Social media is a powerful tool that allows businesses to get products directly in front of potential consumers. The appeal of this advertising strategy is not lost on pharmaceutical companies, who have increasingly found ways to target consumers online.
Advertisers purchase keywords from search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, and Bing, and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, who in turn display sponsored ads when consumers enter those keywords as search terms. Keywords can be as simple as words that describe an advertiser’s product, or as strategic as a competitor’s trademark. Legal issues may arise when an advertiser uses a competitor’s trademark as a keyword to generate social media ads, including trademark infringement, false advertising, and FDA non-compliance.
An analysis from Manhattan Research shows that the average physician today spends more than eight hours per week using the Internet for professional reasons, a substantial jump from only 2.5 hours in 2002. Over 60 million U.S. adults consume or contribute health-related social media content, such as blogs and message board posts, and over 10 million consumers use mobile devices for health and medical purposes. Considering the difficulty that medical sales representatives have in getting face time with physicians, social media programs offer a vast new plethora of opportunities to the pharmaceutical marketer to engage the digitally enabled customer, impart customized brand information and strengthen relationships.