Making sure you get social

twitter hashtags on cubes social media concept

Does a dedicated social media strategy offer benefits to a pharmacy? Chris Brooker investigates 

The social media landscape continues to evolve rapidly for both consumers and businesses. With nearly three quarters of Australians now using social media, it’s clear this is more than just a passing fad.

In its 2016 Social media report, digital marketing company Sensis said social media is one of the only digital avenues where businesses can have a two-way communication with customers.

This “gives them the opportunity to receive feedback, monitor sentiment and build a relatable brand personality,” said Alice Mentiplay, general manager digital, Sensis.

“They can do all of this with minimal marketing spend, making social media one of the easiest and most cost effective channels to get in front of customers”.

What works in pharmacy?

In a pharmacy context, social media can be utilised for greater customer engagement and feedback; for market research purposes; and improve networking opportunities with consumers and other business says Tina Scrine, industrial relations manager, Pharmacy Guild of Australia (Qld).

Speaking at a pharmacy assistant conference last year, Ms Scrine said a social media strategy should involve research and analysis on which social media tools you want to use; whether you are ready for social media; do your customers use social media; and how do your competitors use social media.

It is also essential to establish some rules around internal procedures about security, privacy and content. Likewise, it is important to develop an acceptable use policy, she said.

Sensis also advises that businesses consider the level of resourcing – both technology support and staffing – that will be required, and then the level of education required by your team to fully and comprehensively implement the strategy.

Making it count

An obvious aim of your pharmacy social media strategy will be to ensure it generates business and customer traction, and this must be measurable.

“It’s more important than ever to ensure the content you produce – whether it be organic or paid – provides something of value to your audience,” said Alice Mentiplay from Sensis.

“Large businesses appear to understand this importance, with more than twice as many measuring their return on investment for social media as last year (29% to 61%). However, ROI measurement remains very low amongst SMBs (21% for small and 27% for medium),” she said.

Recent US research found that more than 68% of pharmacists reported feeling that social media had a definite positive impact on their business – by either helping them stay connected with their patients, delivering health news to them, or driving visits to the store.

Posting one or more times per week was most common among the pharmacies surveyed by digital pharmacy support service RxWiki, with the most popular content being health related information and general ‘going-ons’ in the pharmacy.

There was no consistency on the person responsible for managing the accounts. In some pharmacies, it was the pharmacist who managed the account while in other pharmacies, it was the owner, the staff or a business manager.

“Most small businesses don’t think that social media can really drive results for their businesses, especially for populations that might be a little older or for businesses that deal with serious issues like patient health,” stated RxWiki Senior Vice President Azim Nagree.

“But what we’ve seen is that people of all ages are consuming content because it’s really like talking to your pharmacist.”

What strategy?

So what should be in your social strategy? The following advice is common amongst experts:

  • Determine your business objectives for social media – set measurable goals for leads, follows, likes etc
  • Understand your audience
  • Choose your platform/s and tailor your content appropriately
  • Plan your resourcing – staffing, IT support, posting frequency
  • Ensure it’s measurable and review on target dates

Avoid the pitfalls

One of the obvious concerns about social media use (both commercial and private) in the healthcare space relates to privacy issues.

In its advice on social media use, the PSA warns pharmacists “there is an added responsibility on health professionals using these media to ensure accuracy, relevance of information and confidentiality of patient details”.

Pharmacists using the internet and social media for professional purposes need to create and maintain an environment of trusted relationships to assure high-quality information and services, protect confidentiality, and enhance the value of the internet and social media for both consumers and providers of health information, products, and services,” PSA says.

In terms of sites run by pharmacies, PSA advises they should clearly indicate:

  • who owns or has a significant financial interest in them‎
  • what the purpose of the site or service is – eg. purely educational, promoting the sale of health products or services, or offering personal medical care or advice ‎and
  • any relationship (financial, professional, personal, or other) that would likely influence a person’s perception of the information, products, or services offered by the site

AHPRA and the Pharmacy Board of Australia have also offered ethical and legal advice on this topic: “When using social media, health practitioners should remember that the National Law, their National Board’s code of ethics and professional conduct (the Code of conduct) and the Guidelines for advertising regulated health services (the Advertising guidelines) apply.

Registered health practitioners should only post information that is not in breach of these obligations by:

  • complying with professional obligations
  • complying with confidentiality and privacy obligations (such as by not discussing patients or posting pictures of procedures, case studies, patients, or sensitive material which may enable patients to be identified without having obtained consent in appropriate situations)
  • presenting information in an unbiased, evidence-based context, and
  • not making unsubstantiated claims.

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