Use of Social Media by Pharmaceutical Companies – a perspective from Macedonia

The following article from a member of Creation Healthcare’s team in Macedonia, inspired by a few routine visits to Facebook and LinkedIn, presents a view of social media usage within pharmaceutical companies in Eastern Europe, and highlights the need for boundaries within social media marketing in the industry.

When browsing through my LinkedIn updates, I discovered a very successful campaign based on the number of ‘likes’ received. In my experience, LinkedIn campaigns are remarkably effective at generating thousands of likes. This marketing effort in particular had a financial incentive attached to it: for every ‘like’, my LinkedIn friend (the person running the project) would receive one euro.

Soon after this experience, I stumbled across a Macedonian healthcare company’s Facebook page, whose aim was to attract brand supporters. I was very surprised when I saw no safety information next to their promotional material. The drugs in question were not prescription drugs ,but even so, the page lacked information on potential side effects and adverse events.

I soon realised there was a sharp contrast between this company’s page and the Facebook pages of more global companies, which offered information on upcoming events and initiatives, but no promotional material at all.

What does this all mean? Well, mostly that social media is a powerful marketing tool on every level, although it seems that certain parts of Eastern Europe still have a long way to go in terms of learning how to make the most of this tool. There are certain boundaries that should not be crossed.

As I thought about this, I took a closer look at other companies’ Facebook pages (Pfizer, Novartis, Novo Nordisk), which featured quite a high number of ‘likes’ on posts covering events, medical journal articles, and conferences. There was of course, zero promotional material for products. The risk here is that the Macedonian healthcare company that neglected to provide safety information on its Facebook page may be sending a misleading message and encouraging citizens to self-medicate, judging by the number of likes on its page.

It is one thing to collect ‘prize money’ from a colleague based on the number of likes received for a particular campaign, and another thing to collect likes on a post that features a product, even if the product may be considered to be a lower risk due to the fact that it is available over the counter.

I closed my browser and called my pharmacovigilance colleague for a conversation about the delicate balance between promotion and patient safety.

Successfully engaging consumers and health stakeholders in Eastern Europe requires knowledge of the local culture, digital behaviour, and regulatory environment in each country and region. Creation Healthcare has consultants on the ground throughout Eastern Europe, supporting our local knowledge and strategy delivery in the region.

Contact Creation Healthcare to find out how we can help you successfully connect with stakeholders in Eastern Europe.

Stevce Acevski

Based in Macedonia, Stevce Acevski is a member of Creation Healthcare's international team of consultants. He is a pharmaceutical marketing expert with extensive experience of the pharmaceutical and healthcare landscape in South East Europe. Medically trained, his career has included roles as a pharmacist and medical specialist. His language and local market skills include Macedonian, Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian.