Social media a marketing platform for health care


Social media ranks as one of those technologies that has changed the world in many ways, allowing networking across the world, sharing of thoughts and events from people’s lives, embarrassment of public figures and, more recently, even helping to feed political revolutions. 

It also has created a new platform for companies looking to get their products — and word of those products — out to a wider audience.

Last month, the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council released the last installment of a five-part report on social media, reporting that grocery marketers significantly can leverage any social media participation by responding to tweets on Twitter and using LinkedIn, a professional networking site. “The explosive growth of social networking seems to have caught much of the marketing world by surprise,” CCRRC research director Michael Sansolo said. “In one survey, we found nearly 70% of supermarket chief marketing officers state they feel unprepared to integrate social media into their marketing mix.”

But consumers certainly aren’t unprepared. Considering that so many people are on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or a combination of those, not being on them soon may become the new Luddism, with a social networking account being regarded as indispensable as a cell phone. In this type of environment, not having a social media presence isn’t the best way to do business. “When you’re marketing on cable [television], you’re kind of just talking to the person sitting on a couch versus the person sitting on the couch who’s talking to all their friends at the same time,” Robin Leedy, president of public relations firm Robin Leedy & Associates, told Drug Store News. “So I think it’s about targeting [people] who [are] in a specific place that you need them to be to drive them to purchase, and then also influencing like-minded people in their circle almost in real time.”

The companies that do embrace social media are finding this out in real time also, as has been the case of two companies making health and hygiene products for women that have sought to increase their presence in the U.S. market.

One company is Lifes2Good, which markets the natural hair-growth product Viviscal for women who have experienced hair loss due to stress, hormonal changes or medications. The company has focused most of its attention on Facebook, as well as Twitter, sending its products for review to bloggers, who then drive traffic back to the Facebook site. Meanwhile, many influencers — including fashion and style magazine editors — have mentioned Viviscal on Twitter, getting the product further attention.

“It’s the easiest way to engage customers,” brand manager John Halbert told DSN. Later this year, the company plans to create a new online hair-loss community for Viviscal that will tie together all of its social media, Halbert said.

Another product is Softcup, made by Evofem and marketed as a convenient and environmentally friendly alternative to tampons and sanitary napkins. Its marketing campaign has included a lot of social media, particularly Facebook, a blog and a Twitter feed. These have been useful in addressing the large number of women with questions about the product, including TweetChats on Twitter with Evofem’s resident OB-GYN and endorsers, as well as allowing new and prospective users to ask questions on Softcup’s Facebook page. “Social media is about empowering our existing consumers to speak for us and to validate the brand to women who are new to Softcup,” Evofem VP sales and marketing Tracey Saenz told DSN.

One thing that many people seem to agree on is that social media is about more than just getting the word out — it’s also about getting the word from consumers themselves. “One thing that is common across all those platforms is that we use them to listen to our customers, because listening is just as important as talking,” Saenz said, noting that consumers sometimes would respond to questions posted online before Evofem’s staff had a chance to.

Leedy had a similar view. “Sometimes, you don’t know what you’re listening for, and someone makes a comment, and then 10 other people comment on that,” Leedy said. “You wouldn’t have had that dialog had that consumer not had the open place to do it.”

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