Social media in healthcare: Focus on Facebook

By Daniel Ghinn

Healthcare companies around the world are exploiting the community-building nature of social media websites to engage like-minded Internet users – and some are achieving significant results.

What can healthcare companies and providers learn from the successful pioneers in this area? Here we take a look at the way three pharmaceutical companies are making the most of Facebook, and we provide some insights about engaging through social media.

It’s not only pharmaceutical companies who will benefit from these examples – aside from the marketing taking place there are valuable lessons for all healthcare communicators and providers worldwide.

Abbott Laboratories: Labs Are Vital

Abbott Laboratories’ use of Facebook

to engage a community of people passionate about pharmaceutical science is part of a major communications programme that includes a partnership with Channel One News.

The Facebook page is just one part of what is a significant international campaign by Abbott Laboratories that integrates online and offline media, aimed at demonstrating Abbott’s long-term commitment to the science laboratory profession.

Labs are Vital facebook Page

What does the Facebook page achieve?

The Facebook page provides Abbott Laboratories with a platform for telling people in its network of stakeholders (who have identified themselves as ‘fans’) immediately about updates and ideas. This is truly engaging stakeholders who are joined by a common interest in laboratory science.

Traffic is also driven to Abbott’s campaign websites labsarevital.com and labsciencecareers.com.

The community of Facebook fans has been engaged further through a recent user-generated video competition in partnership with Channel One news, where people were invited to create a video promoting careers in lab science.

The social nature of Facebook means that these initiatives are able to gain exposure not only to the page’s 2,500 fans, but to all their friends too.

Merck: Take a Step Against Cervical Cancer

With over 100,000 advocates users signed up as ‘fans’, Merck’s Gardasil Facebook page might be considered one of the most successful examples so far of engagement through Facebook by a pharmaceutical company.

Take a Step Against Cervical Cancer Facebook Page

The page unites a community of women on the issue of cervical cancer, and includes tools and links to educate about cervical cancer, its causes and prevention. The page is an excellent example of well-targeted social media engagement  – Facebook users include a high proportion of young women, the group for which Gardasil is indicated.

The viral nature of Facebook – becoming a fan of a page notifies a user’s network of friends – and the strong cause behind the campaign has led to the high level of advocacy and the long term success of the campaign.

Bayer Healthcare: Strong@Heart

Bayer Healthcare’s Strong@Heart Facebook page

provides a highly effective platform for raising awareness of heart disease amongst women and for direct product marketing to a community of over 14,000 fans.

Strong @ Heart Facebook Page

Bayer used the incentive of a free Aspirin pill tote to encourage Facebook users to show their advocacy by becoming fans. The free tote was discussed extensively on blogs, further raising awareness of the Facebook page.

The page is published jointly with WomenHeart, a non-profit patient advocacy organisation founded by three women who had heart attacks while in their 40s. Like Merck’s page above, Bayer’s Facebook page is another great example of leveraging the power of a cause amongst social community to gain advocates.

Lessons to learn

These three examples illustrate some common components of a successful Facebook social media strategy:













  1. What’s your cause? Facebook users love a compelling cause to tell their friends about.
  2. Make it relevant. All three campaigns were well targeted at Facebook’s user demographic
  3. Encourage user contribution. This is a concept familiar to Facebook users who are likely to engage with opportunities to contribute.
  4. Keep it simple. The most effective Facebook component is simple – a page.
  5. Integrate with other online and offline media. Integration with other social media sites and blogs encourages viral community engagement; whilst integration with traditional and press communication adds essential exposure.
  6. Think beyond the fans. With an estimated average number of friends per Facebook member  well over 100, total direct exposure from a page with 100,000 fans coudl be well over 10 million Facebook users.
  7. Invest in growing the community. A community does not grow overnight, although a good cause will help it grow! Once you have the community you can (and should) keep engaging on relevant issues for a long time to come.


Finally, some engagement strategy advice if you are considering using Facebook, or would like to improve your use fo Facebook for engaging stakeholders:

  1. Measure & listen. Measuring and listening to the online community before starting will help you plan your strategy, define expectations, and ensure that you engage in the most relevant way.
  2. Ensure senior corporate commitment. Without it, it could be difficult to sustain success.
  3. Measure & listen again! A sound system for measuring and analysing outcomes is essential for understanding the real value of your results. Measure not only the direct Facebook engagement but everything else that takes place online and offline relating to your activity. The insights you gain will help you to continually improve results.

Creation Interactive’s 7D methodology for informed engagement strategy development provides a framework for planning and implementing successful digital engagement strategies. Why not find outr how by talking with one of our engagement strategy consultants now?

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Meet the Author

Daniel Ghinn

Daniel has been at the helm throughout the company’s life since 1998. His rich expertise in working with pharmaceutical businesses has enabled CREATION to build business solutions that fit our clients’ needs.

Daniel is married to Jo, has three children, a cat, a dog, 28 fish, and 160,000 bees.