With 50% of the global population using social media for at least two hours a day, it is no longer a question of whether life sciences companies should invest more in their social media engagement. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated pharma’s move to digital and is most likely causing an increase in the use of social media globally. 

While top pharmaceutical companies have started utilizing social media channels, a WorldCom Digital Health Monitor report revealed that life sciences companies are not optimizing the use of these channels.

The report states that “the pharma industry has not yet woken up to the opportunity provided by social channels to educate and inform its audiences and to build a brand following” and adds “many companies may be squandering opportunities to get their messages across.” This opportunity is even more evident as recent research found that 85% of HCPs agree that social media can be an effective tool and that 43% use them for educational purposes. 

The good news for life sciences companies is that there is room to grow, and what’s even better is that they don’t have to figure it out from scratch. With other industries setting examples of what customer-centric social media marketing looks like, pharma’s mission is to learn from these industries and offer both patients and physicians the engagement they expect. 

To elevate your organization’s social media efforts, make sure that you are not committing one of the following 8 mistakes that life sciences companies are often guilty of. 

1. Not Having a Clear Strategy


The upside of social media is that it is very easy to get started, so easy in fact that it may seem unnecessary or too daunting to have a social media strategy. But without clear goals, it gets hard to evaluate the efficiency and impact of your efforts and content with no way of knowing if it was relevant or engaging to patients or HCPs. 

The first step to ensuring success is creating a social media marketing plan that aligns with your business goals. SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) objectives should be established, as well as KPIs to analyze the results and have benchmarks to report against. Consider setting metric goals for awareness (reach and impressions) and engagement (comments and shares) as well as metrics to track the overall health of your accounts (profile visits and quality of followers). 

For example, for a new brand or product, where the goal is to increase brand awareness, you should set benchmarks for metrics like reach, impressions, audience growth rate, mentions, and shares, as well as set a time period to achieve your target KPIs. Use social media listening tools such as Brandwatch or Mention to monitor brand mentions and how people are talking about your brand. For a more established brand where the goal is conversion (getting people to subscribe to a newsletter or download a resource), you should be looking at conversion metrics such as conversion rate, click through rate (CTR), and cost per click (CPC). Also, look at your website analytics to check how much traffic and conversions you are getting from each channel. 

Once a marketing plan is in place, you should take a moment to organize and assign tasks, especially repetitive ones. For social media efforts to be successful, they need to be consistent, so have a clear scope of work and deliverables set, then work to assign them to team members with some level of accountability.  When setting your plan and goals, you’re going to run into important questions: Which platforms should I use? How often should we post? What type of content should I be posting?

This brings us to our next common mistake… 

2. Not Collecting and Utilizing Data From Social Media

A rectangular shape divided into two tones of blue and white, with hands on the left side holding a picture of a drawing resembling a graph.

You might find answers to the above questions by doing online research and seeing what experts recommend, but what you will undoubtedly find is the following advice: You need to constantly test, track, and analyze your efforts. 

Because of the level of creativity that goes into social media marketing, it’s easy to forget that marketing is a science, and successful marketing requires collection of data. The more you know about your physicians and patients, the better the content, information, and overall customer experience you can provide them. 

The challenge, however, is not in data collection; it’s in making sense of the data and drawing actionable insights and conclusions. And this is where having the right technologies can tremendously help. With the advent of AI and AI-powered insights, machine learning, and automation, having a life sciences–specific platform with these capabilities can upgrade your digital efforts. 

Having the data alone is, of course, not enough. Your team should regularly monitor these insights and act accordingly, or you’ll be guilty of this next mistake. 

Not Tracking Engagement or Engaging with Followers

A rectangular shape divided into two tones of blue and white, with a hand on the right side reaching out to present a set of post-it notes, indicating a satisfactory level.

If there ever was such a thing as cardinal sins in social media marketing, not replying to comments or messages and not engaging with your followers would rank at the top of the list. And it’s not only life sciences brands that are guilty, many brands on social media spend a lot of effort in creating branded content and then ignore the engagement they get from their customers. 

Engagement is instrumental for success on social media; it is also a way for life sciences companies to deepen their connection with HCPs. This is an additional channel to have one-on-one interactions with customers, answering product or medical inquiries, offering extra resources, and handling complaints.

To ensure a positive engagement with your followers, here are some ground rules to follow: 

Social Media Ground Rules

  • Reply to all comments, questions, and inquiries
  • Never ignore a negative comment or message
  • Reshare user-generated content (UGC) when positive and appropriate, especially from influencers
  • Monitor brand mentions and branded hashtag use
  • Participate in conversations when appropriate

Since the medical-legal team will want to have some control here, create a bank of canned replies that sound conversational. This way, you minimize the need for a full-time moderator and medical-legal team scrutiny or legal risk. 

Also, make sure to monitor platform-specific insights daily for any spikes or irregular activities, and look at weekly or monthly data for trends that give you an idea about how your audience is engaging with you and your overall performance. 

But what if there is no engagement to begin with? 

4. Content is not Customer Centric

A rectangular shape divided into two tones of blue and white. In the left corner, there are post-it notes with written content.

The beauty of social media is that it is brutally honest. Your audience will tell you exactly how they feel about your content in their comments or by their level of engagement with your posts. So, the problem is probably with your content if you’re not getting likes and comments. 

A very common mistake that life sciences companies make, and not only on social media, is that they create medical content that is too technical for their audience to understand or even be interested in, especially when it comes to posts aimed at patients. 

Pharma companies can take a page from the physician playbook where it is a common practice to simplify the information and avoid the use of technical terms when it comes to communicating with patients. More often than not, patients will not understand these terms, and no one likes or engages with content they do not understand. 

Another commonly overlooked aspect of social media marketing is that each channel is unique and requires unique content. You don’t use Facebook for the same reasons or the same way you use LinkedIn, right? Neither does your audience. Tailor your content and wording for each channel by taking into consideration the customer journey. LinkedIn is used by professionals to keep up on the latest news and trends in their industry, so use a professional tone of voice and share blog posts, in-depth how-to posts, and company updates. Facebook is where communities are built, so share content that interests them and do not focus only on your brand or product; post a variety of photos and videos, use polls, run contests, and benefit from Facebook groups to create a community. If you want more information about channel-specific content writing, take a look at the CDC’s guide to writing for social media.  

To ensure your content is engaging, develop a content calendar by determining what kind of information your audience wants or needs. Then, use your in-house expertise to create content to deliver that information where your audience would like to receive it. 

But what if your content is something your customers are looking for and you’re still not achieving your goals? Then, the answer lies in who you are targeting. 

5. Inadequate Targeting 

A rectangular shape divided into two tones of blue and white. On the right side, a man's hand is shown holding a target, suggesting a goal or objective.

Which brands do they follow? How do they interact with content? Which types of content elicit an action? Which social networks do they use the most? When are they online? What are they talking about and sharing? 

These are just a few questions brands should really know before you can hope for a significant engagement. Without any knowledge of this, you may not even be concentrating on the right social network that your customer is using! 

The well-known secret to marketing is that you have to send the right message to the right audience at the right time. You might have a clear idea about the physicians you’re targeting and their behavior offline, but that doesn’t mean you know their online habits. Start by answering the following questions: Which social networks are they on? What brands and hashtags do they follow? What are the current topics they are talking about and sharing? 

Use social media listening tools and conduct audience research. This should give you an insight into what type of content you should post, what hashtags to use, and how to target your customers online. These data are especially crucial when running paid ads. You cannot rely solely on demographic targeting parameters; you need to have laser-focused targeting to get the best results. Make use of website trackers offered by platforms such as Facebook (Facebook Pixel), Google (Google Analytics ID), and LinkedIn (Insight Tag) to gather more information on your audiences, retarget visitors, and create custom or look-alike audiences. 

If your content has to be specific and technical, it’s even more important that you target the right people to conduct thorough research and narrow your target audience when running paid ads. 

Another important point to mention is to make sure your messaging is consistent, which brings us to mistake number 6. 

6. No Coordination Between Online and Offline Marketing

For various reasons, it is often the case that life sciences organizations have different processes and standards for producing content that medical representatives use in their meetings with customers as well as their social media content. Often, the two outlets are perceived and treated differently. However, in the mind of the customers, what they experience online and offline is associated with the same brand. 

It is not only a matter of branding and design; the content and information physicians and patients are seeing offline, on your website, and your social media feeds should be consistent. With the new digital trend accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, both physicians and patients are turning more to online resources for medical information, with social media playing a major role in their research. Nearly 90% of adults have used social media platforms to find or share health information, and that was back in 2015!  

One way to offer customers a good experience with your social media accounts is to post relevant and updated content and make sure that it is aligned with your offline marketing efforts. Another way is to drive your offline audience to your social media platforms with QR codes, event hashtags, and coordinated email campaigns. 

Many life sciences organizations struggle with the last approach due to the next common mistake. 

7. No Omnichannel Approach

As we previously mentioned when discussing the importance of having a strategy, social media should not be a stand-alone effort, but rather in the marketing mix and part of a broader strategy. However, most pharma companies still struggle to integrate social channels with other communication channels as part of the customer experience.

To make social media work for you, it should be an extension of your other marketing efforts, both offline and online. With advanced features such as dynamic ads and retargeting, your team should have the ability to create truly personalized experiences for both physicians and patients to put you ahead of your competition in your customers’ minds.

Here lies the importance of choosing the right technologies that allow for omnichannel marketing, while still ensuring that your marketing efforts are compliant. Look for advanced features that can help you engage with customers like intelligent chatbots that can answer patient and HCP inquiries from social media. If you are interested in an industry-specific platform that can offer you these capabilities, learn more about our customer experience platform for life sciences.

8. Not Having a Social Media Policy

There is no denying that life sciences is a highly regulated industry, which means that certain content will not be allowed to be published on online channels. There is a need to adhere to multiple regulations such as ABPI, FDA, CDC, and HIPAA, and hence, a need to have a social media policy that respects these laws. 

Some pharmaceutical companies have been in trouble for breaching the ABPI’s Code of Practice on social media. While this is not a very common mistake, it is a very serious offense and you definitely want to avoid it. Create a social media policy and establish clear rules to what can and can’t be advertised on social media. Another important step is to involve your company’s regulatory department both in writing the policy and in content creation of the review process.  

Life sciences organizations still have a lot of room to grow in their social media communications, especially now that customers are becoming more and more demanding. To ensure that your company is on the right track, make sure your team has the tools and training they need to succeed, and most importantly avoid the common mistakes other pharma brands are making on social media. 



  1. Cooper, Paige. 140 Social Media Statistics That Matter to Marketers in 2020. Hootsuite Website. blog.hootsuite.com/social-media-statistics-for-social-media-managers/#general. Accessed June 2, 2020. 
  2. The 2018 Worldcom Digital Health Monitor – Pharmaceuticals. Worldcom Website. Accessed June 2, 2020. 
  3. Pizzuti AG, Patel KH, McCreary EK, Heil E, Bland CM, et al. (2020) Healthcare practitioners’ views of social media as an educational resource. PLOS ONE 15(2): e0228372. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0228372. Accessed June 2, 2020. 
  4. Tennant B, Stellefson M, Dodd V, Chaney B, et al. eHealth Literacy and Web 2.0 Health Information Seeking Behaviors Among Baby Boomers and Older Adults J Med Internet Res 2015;17(3): e70. www.jmir.org/2015/3/e70/. Accessed June 2, 2020.