NACDS Conference: TikTok May Become the Next Big Health Search Engine


Social media can leverage pharmacists as personalities and help influence which topics the public discusses and the data they consume, presenter says.

Tik Tok is changing the way the public views health, health care, and wellness, Brian Owens, MBA, senior vice president of commerce strategy and inclusive commerce at VMLY&R COMMERCE, said during a presentation at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) Regional Meeting 2023 in Orlando, Florida.

“I saw the tides changing,” he said.

“I saw there was a lot more opportunity to really influence with research, relatable technology, as well as content. Content really influences people’s decisions,” Owens said.

Social media can leverage pharmacists as personalities and help influence which topics the public discusses, he said.

Additionally, the use of content helps drive traffic to pharmacies, Owens said.

The role of the pharmacist has shifted from being the face behind the counter and managing all operations to being a catalyst for conversation and a trusted source of information.

Pharmacists also many find themselves as marketers, Owens said.

“You now have a bigger role in the equation than a salesperson does now,” he said. “When you stand up and speak, someone who doesn’t have any clue is going to listen to you and take your word for it.”

It is essential that pharmacist use their credibility to humanize the patient experience and create intentional content around health care, Owens said.

He highlighted the growth and importance of TikTok, especially around health and wellness topics.

Tik Tok is not just for the young, and it has been growing as a platform for individuals of all ages as a go-to source of information, Owens said.

The ability to create bite-size, consumable, rapid fire media worked well during the COVID-19 pandemic, Owens said.

Using the same strategies for online content that were used during the COVID-19 pandemic and applying them to other health and wellness information can help leverage information.

Pharmacists should look at data on health issues differently, Owens said.

For social media, it is beneficial to tell a “human story,” that resonates with individuals and something they can relate to, he said.

“TikTok is becoming a new health and wellness search engine,” Owens said. “We are so used to reading things, we have to pay attention to other technology.”


Owens B. Social media influence impact on the US pharmacy and OTC category experience. Presented at: National Association of Chain Drug Stores Regional Meeting 2023. Orlando, FL. January 31, 2023.

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