Facebook Is Scandal-Ridden, but Remains Powerful Medium for Reaching Patients

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Despite concerns over data privacy, patients and influencers continue to be active on Facebook. Here’s how medical marketers can engage these audiences.

Inadequate data privacy and other scandals have plagued Facebook over the past few years, but the platform remains a key arena in which patients discuss and share healthcare information. In fact, a recent study shows that patient influencers — users who document their health journeys on social media, often partnering with pharma or medical device companies — are more active on Facebook than any other social media platform.

The study, conducted by WEGO Health, surveyed 412 patient influencers in the U.S. who post about topics related to chronic, complex, and rare health conditions. The report found that more than 98% of patient influencers use Facebook — 90% of them at least once per day. Further, concerns about data privacy have caused less than 3% of influencers to reduce their Facebook usage or stop using the platform altogether.

These results indicate that despite Facebook’s bad press, it remains a dominant platform for patients and influencers. Here’s how medical marketers can best engage the influencer community and use Facebook to grow their patient bases.

Understanding Influencers’ Social Behavior

Simply put, patients continue to use Facebook to discuss healthcare information because that’s where chronic disease communities are most active. Many patients belong to groups where they can talk about their conditions and get advice from other people who are facing similar challenges. This robust community of engaged patients also attracts influencers striving to reach the largest audiences possible.

Despite Facebook’s recent scandals, patients remain willing to share their information on the platform. Of those surveyed by WEGO Health, 60% reported that they share health information publicly and 40% said they share information with other users privately. What’s more, nearly 7 out of 10 respondents had shared their experiences with medication — both positive and negative — on social media.

Yet, while many patients are willing to discuss medications, very few influencers are engaging with pharma companies. Over 90% of influencers surveyed follow an advocacy organization on social media, but only 20% to 30% follow a pharma company. Similarly, only 3% of patient influencers consult pharma websites for health-related information, and only 20% trust the content they find there.

Engaging Patients on Facebook

To bridge the gap between pharma companies and patient influencers, medical marketers should focus on providing transparent, authentic information on their websites and social media accounts. This content could include educational videos featuring trusted doctors or testimonials from satisfied patients. Healthcare organizations may also want to include information that focuses on logistical concerns like managing the cost of treatment.

As 95% of patient influencers say they use social media to advocate for a specific health condition or topic, it’s clear that in order to reach these users, medical marketers need to invest in a comprehensive Facebook strategy. In addition to regularly posting content that is trustworthy and “human,” pharma and medical device companies should consider Facebook advertising.

Facebook ads allow healthcare organizations to target patients based on age, gender, location, income, and a variety of other factors. By serving ads to patients according to their interests and demographic characteristics, medical marketers can ensure they’re reaching the most engaged and relevant communities.

Patient groups on Facebook continue to be a key source of information for patients and influencers, and pharma companies and other healthcare organizations can tap into this market by contributing authentic and personalized content to these communities. In this way, companies can establish their brands as sources of trustworthy content, thereby engaging and converting new patients.

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