Social Media: Pharmacy Outside 4 Walls
Author: Eileen Oldfield, Associate Editor
With social media establishing itself as a viable marketing opportunity, how can pharmacists use technology to promote their practice? Pharmacy professional organizations say social media offers visibility and connection with patients, as well as convenience. The result can be time- and money-related savings, as well as increased patient loyalty.
“Improving online visibility will help community pharmacies save time and money and help to build patient loyalty,” Stephanie DuBois, associate director of marketing communications for the National Community Pharmacists Association, said in an interview with Pharmacy Times. “Patients are seeking modern conveniences such as mobile apps that can connect them directly with their pharmacy, and community pharmacies must be willing and able to meet those needs.”
Although specific apps may not be feasible for certain pharmacies, the likelihood that patients are already using social media is high. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project’s Social Media Update 2013, 73% of online adults use some sort of social networking website, with Facebook remaining the most dominant platform.
“Social media allows pharmacists to connect with their patients on another level, share health and prescription drug information, and discover ways to better educate and meet the needs of their patients,” DuBois said.
“Creating an effective social media strategy can be overwhelming and time-consuming, but by staying organized and planning as much in advance as possible, community pharmacists will find that social media is an important and necessary part of ... a successful business.”
Pharmacy Development Services, which provides marketing and management services and tools for independent pharmacies, agrees that social media offers connections that go beyond pharmacy’s 4 walls. Samantha Timmermann, director of marketing at Pharmacy Development Services, said that social media allows beneficial professional and personal connections. Her company offers Health Hub, a tool offering health information–related social media posts.
“It’s also important for pharmacy owners on a professional level,” she said. “When you step into a communal place, there’s someone who’s already encountered some of your hurdles, and tried solutions, and wrote about it.”
Timmermann noted that a pharmacy should be running well before getting involved in social media and that it needs to be maintained to be effective.
“It’s easy to set up, but maintenance can be complicated,” she said. “Health information is not enough. That’s just part of your strategy. It takes a human to do this. It has to have that personal touch. It’s what makes your pharmacy your pharmacy.”
A large portion of social media activity should be generated by the pharmacy itself and should relate to non-promotional content, such as photos from pharmacy events and other activities, Timmermann said. About 10% of the content should be generated elsewhere, such as health-related news from other sources, and another 10% of content should relate to promotions occurring at the pharmacy, she added.
Tips and tricks can be learned from popular websites. The social media of other area businesses can serve as a good example, Timmermann said.
She suggests making social media part of an employee’s job, with a defined amount of time for it.
“My biggest battle cry is don’t set it and forget it,” Timmermann said. “Make sure to have a conversation. It’s about humanity. That’s one of the reasons [pharmacists are] the most trusted health care professionals. They are human, and have conversations.”