How pharma can generate ROI on social media


For companies in the pharma sector, LinkedIn represents a vastly under-used opportunity to conduct business and generate that elusive return-on-investment online.

How does pharma get a return on investment on social media? It's the question that haunts all our discussions on digital.

Unfortunately, most of us have been looking in the wrong places, namely, Facebook and Twitter. While ROI is not impossible on those platforms, drug companies have learned to put other benefits, such as humanising their brand, building trust and meeting customers' needs, ahead of hard financial returns. Others have avoided going on social media altogether.

"LinkedIn represents a massive, under-utilised business opportunity"

On one platform, though, this does not have to be the case. LinkedIn represents a massive, under-utilised business opportunity, particularly (but not exclusively) for those companies consulting and supplying to the industry.

Why? First, look at the numbers. If you're trying to sell to other pharma companies, LinkedIn is where you'll find them. There are currently over 20,000 pharma companies and 2 million people in the pharma industry on LinkedIn, including more than 125,000 directors, 46,000 VPs and 35,000 company owners and 26,000 chief executives.

In the UK alone, there are over 80,000 Pharma executives on the platform, including over 8,600 directors, 1,900 VPs, 1,400 company owners and 800 chief execs. Rather than struggling to get past their secretaries and gate-keepers, you can access these key decision makers directly, simply by inviting them to connect with you. Once they accept, you can nurture that relationship by staying in regular contact, sharing useful information and engaging with them personally.

LinkedIn also represents a shortcut for drugs or medical device companies that need to reach and build relationships with personnel in the healthcare system and any number of businesses that affect their bottom line. There is simply nowhere else – including the phone book, industry meetings and other social media platforms – where so many prospects, potential partners and influencers are so close, and so accessible.

Think of LinkedIn as a massive conference, where professionals with common interests can meet and then go off to talk in a side-room (Inmail).

Second, look at the stats. LinkedIn's value for marketing and sales is indisputable. According to Oktopost, a social media tool for digital marketers, 80.33% of all B2B leads on social media are generated through LinkedIn. Hubspot, another marketing platform, concluded in 2012 that "LinkedIn is 277% more effective for lead generation than Facebook and Twitter."

There's no reason why this should not be true for companies in the pharma sector as well.

So why does LinkedIn remain so peripheral to the conversation in the Pharma sector? Partially because big pharma's enormous challenges on the other platforms have utterly dominated, completely obscuring the interests of other parts of the industry, and even some of the other possibilities open to the drugs companies themselves.

Another factor, by no means unique to pharma, is the persistent misconception that LinkedIn is not a real "social" platform.

Lastly, the pharma industry, behind anyway on social media and very much wedded to traditional ways of marketing, has been slow to grasp LinkedIn's potential as a lead-generator. Too many executives have profiles on LinkedIn, but are unsure how to use it as anything other than a computerised rolodex. The number of large pharma companies with only a very basic LinkedIn company page, or none at all, continues to astound.

The one aspect of LinkedIn which the pharma industry has arguably taken to with a flourish is LinkedIn groups – there are more than 3,300 pharma-related ones, with hundreds of thousands of members. Yet how many of their members are actively and systematically using them to identify potential leads and business opportunities? A tiny minority, I'd guess.

"The key to social media success is developing a solid strategy, and LinkedIn is no different"

If companies in the pharma industry are serious about generating revenue and getting tangible benefits from their online activity, they need to start taking LinkedIn more seriously. Suppliers, vendors and consultants, whose opportunities are relatively limited on Twitter (at least at the moment), must not convince themselves that they have no business on social media at all.

The key to all social media success is developing a solid strategy, and LinkedIn is no different. There's no point amassing thousands of connections if you never have any further contact once they've accepted your connection request.

Ask yourself, what are you going to do with them? How are you going to systematically develop them into personal relationships, getting your best prospects to know, like and trust you? How are you going to exploit this almost limitless database of valuable contacts?

Those who figure out the answers will get their ROI.


About the author:

Miriam Shaviv is Director of Content at Brainstorm Digital, a London-based agency which helps companies in Pharma and healthcare find new business and clients through social media. You can reach her at

Have your say: What barriers are stopping pharma making more of LinkedIn?


7 July, 2014