Jinfo BlogThe Role of Social Media in the Biopharma Industry

Tuesday, 6th May 2014

By Yulia Aspinall

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Yulia Aspinall considers the role and use of social media in the biopharma industry and healthcare in areas such as information gathering by patients and enterprise competitive intelligence. She identifies recent FreePint articles and reviews covering topics such as risks of social media and tools for social media monitoring. She highlights information providers which offer access to specific pharma content.


The role of social media as a tool for communication, information and knowledge exchange is growing year by year along with the number of resources and various tools for communication online which are now used routinely by individuals and organisations in a diverse range of industries.

Pharma Companies Slow to "Go Social"

The use of social media in the biopharmaceutical industry, however, has been much slower largely due to regulatory concerns and conservatism.

The recent study "Engaging Patients Through Social Media" found that among the top 50 pharmaceutical companies worldwide, nearly half actively participate in social media on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. However, only 10 companies use all three of these major social networking services for healthcare topics. 

Monitoring Social Media

The subject of social media has been widely discussed by FreePint authors.

Many articles and reviews have been dedicated to resources which help to monitor various social media online:

Meltwater, for example, lists GlaxoSmithKline and Johnson & Johnson amongst its customers.

Chris Porter provides a useful introduction to the options for social media monitoring while Claire Whayman considers DIY solutions for monitoring.


Highlighting the increasing importance of social media monitoring and analytics for pharmaceutical companies, known as "socialytics", is an IDC MarketScape report, Worldwide Pharmaceutical Social Media Analytics 2012 Vendor Assessment.

IDC's Eric Newmark explains that companies are using such solutions to "measure brand reputation, keep tabs on end-user consumer sentiment around products and therapeutic categories, and gain insight into competing brand strategy, pricing, promotions, and other relevant competitive information".

And it's not only pharma companies that want to find out what consumers and competitors are saying on social media; industry bodies such as the FDA reportedly are also seeking to monitor social media to find out how well their messages are getting through.

Take Note of the Risks

Special attention, though, should be given to articles discussing the risks social media can represent for businesses.

James Mullan, in his article Social Media Sources: Misinformation or Goldmine? stresses that “an incorrect piece of information provided to a client could have potentially disastrous results. However, in the social media sphere knowing what is and isn't the truth, especially in relation to 'breaking news' can be hard to determine”.

In his update Social Media - Admit Nothing, Tim Buckley Owen highlights the issues that public social media face in engaging with their users, and points out that “Facebook may have made short work of a recent study predicting its imminent collapse, but subsequent results from Twitter and LinkedIn suggest that all is not well in the world of social media”.

A Force to be Reckoned With

The transformation of healthcare information gathering by biopharma professionals, and especially by patients, reinforces the increasing importance of monitoring and using social media tools in the healthcare industry.

Patients are taking an active role in seeking health information to get a better understanding of their health conditions and the treatments or medications they are receiving. They often go online to search for authoritative information or to communicate with peers who have similar health conditions.

Social media plays an important role in empowering patients to acquire healthcare knowledge.

Next Steps

Information vendors (PharmaCircle, InfoNgen), who provide access to filtered social media content, may have advantages over other information providers, who do not include this group of resources in the portfolio. 

FreePint, with over 350 articles in this area, is undoubtedly a great starting place for information professionals interested in social media monitoring, value and resources.

The newly launched FreePint Topic Series: Next-Generation Competitive Intelligence will include articles on the pharma industry and strategies and tools for competitive intelligence.

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Editor's Note

The Social Enterprise

FreePint readers may be interested to read more about maximising internal social connections and knowledge management in the FreePint Topic Series: The Social Enterprise which ran from January to March 2014.You can still register your interest to receive a free copy of the FreePint Report: Buyer's Guide on Social Tools published in March.

Next-Generation Competitive Intelligence

Readers may be interested in the FreePint Topic Series: Next-Generation Competitive Intelligence running from May-June 2014 which includes articles, reviews and expert tips on making the most of evolving technology to conduct competitive intelligence. Register your interest now, and you'll also get a free copy of the FreePint Report: Buyer's Guide on Competitive Intelligence when it's published in June.

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Item URL: https://web.jinfo.com/go/blog/71302
Printed: Wednesday, 15th July 2020

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