A Quick Guide To Healthcare Twitter Hashtags

Healthcare Twitter HashtagsWhether you’re a new or seasoned Twitter user, you’re likely to come across confusing hashtags but these short links preceded by the sign (#) are integral to the way we communicate online, and it’s important to know how to use them.

On Twitter, the hashtag turns any word or group of words into a searchable link. Any Twitter user can categorise or follow topics with hashtags. They make it easier to organise content and track discussion topics by grouping them into keyword categories. So, if you wanted to tweet about Breast Cancer, you could include #BreastCancer in your tweet to join that existing conversation. You can also click on a hashtag to see all the tweets that mention it in real time, even from people you don’t follow.

Hashtags make it easier for people to monitor what’s happening in the conversation rather than having to try and guess what topics you should search for. By having a conversation on Twitter using hashtags, you also make it easy for any other Twitter users to join in and contribute to the conversation.  This is how people from the healthcare industry are trying to share information and engage in conversations with as many people as possible. By being active on Twitter doctors, nurses and all other professionals working in the healthcare and pharma sectors can reach out directly to individuals from all over the world to spread knowledge and awareness on various health related topics.

How do I create a hashtag?

There is no preset list of hashtags. You can create a brand new hashtag simply by putting the hash before a series of words, and if it hasn’t been used before, then you’ve created a new hashtag.  Hashtags are not an official feature of Twitter. This makes it difficult to find the origin or reason for a hashtag (particularly if it’s a weird acronym) or stop other users adopting a hashtag that’s already in use.

If you want to find out which healthcare related hashtags are already in use and which ones are most popular and trending, you should check out Hashtags.org and the Healthcare Hashtag Project. These sites will help you to discover where healthcare conversations are taking place and discover who to follow within your speciality or therapy area.

Most of the time the keywords used in the hashtag itself will give you a clue as to the subject matter of conversations taking place, for instance the hashtag #pharmacist will mainly consist of conversations around pharmacy but others like #s4pm are less obvious.  Using Twitter search is often the best place to start, so in the case of #s4pm, you would do this search and Twitter will then reveal that #s4pm relates to the Society for Participatory Medicine, including the Journal of Participatory Medicine and e-Patients.net blog.  If Twitter reveals very little then Hashtags.org is one of the other better websites to use also. Again the Healthcare Hashtag Project often provides some descriptive content for a particular

And what about the @ symbol?

The @ symbol does something completely different. Using @ before a person’s Twitter handle will tweet him directly, letting him know you have written to him via the @Connect tab. A hashtag will not. So if you are trying to reach someone directly, don’t use a hashtag.

25 Popular healthcare hashtags:

  1. #BCSM
  2. #biotech
  3. #digitalhealth
  4. #doctors20
  5. #ehr
  6. #eldercarechat
  7. #hcmmconf
  8. #hcr
  9. #hcsmca
  10. #hcsmeu
  11. #hcsmin
  12. #healthapps
  13. #healthinnovations
  14. #HITsm
  15. #Ideagoras
  16. #LupusChat
  17. #meddevice
  18. #meded
  19. #medtech
  20. #mhealth
  21. #mhsm
  22. #pharma
  23. #premeded
  24. #ptsafety
  25. #s4pm

Need help?

If you’re struggling to get to grips with Twitter and need expert help to better understand what changes you should be making to your digital strategy then get in touch.

5 Facebook Tips for Pharma and Healthcare Brands

As of 2011 there an estimated 800 million Facebook users, that is 1 in every 9 people on Earth, but pharma and healthcare companies beware – simply having a presence on Facebook won’t necessarily increase sales or referrals to your website. Get your Facebook strategy wrong and you could find yourself having to implement a damage limitation plan as GSK found itself doing. With the right tools, used strategically, you can make Facebook an effective part of your marketing strategy.

Here are our 5 Facebook tips for you to consider.

1. Research your audience.

The first thing you should do is define and research your audience’s use of Facebook when creating a Facebook marketing strategy. If it is consumers then think about the information that those consumers need to help them treat their condition or purchasing decision or the kind of after sales support they might need once they’ve bought your products. If you’re a pharma company and you only sell prescription-only medicines (POMs) then it will be the GPs that will be prescribing the drugs and so although the consumers are the end-user, they won’t be the sole decision makers. So, marketers should examine ways to increase the opportunity for contact between HCPs and patients/consumers through the creation of new health/condition focused Facebook pages that enable those audiences to talk with other patients/consumers as well as with physicians on a range of topics from personal experiences of illness and treatment through to education.

2. Build a relationship with your followers.

People use Facebook to socialise and find answers to questions, not to “friend” a blood sugar monitoring device. If pharma and medical device companies are to earn the attention of any modern customer, they should provide valuable information as opposed to simply just asking that community to do things or give away personal information. “Information” includes accurate details about their products, including side effects and risks, new product updates and any other key pieces of information that will help the user get the most of that product in a safe manner. It’s also important to open up a dialogue with your followers and ask then intelligent questions. Listening and responding to feedback from that community is a key part of any successful Facebook strategy and one that will show that you do value them. Be honest and transparent, your audience are savvier thank you think and if ‘Marketing’ or ‘PR’ are maintaining your Facebook presence make sure they have the appropriate back up from product experts to help respond to more ‘technical’ questions.

3. Add a “Like” button to your website and newsletters.

OK bit of an obvious tip, but adding a “Like” button to your website is a good starting point to help promote your Facebook presence and it can also help to build ‘social strength’ which can benefit your search engine optimisation strategy. However, take time to consider where to place the buttons. Think about how you can integrate them into the customer experience and encourage sign-ups with a strong call to action. Users are more likely to click a “Like” button when they know what’s in it for them. Don’t be afraid to test, track and adjust this tactic to help improve the results.

4. Avoid sending mass messages to your network.

Most users will tend to ignore ‘hard-sell’ oriented marketing messages and so this tactic should be avoided if you want your supporters to stay connected to you in the long term. Should you be compelled to send a message, make sure it offers something of real value or offers your followers the ability to contribute to something that can benefit them. Clearly state that value in the message subject line and avoid general brand messages and announcements, or you’ll quickly lose the trust of the community.

5. Do measure the right metrics

It’s important that you focus on the right metrics to measure when reporting on your Facebook activity. So what are the right metrics? We suggest you create a marketing dashboard that will enable you to measure these 3 things: 1) Engagement; 2) “Likes” and 3) Growth.

Engagement can be measured by the number of conversations taking place; the number of repeat visits and the number of pages viewed per visit. Measure the number of “Likes” you receive each month. And in terms of growth, measure the number of followers you are getting so you can plot your own “S” curve. You’ll want to measure if your following is growing, peaking or shrinking.

Twitter chat for pharma and health companies

Twitter chats are one of the most useful ways for pharma and healthcare companies to engage other people in the industry as well as their potential customers.

For those that are not aware of Twitter chats, they are arranged in advance with one or two hosts and at a pre-designated hashtag, which is used to link the tweets in a real time conversation. They can be viewed on the Twitter timeline, but it is better to use a tool that displays the tweets as they are posted. There are a number of free tools available on the web of which TweetChat, Tweet Deck and Twitterfall are just a few.

If companies within the pharma and healthcare sectors want to explore the world of Twitter chats, there are many existing chats to choose from (we have included a list of some of the most popular at the end of this post. One problem for UK companies is that most of the chats are hosted in the United States and the timing is not always convenient.

Nevertheless, for areas of particular interest a chat may well be worth staying up for. Chats can cover a wide area or very specific topics. For example the National Health Service social media chat (#nhssm) covers a huge variety of issue but #rheum concerns only Rheumatology topics.

After familiarising themselves with the Twitter Chat format, companies may wish to start a chat themselves to discuss issues relating to their particular products and services. Good planning and advance promotion is vital to success, but it is an excellent way of getting customer feedback and identifying areas of concern.

Popular Pharma and Health Twitter Chats
(All times are GMT but subject to change)

Rheumatology    #rheum    8pm

Non-Communicable Diseases    #NCD    24 hour
Postpartum Depression    #ppd    6pm

Nurse Chat    #NurChat     8pm (fortnightly)
Occupational Therapy    #OTalk    8pm

National Health Service SocialMedia    #nhssm    midday
Elderly Care    #eldercarechat    6pm
Medical Devices    #MedDevice    9pm
Health Care Social Media UK    #hcsmuk    12.30 (on the third Thursday of every month)

Brain Tumours    #BrainTumorThursday    all day

Health Care Social Media Europe    #hcsmeu    midday
Health IT and Social Media    #HITsm    3pm

We’re shortlisted for a PM Society Digital Media Award!

Genetic Digital has been shortlisted as a finalist at this years PM Society’s Digital Media Awards. Their LinkedIn campaign for Britannia Pharmaceuticals has been shortlisted under the ‘Social Media’ category.

Damon Lightley, MD of Genetic Digital comments: “As a young but fast growing agency, to have our work credited by a highly reputable third party is superb news. We like to push the boundaries when it comes to digital and many pharma companies have shied away from using social media as a way of communicating with their target audiences. Our LinkedIn campaign has demonstrated that social media is more than just Facebook or Twitter and the success of this particular campaign has clearly shown that the social channel can indeed generate some great commercial results for a pharma company looking for innovative and less competitive ways to reach out to healthcare professionals.”

Doctors, healthcare professionals and the use of social media

Damon Lightley featured in Clinical Business ExcellenceRead Damon’s, guest article in Clinical Business Excellence about the use of social media within the medical sectors. The article appears on page 16 of the October 2012 issue of Clinical Business Excellence. It is titled: “Doctors, healthcare professionals and the use of social media.” PDF version is also available

This is Damon’s second article that he has had published in the publication. He has also written one titled: “Mobile Medical Applications: A Great Way of Reaching HCPs?”

Doctors, healthcare professionals and the use of social media

Using LinkedIn to engage with HCPs

Using LinkedIn to engage with HCPsIncreasingly healthcare and pharmaceutical marketing budgets are moving to online spaces. In 2010 eMarketer predicted that online pharmaceutical advertising spending would rise to $1.52 billion by 2014. In 2011 spending rose 23.3% to $1.58 billion, and eMarketer are now predicting that online pharmaceutical advertising spend is likely to reach $2.48 billion by 2016.

Marketing healthcare & pharmaceutical products that tend to specific diseases will require niche marketing strategies. Online and social media present an unparalleled opportunity to reach a highly-targeted group of individuals, that include healthcare professionals (HCPs). Using the various digital media channels at their disposal, pharmaceutical marketers can now produce highly customisable campaigns which target specific audiences based on a number of factors and activities.

But online advertising is not just about selling; it could also be about recruitment, human resources, identifying key opinion leaders and reaching out to them. In terms of marketing to professionals there’s no better platform than LinkedIn ads, which has proved massively effective for B2B industries due to the wealth of personal, professional information which LinkedIn users provide.

For regulatory reasons highly-targeted marketing in this form is very appealing to pharmaceutical companies that want to engage with HCPs. LinkedIn allows advertisers to serve ads to users with certain qualifications or titles, as well as the types of groups they have signed up to and the industry sectors they work in. It means that advertising spend can be extremely efficient and that specific people can be targeted for specific ads.

As well as the professional information which most users submit when using the site, there are also company pages and discussion groups on LinkedIn, which can be great place to engage audiences. LinkedIn groups encourage users to use LinkedIn for longer sessions of reading and sharing information, and promotion through groups can be a good way of targeting specific individuals while they are thinking/talking about a particular issue or topic in a group environment.

The difference with LinkedIn when compared to other social media platforms, is that LinkedIn is business-orientated. Whether recruiting or networking to promote products and services, most users on LinkedIn are acting in a professional capacity, and as such, it is a unique social platform in this respect.

With LinkedIn advertisers have the ability to target campaigns focusing on a particular company, a particular job role or even by geographical location. You can also target members by gender and age. There are over 1.5 million healthcare professionals on LinkedIn, and a quick search can identify:

  • 261, 514 users whose job titles includes the word “physician”
  • 151, 088 users who list themselves as a “medical specialist”
  • 267,883 who identify themselves as a “doctor”
  • 103, 273 who identify themselves as a “clinical specialist”

Because LinkedIn is so business-focused, its user data is ten times more accurate than any other social network’s registration data. It means that most LinkedIn users are being themselves in order to connect with work colleagues or other professionals, and so need to be honest and open about their employer, their job role, academic qualifications and experience. Accurate profile data makes targeted campaigns work – reducing wastage and keeping to budget.

LinkedIn & Google DoubleClick

LinkedIn has also partnered with the Google double click Ad Exchange, which means that targets can be identified based on job titles and employers, and they can be marketed to across Google’s network on a cost-per-click basis. Combined with Google-support capabilities such as re-targeting, this could prove a wise tactic for pharmaceutical and healthcare companies looking to target healthcare professionals.

Social Media and the GP – A Tweet too far?

GP using TwitterThe General Medical Council is on the case! In a very 21st century directive to its members it advises:

The standards expected of doctors do not change because they are communicating through social media rather than face to face or through other traditional media. However, social media does raise new circumstances to which the established principles apply.

In days gone by a local doctor would have been part of a community and be well known by his patients.  In its way social media facilitates this kind of familiarity in our less personal modern environment.  Those medical professionals who resist using social media to reveal more of themselves to their community of patients, site the necessity for keeping a professional distance.  Then there are the issues surrounding confidentiality, can this really be maintained in a social media setting?  How much of a responsibility do doctors have to maintain privacy for a patient intent on disseminating their details on social networks?   Where decision-making on treatment is no longer the province of the treating physician but rather a shared decision between the patient and his or her doctor, can social media help towards a further understanding and de-mystification of procedures and diagnoses?  With more than half the UK population now using Facebook and a trend towards new sign ups in the 50 plus age group, this is a perfect platform surely for medical and other socially significant information to be circulated.

In the Untied States they have, of course, got all manner of doctors and healthcare professionals on Twitter with Facebook pages and more information being circulated than you could shake a stick at.  Here in the UK, I suspect your surgery might be a little slower to start tweeting about flu jabs or Christmas opening times, but it will come.

On the other side of the coin, social media has become part of all our lives – whether it is knowing the comings and goings of our celebrities on Twitter, establishing business contacts on LinkedIn or making contact with a long lost friend on Facebook this form of communication is well and truly entrenched in our society.

But, as patients, how would we feel about finding and communicating with a GP by social media? Patients have traditionally had very few tools at their disposal and those they do have tend to be geared towards the more drastic areas of dealings with the medical profession such as malpractice or complaint actions.  It is always possible to find out the qualifications and accreditations of a medical professional but what about her bedside manner?  His affinity with children?  A special interest in a specific complaint?

Well social media and contact with other people through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and other social media platforms has opened the door to connection with all sorts of people – including doctors. With a little detective work, and the ability to pick up on the clues, shrewd patients can use social media to help them research and make an informed choice of the doctor or consultant they see.   If a doctor/consultant writes a blog, has a page on Facebook or Twitter followers, uploads photos to Flickr or even videos to YouTube, then you will know that, at the very least, he or she is in touch with the 21st century!

If you’d like to learn more about our healthcare and pharma social media marketing services, please contact us.

Mobile revenue rise for Twitter

Speaking at The Economist Group Conference in San Francisco, Twitter founder and CEO Dick Costolo revealed that the social network had generated more advertising revenue from its mobile incarnation that its desktop version for many days in the last quarter. Twitter only introduced ads to smartphone users’ timelines in February, so the news highlights the way in which mobile marketing campaigns can be quickly and successful integrated – as well as confirming the ever increasing popularity of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets amongst consumers.

“We’re borne of mobile,” Costolo commented, when asked about Twitter’s mobile strategies. “We have an ad platform that already is inherently suited to mobile, even though we launched our platform on the Web and only started running ads on mobile recently.”

It is interesting that whilst Twitter’s mobile ad campaigns appear to be flourishing, their prime social media rival Facebook is frequently criticised for their equivalent offering. Facebook have stated that they hope to make improvements to their current mobile strategies, but as of yet they have not experienced the levels of success that Twitter is reaching.

Comparison between the advertising of the two platforms demonstrates both the positives and the pitfalls of mobile marketing campaigns. Mobile marketing is a valuable technique within the digital marketing industry, but only when it is done well. Campaigns that are too invasive or offer information that is not particularly relevant to the  audience will not provide the desired results, so it is important for marketing professionals to strike the right balance to ensure that their campaigns produce the desired results.

Digital Health Coalition issues social media guidelines

An American think tank representing some of the biggest pharmaceutical and health companies in the United States has issued guidance for the use of social media and online forums in the industry. The group, known as the Digital Health Coalition (DHC), has produced a list of seven guiding principles in an effort at self-regulation. This follows the failure of the authorities to issue any definitive principles for online activity.

The health and pharmaceutical industry has always been aware that dispensing online health advice and drug information is a highly sensitive area, yet it is also something for which there is considerable public demand. The industry was hopeful that a lead in this field would be taken by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA); however with the exception of some direction of how to deal with off-label information requests, the FDA has not expanded on the industry’s use of the internet.

The DHC has openly stated that the proposed principles are not intended to replace any official regulations regarding the industry’s use of online media, but hope that they will provide a focus and stimulate informed debate on the subject.

A full copy of the principles as released by the DHC is given below:

Social Media and User-generated Health and Medical Content: Guiding Principles and Best Practices for Companies and Users

1) Regulated healthcare companies should endeavour to participate in social media as a means to promote public health, improve patient outcomes and facilitate productive patient/physician relationships.

2) Regulated healthcare companies are not responsible for online user-generated content that they do not control. Regulated healthcare companies are deemed to “control” health and medical content if (i) it owns such health and medical content and has material editorial authority or (ii) it paid for the creation of such content and has material editorial authority over such content.

3) Regulated healthcare companies have a responsibility to report adverse events they become aware of. Regulated healthcare companies should follow the existing adverse event reporting rules in place at the FDA.

4) Employees of regulated healthcare companies should disclose their material company relationship when posting comments/content or engaging in an online conversation relating to a company product or relevant healthcare issue.

5) Regulated healthcare companies should endeavour to respond to questions on sites they control within a reasonable period of time, and to implement reasonable measures to enable timely responses to crisis and emergency situations.

6) Regulated healthcare companies should endeavour to make reasonable efforts to correct misinformation that is factually incorrect.

7) Regulated healthcare companies should endeavour to appoint employee(s) tasked with the role of “patient liaison” focused on representing the best interests of the patient online.

Leading pharmaceutical company to launch Facebook game

Online games are not an area that would normally be associated with the pharmaceutical industry but in March, leading international drug company Boehringer Ingelheim will launch a new interactive game on Facebook.

The trading card style game, known as ‘Syrum’, will see players work from their laboratories as they bid to develop medicines that will save the world from the threat of all kinds of disease epidemics.  Players will begin with seed compounds which they must test to develop a drug which will progress through clinical trials before it is finally taken to market.  The drugs can then be marketed on the game’s Facebook page which introduces an interesting interactive element.

All good fun, but why is such a big international company concerning itself with an internet game? According to John Pugh, Boehringer’s head of communications, the purpose of the game is to ‘to build a new communications channel and to enter into a dialogue with stakeholders’.  The company is hoping to develop a relationship with the online community that raises awareness of what pharmaceutical companies do and why they do it. Ingenious digital marketing some would say.

Players of Syrum will frequently hit obstacles in their quest to produce an effective drug, even at a fairly late stage in the process, mirroring the real life frustrations of companies who have to scrap potential medicines after years of development. The game will also cover other elements of the pharmaceutical business, such as the poaching of research scientists by rival companies and the impact of patent expiry.

Boehringer is hoping to attract players from the pharmaceutical and medical industries but also hopes to attract a wider audience and has had consultations with patient groups to acquire their input.