Fighting for a Voice in Owned, Disease-Area-Specific Social Media Channels

Written by
Joe Zandstra
Fighting for a Voice in Owned, Disease-Area-Specific Social Media Channels

How multiple healthcare brand teams can share and maximize the use of a single social media channel

To engage HCPs on social media, healthcare companies generally maintain a limited number of social media channels so they can retain central control and manage costs. A company may, for example, have a corporate Twitter handle for high-level corporate communications and perhaps three disease-area-specific handles.

For example, a disease-area-specific Twitter handle dedicated to respiratory diseases might be the only social media channel available to serve the needs of three different respiratory brand teams. Each brand team would be fighting for a share of voice to use the channel to communicate to physicians about the specific conditions served by their product portfolio.

Therefore, the key to social media success for healthcare companies is creating a system in which all brand teams can share the same disease-area-specific social media channel to serve the unbranded marketing needs of their products effectively.

If you’re a healthcare company that needs to set up a successful social media channel that serves the needs of multiple brand teams, there are four steps to consider:

Start with clear goals for your social media channel and define your posting frequency

Seeking ongoing engagement versus communicating solely around congresses and events

Healthcare companies sometimes face a difficult decision when it comes to social media: should they use a social channel for ongoing engagement with healthcare professionals, or should they only use it to post information about specific congresses and events?

Using a social channel for ongoing engagement – beyond congresses and events – allows HCPs to get to know the company and its approach to disease areas more personally.

However, some healthcare companies are not using their social channels for ongoing engagement. This limited use of social media is likely because keeping the channel up to date with fresh and relevant content can be more costly and time-consuming, and managing content calendars for multiple brand teams at the same time can be complex.

The clear disadvantage to this approach is that it won’t help build long-lasting relationships with HCPs. Using a social channel only for congresses and events means that HCPs will only see the company when looking for specific information about a particular event.

Whatever the approach you choose for your organization, the outcome should be a clear definition of the desired split within your channel between:

  • Communicating higher-level disease-area brand messaging
  • Ongoing engagement around specific diseases
  • Communications around congresses and events

Defining your posting frequency

How often you post will largely depend on the resources you have available and the amount of information you need to communicate – bearing in mind the needs of each brand team.

Suppose you have decided to pursue ongoing engagement, as well as to communicate around specific congresses and events. In that case, your posting frequency will be higher than if you were to use the channel for congresses and events alone.

It is hard to give a definitive recommendation for the frequency of posts. For example, the general consensus is that successful brands on Twitter publish anything between 3 and 30 posts per day. That’s quite a range.

You can optimize your posting frequency over time, but you must start your planning with a definitive number. In coming up with that number should consider your available resources to plan and produce posts, the communication needs of the disease area brand overall, and those of each brand team.

Once you have that number defined, you must be ready to make some tough decisions, in the next step, about which brand team gets more control of the social media content calendar on any given day.

Allocate the share of voice for your teams using the channel to align with your company’s business strategy

Starting with the total number of posts you have the resources to produce and publish over a given year, you must decide which team gets what allocation of posts and when. Two factors drive this decision:

  1. Your overall communications strategy around the disease area as a whole and the individual diseases within it (which is a product of your business strategy)
  2. The congresses and events that are scheduled for the year

One approach to allocating a share of voice would be to give each brand team an equal number of posts per year. Still, it is more likely that you will want to reflect the relative business importance of each disease driven by the value of the related treatments to the company.

For example, if one brand team represents a product that accounts for 80% of your company’s sales in the disease area, then that team is likely to want – and be given – a more significant share of voice.

You also need to consider how much brand-building you need to do at the level of the overall disease area. Suppose you are a new entrant into a particular disease area. It may be important to establish authority in that area, which would drive a need for a more significant proportion of posts at the disease area level. Established players within a disease area might be able to give more share of voice to individual diseases.  

Once you have decided on the split between overall disease area communication and the needs of the individual brand teams, you can start to look at when each team gets its allocation of posts.

You would need to decide based on the congresses and events scheduled throughout the year and any other planned communications activity.

It is important to note that not all brand teams will want – or need – the same number of posts around congresses and events. For example, if a brand team is launching a new product at a congress, they will likely need a greater number of posts in the lead-up to and during that congress.

The key here is to start with a clear understanding of the communications needs of your company’s brand overall and those of each brand team, and then allocate posts accordingly.

At this stage, you will have defined a plan that lays out the ownership and timing of posts throughout the year. This is the skeleton of a content calendar that you will flesh out in more detail in the following steps.

Plan a content strategy for each brand team individually and for the overall disease area holistically

When using a single social channel as a vehicle for meeting the communications needs of multiple teams, a content strategy needs to be developed at the level of each team individually while also considering the needs of your brand overall.

Initially, when thinking about defining the mix of different topics, content formats, and levels of content richness across the content calendar, you should make decisions as if planning a strategy for distinct social feeds for each team, not by looking at the content mix for the channel overall.

Each brand team’s social media and content strategy must work as a standalone.

However, it is also important to view the content strategy at the overall disease area level to ensure that the composite effect supports the brand and communications strategy of the company as a whole.

At this stage, you will have defined the owners, topics, formats, and schedule for your posts over the year. This is your social media content calendar that reflects the communications needs of your disease area overall and those of each brand team under it. You can use this to write creative briefs for each post within the calendar.

As your creative teams craft the content, you will likely make revisions to the calendar as you discover opportunities for optimization or perhaps roadblocks in terms of feasibility.

And because you can’t predict the future, you will need to update the content calendar throughout the year. Events will be canceled or rescheduled; congress programs will be published; new trial data will be released. Any number of new situations will spring up that necessitate calendar updates, but it is crucial that you have a starting point that you are happy with.

Focus on the fundamentals of engagement

The reality is that while you may feel like you are creating many posts over the year, the number of posts allocated to each brand team might be relatively few. For this reason, it is all the more critical to carefully devise a content strategy and craft quality creative output that delivers the best engagement possible with a relatively small number of posts.

It is beyond the scope of this article to detail the principles and best practices for creating engaging social media. Still, the following is an overview of some main points that you should consider when planning and producing your social media activities:

  • Craft the content with your audience’s interests and preferences in mind
  • Aim for one-third brand communications, one-third information & education, and one-third community engagement in your content mix
  • Leverage the voices of key thought leaders regularly
  • Feature a good mix of creative content formats, including infographics, simple quotes, videos, image posts, etc.
  • Involve the broader community through retweets and comments, polls, and surveys
  • Publish simple posts such as image posts and quotes frequently to maintain engagement while posting richer content such as videos at key points during the year
  • Consider the flow of topics and tactics, for example, using a few simple quote posts and a poll to tease the content of an upcoming video
  • Have a plan for communicating before, during, and after congresses
  • Post consistently
  • Experiment with different posting frequencies and times
  • Monitor your activity and measure your results, using your learnings to guide the optimization of your content strategy, content calendar, and creative output.

By following these steps, you can create an engaging social media content strategy that serves the needs of multiple brand teams through a single channel. Doing so will help you save time and resources and allow you to better measure and optimize your social media activities.

Written by

Joe Zandstra

Creative Director EMEA

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