and buying campaign, selecting two channels (Facebook and LinkedIn) to direct traffic to the landing pages. Ad creative and messaging was tailored to each audience. Chosen KPIs included clicks, impressions, CTR, CPC and using GA.

As this was an experiment for the client, learnings were key. Cancer Research UK had not used social media to reach HCPs before, so there was great interest in seeing how well the campaign would perform. Overall, it delivered strong results and as the CPC was not significantly different from what the client was used to seeing when targeting the general public, they were pleasantly surprised. Nitro, too, was pleased with the initial results, as they demonstrate the opportunity for improvement in the future, with learnings from this pilot effort informing new HCP-centric campaigns going forward. Most important, however, the campaign proved that digital marketing could achieve results and provide insight into audience behaviour that could be used to refine future, similar online activity.

Both medical professionals and patients are becoming increasingly digitally savvy. Social media, in particular, is likely to have a major impact in the way that pharma communicates in the coming years. 52% of physicians surveyed by Deloitte expressed interest in communicating with pharma companies via social media.* Massive opportunities await for those brands that embrace this new digital engagement.

*, published Jan 2016


5th Digital Pharma Advances Conference

The 5th Digital Pharma Advances Conference returns to London at the end of January and our Commercial Director Andy Stafford will be presenting both at this event and the workshop the next day. 

Attendees will get a glimpse into the future of pharma, hearing from industry leaders about digital trends, value-add services and engagement opportunities, and the technologies and innovations that will benefit not just marketing and sales but also public health.

Andy-Stafford-headshotAndy will speak on the topic Multi-channel Integration: Test & Learn To Engage In Digital.

When: 31st January 2017, 14:05-14:20
Where: Millennium Mayfair Hotel, Central London

At the workshop, Innovative Social Media, Digital & Measurement Strategies, Andy will lead discussion on the topic Let’s Improve Digital Engagement, Now. 

1st February 2017, 10-10:20
Where: Millennium Mayfair Hotel, Central London

We’ll be exhibiting at the conference on the 31st, stop by and say hi if you’re attending. We’d love to speak with you.

image of youtube logo with a pharma symbol ona tv

YouTube and Pharma

Founded nearly ten years ago by two fresh out of college graduates who met while working at Paypal, YouTube is the result of their capitalisation on the problem of video sharing online (as in there was none), seeing a gap in the market and filling it.  A year later they were acquired by Google for $1.65 billion in Google stocks (clearly they filled the market gap successfully!). Today, YouTube has more than 1 billion unique users a month, watching 6 billion hours of video, while 100 hours of video are uploaded every minute.

Valuable information

There are thousands of pharma videos on YouTube, from CSR and HR videos to MoA videos and patient stories. But what value do these videos provide to viewers (media, healthcare professionals, employees and prospective employees, patients) and what value do they provide to the pharma brand? Videos are costly to produce, and many times, a large budget is spent on production, but nothing is spent on promotion.

Upload it and they will come doesn’t work for YouTube videos, it’s better to spend less producing a few videos, which are promoted and tested before more videos are put into production. Test, measure and learn is definitely a concept that should be applied to YouTube content creation, to improve the ROI, watch time, and sharing of valuable video content.

Social first

YouTube was one of the first social media platforms adopted by Pharma; it’s a safer way of getting information into the public domain (comments can be switched off, reducing regulation/administration) making it a more viable option than other social media channels.

But what makes content successful for pharma on YouTube? As with any content, the human element, drawing on people’s own experiences or ability to empathise with the people on screen can have great success. Think of how many times you’ve hit the ‘like’ button because you’ve related or empathised with the content in front of you?

One example is Johnson and Johnson who launched a channel called JNJ Health with the tag line ‘videos about health, family and social responsibility’. Not just bringing you technical explanations of how devices and drugs work, Johnson and Johnson have gone the extra mile by bringing the viewer stories from real people with real problems, showing their side of the story. Stories like these are not just important to patients and relatives but also to doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals, helping them to understand the patient journey, not just the clinical facts or what text books tell them.

Heads or tails?

However, on the flip side of the coin it’s also essential that heartwarming stories do not cloud the facts. Boehringer Ingelheim has done this with great success; creating videos that relate directly to how a condition can affect someone physically through to videos presenting the process of researching and developing new compounds.

They also create content specific playlists for key events in the healthcare calendar. Take the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) annual conference for example, for two years running BI have had a playlist created of all the key information so that healthcare professionals who may not be able to attend are able to watch, or for HCPs who were there, they can watch again later.

This was particularly important for BI in 2013 to support their presentation of significant clinical data to oncologists. Using this method helped to make sure that everyone got the message about key developments, not just the conference attendees. Debbie Denison, Head of Marketing for Nitro Digital, says: “We found that HCPs and media engaged with patient stories and MoA videos in pretty much equal measure. YouTube is a valuable asset for pharma brands to use during major conferences. Promoting the individual videos and playlists extends the reach of key messages and video content is often much more engaging than text!”

In bed

Youtube particularly works for campaigns focussed on a particular subject. For example the ‘In Bed Story’ from Bayer (with Pharma Digital Marketing), used animation to follow the patient journey of a man called Dennis who had Erectile Dysfunction (ED). Following Dennis from the initial embarrassment he felt about having ED through to finally making an appointment to see his doctor, meant that they could effectively address questions men have and dispel any common myths. Their target audience was 40+ men, who they found spent more time on video sharing sites than any other sites. The aim was to improve the amount of time men take (typically 2 years) before going to see a doctor. Their campaign was so successful it was award winning, scoring the Healthcare/Pharma award and Grand Prix award at the Revolution Awards.

Risky business

A careful balance is needed for pharma and YouTube. Firstly, sub brands of the same company developing their own channels, essentially driving valuable views to potentially the wrong material, or creating an extra hurdle in the user journey can tip the balance. This can, in some cases, delay or prevent the success of the video/channel, sometimes significantly. However with the right name for the channel or the right targeting you can also tip the balance in your favour.

A second issue is not staying on top of the information you have given. If the information is old or inaccurate, this could be potentially damaging for your reputation, which is a key component of gaining and keeping customers and advocates for your business.

Thirdly, just because a video is posted on YouTube it doesn’t mean that it will become an internet sensation. The video still needs to be marketed and people still need to be told about it, so using other social elements to enhance the message is a great way to do just that. Promoting videos through social channels and YouTube paid ads is a great way to do that. The information should also be timely and with purpose, not just for the sake of posting.

phone displaying Figure 1

It Figures

Following recent developments in healthcare and technology (everyone’s getting in on it lately!), it’s no surprise that a new photo sharing app dubbed ‘Instagram for Doctors’ has been a great success, and is set to be rolled out across western Europe.

Figure 1’ is a medical photo sharing app that brings healthcare professionals (HCPs) together in a global online community to discuss and share medical images of patients (with their permission). HCPs can add cases by uploading photos, as well as make use of the reference image library, search images by anatomy or speciality, and join in discussions.

The app was founded by Canadian Doctor Joshua Landy, MD, who says: “We developed Figure 1 so members of the healthcare community could share images, knowledge, and clinical insight with each other, while safeguarding patient privacy.”

The idea is so simple it’s a wonder nothing like Figure 1 has been launched before. The only services close to what Figure 1 offer require subscription fees, whereas previous methods of file sharing between HCPs, such as email and post (yes, they still use post!) have proved inefficient and slow, while other digital sharing methods, like MMS or WhatsApp, raise security concerns. These older methods still only allow a few to access few images, but with Figure 1 an entire library and forum of over 50 million uploads is available at your fingertips, as is the collective knowledge of thousands of HCPs.

Co-operative Community

Figure 1 is free and currently available in North America, the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, with plans to expand quickly.

While anyone can download the app, only verified HCPs (who go through a rigorous identification process) can upload photos or comment on them, ensuring helpful and significant discussion from qualified participants. HCPs are also advised to notify their employers and patients they’re using the app, and both HCPs and patients have to sign a digital consent form before any content can be uploaded.

Figure 1 makes for an excellent medical educational tool for students and qualified HCPs alike. It’s about making useful, real-life medical images easily accessible in a digital community that cares. HCPs can now not only get a second opinion but a third, fourth, fifth, etc. It’s a big breakthrough in harnessing the power of digitisation and social media for medical benefit, something the industry is notoriously slow to pick up on.

So, surely a hub of shared medical expertise can only mean good news?

It would seem not. As with any digital sharing service there are  privacy concerns surrounding Figure 1, particularly as the data being handled is both medical and personal.

However, Figure 1 was actually borne out of security concerns for other sharing methods. Dr Landy saw that doctors and medical students were using smart phones and social media to share information about patients in way that didn’t protect patient privacy or store the records securely.

“Tens of thousands of times a day patient records and educational images are transferred from healthcare provider to healthcare provider,” Dr Landy says. “We were thinking of a way to try and preserve and protect that information in an archive that’s searchable and useful.”

So for Figure 1, security is paramount.

First things first – they safeguard patient privacy. All patient identities are obscured automatically by the app with face detection software, and HCPs can further obscure images if needed, for example to cover other identifying marks like tattoos. With each upload, users can choose whether to share with the entire community, a specific group or just one or two colleagues. Finally, all photographs have to go through a moderation process before they are published.

The company also operate a ‘no secrets’ policy. If you don’t keep any secrets you can’t lose them, so the app doesn’t store or access any patient records whatsoever.

However, online medical data breaches do happen, and it’s not like they’re anything new.  Just earlier this year saw the second largest medical data breach ever recorded by the US Department of Health and Human Services, where a network server hack resulted in 4.5 million individuals being affected. 2013 saw the third largest, which still affected over 4 million people.

However, these cyber-attacks are usually carried out to get patient information, like name, address, contact numbers, payment info, etc. – that can be used for fraud and identity theft. Figure 1 doesn’t store any personal information or anything useful to others though, unless you happen to really like pictures of skin diseases and x-rays.

The only data attached to the image is the user who uploaded it – the HCP. This one factor has still raised concern, GP and author Dr Ellie Cannon says that while she thinks “it’s potentially really useful to share photos with medical students and other doctors,” she feels that there’s an obvious “potential pitfall” in the confidentiality, and that despite patient anonymity, “uploading from a certain doctor may go some way to identify a patient.”

However, Dr Landy claims that “Legally, we found that identifying the doctor does not identify the patient.”

Given that some members of the public will happily expose their strange ailments for the world to see on Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies, this may not be a great concern to a lot of patients. Nevertheless, Figure 1 looks pretty fool-proof. The company maintain that patient privacy is as much a priority for them as it is for HCPs.

The Bottom Line

Figure 1 offers incredible potential for sharing knowledge and creating new bodies of information globally, all stemming from a simple photograph. As most uploads are typically more complex cases that call for outside input, there’s an abundance of interesting and rare cases that many HCPs might otherwise never see. Getting a global discussion going on a unique case could contribute to huge developments in various medical fields.

The app store page is full of gushing reviews touting its educational potential: “Hands down one of the best apps I have on my phone. App is well put together and there’s never a shortage of fascinating cases. I learn something new every time I’m using it!” Although a fair amount of users do warn not to peruse the feed whilst eating.

On the whole, Figure 1 could greatly contribute to the promising outlook developing in the unfolding healthtech revolution.