Social Media for Life Sciences 101 [Updated for 2023]

Claire Brucher

Content Marketing Specialist

Social media. It’s everywhere. It’s how many of us consume our news, learn about events and stay in touch with our network. Most of the time, we’re always within an arm’s length of social media with Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter loaded up on our phones.

But what does that mean for life sciences companies and life sciences marketing agencies?

A lot.

Seventy-seven percent of the U.S. population is on social media. And 88% of American companies have a social presence.

You might be thinking that the life sciences industry is the exception. After all, isn’t the development of life-saving drugs and medical devices too serious for hashtags, Throwback Thursday and memes?

That’s right – kind of. Marketing leads at pharma and med device companies, CROs, IRBs and the like need to not be too quick to dismiss the use of social media as a strategic communications tool.

Social media can be a powerful way to connect with your audiences and the larger clinical trials community.

In fact, while social media for life sciences has been slow to take off, (“a staggering 80% are not currently active in social media”), it can be a powerful way to connect with your audiences and the larger clinical trials community.

Implementing a social strategy that makes sense and stays consistent with your brand could be a way to get a step up from your competition.

Why Do Life Sciences Organizations Need Social Media?

Social media has evolved into more than just a tool that enables broadcasting brand-only news, promotion and information.

Today, effectively using social media certainly does elevate a brand, but the approach behind it should be more … well … social. Rather than talking at followers, effective use of social media should involve actually listening, educating and engaging with individuals.

And where do most individuals “hang out” these days? Social media.

Bottom line: becoming a trusted resource on social media just makes sense.

For example, if there’s an upcoming clinical trial on a new treatment for kidney disease, life sciences organizations can work with their clinical investigators to host a Facebook Live event to discuss the new trial, what they are hoping to learn, answer questions for those individuals who may be a fit for the study and to help recruit participants.

By using social media, users are able to support and humanize the world of evidence-based medicine and patients themselves can make more informed decisions. Understanding the importance of social media for life sciences – and doing it right – can open a door that allows you to understand your audience, monitor research and so much more.

Advertising on social media also ensures your brand and messages stay in front of potential prospects when they’re not at their workstations.

How to Get Started With Social Media for Life Sciences

Set goals and plan

Setting goals when you begin any new initiative is an important first step; otherwise, how will you know if you’ve been successful?

A few goals we recommend to clients when they’re starting their social media efforts include:

  • Increase website traffic. Dig into your Google Analytics to see how much traffic you’re generally getting on your site on a monthly basis. (Side note: Check out the screenshot below for an ideal breakdown of website traffic. Social media hovers in the middle!)social media website traffic
  • Post educational content. Commit to posting to your platforms on a regular basis with the majority of posts being informative. Position yourself as an authoritative resource, as opposed to being too self-promotional.
  • Built out lists (if you’re using Twitter). This helps you easily keep track of influencers in your space, media and publications covering your industry and editors who produce helpful content that your followers would be interested in reading. This will also help you build your engagement efforts, too, which is really what social media is all about.
  • Post consistently. To steadily grow your followers organically, you must have a consistent presence on social media.

Once you’ve set your goals, you need to pave a path to reach them – and that means planning. Remember: targeting is critical here, as noted by Patrick Wareing, a U.K.-based life sciences marketing consultant.

“In order to connect with your audience, you need to identify who they are and tailor content accordingly,” Wareing said. “Broadly speaking, life science audiences focus on B2B or B2C. For B2B audiences, consider who you are targeting within these businesses. For example, if you are selling laboratory consumables, you need to be targeting scientists who work in the lab, or can influence purchasing decisions. Whereas, if you are selling services or products of greater expense, you should create content that targets senior management or c-suite executives. In order to connect with your audience, you need to identify who they are and tailor content accordingly. If you are focusing on a B2C audience, you need to focus on connecting with the consumer. This means focusing less on the scientific-basis of your business and focusing more on consumer benefits and outcomes.”

Who is your target audience? Who will be responsible for adding content to your feeds? What if a follower comments on your post? Who will handle the response? What social platforms does this audience use? Pick two or three social media platforms to begin with and start by building those out before you add another.

Develop a content calendar of topics in which you’re highly experienced and your audience wants to know about. You should have a targeted approach as to what you’re planning on highlighting and key topics you can add opinion to or emphasize.

Prepare Your Brand

OK, you’ve set goals. You know where you’re going to put your efforts … now comes the building.

Claim your company’s handles and make sure that when you’re adding artwork and information, it’s consistent with your brand’s website. Take the time to think about popular, relevant hashtags (on Twitter) and remember to keep things as simple as possible for your audience.

Some popular hashtags related to #LifeSciences, courtesy of hastagify.

popular life sciences hashtags social mediaThen start researching the latest news and happenings in life sciences that your audience would be interested in, and build out an editorial calendar. Consider using a scheduling tool to make your life easier. (We use Sprout Social at Altitude, which enables scheduling of LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts.)

Be visual whenever possible – and think about your social media voice. Social media can be more casual, but stick with a voice and tone that matches your brand; otherwise, it won’t feel authentic.

Remember, building your brand on social media doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years to establish a social media presence and following – so don’t expect to wake up with a blue checkmark next to your name.

Engaging with readers who matter

While posting content on social media is imperative, engaging with other content is equally as important – if not moreso.

From commenting on industry-related blogs to retweeting and liking a relevant post, showing users that you’re active and keeping up-to-date with the latest industry trends will help position you as a thought leader – and show there is a human being behind the account.

In addition, engaging with targeted reporters and media purposefully and authentically can get your brand noticed.

If done thoughtfully, you’re able to connect directly with the reporter, editor and publication so your brand becomes a contender for the next article they’re looking to write, catapulting your subject matter experts into the limelight and adding to your life sciences organization’s cachet.

Part of engagement also includes active listening.

What are your peers, colleagues, prospects and customers asking or talking about on their accounts? Are they complaining about something? Are they confused about the latest research? Do they want to know more about a particular study?

Social media is your chance to speak up. You’re letting your community know that you hear them – and you’re doing something about it. Not only will it show them that you care, but it also will help build a trustworthy relationship in the long run.

Build it and they will come?

Not necessarily.

In addition to your organic efforts, boosting posts or spending some advertising dollars on social media can be hugely helpful to reach beyond your audience – and the ever-shrinking percentage of people who will actually see your posts organically thanks to social media’s constantly changing algorithms.

While there are ways you can help boost your organic reach (sharing useful, pertinent posts rather than just sharing for the sake of sharing; actively participating in group discussions; curating content generated by users), sometimes spending a bit of money to get more attention to an important article, finding or other type of post can have a significant impact.

The nice thing about boosting social media posts or doing some advertising on the platforms you believe your audience is spending time on is that it can be incredibly cost-effective and targeted. Plus, if you advertise on a platform, there’s a possibility that you can get people in your retargeting funnel if they click on the ad and land on your website.

Measure Your Success

Now that you’ve realized the advantages of social media and have fully implemented it into your strategy, it’s time to measure the outcomes. Remember: you shouldn’t try to attribute revenue to a specific tweet. That’s too granular– and not what social media strategy is all about.

Remember: you shouldn’t try to attribute revenue to a specific tweet.

Start by looking back at the goals you set at the start of your process. Did you meet your expectations? If so, you can continue striving towards those goals and emphasize them as you move forward. If not, don’t give up yet.

Implementing a social media strategy is a process. And, as you’re familiar within many processes in the life sciences industry, it takes time.

Try adjusting your audience to be more specific. Or narrow your topic focus instead of trying to cover something overly broad. Whatever it is, your results will tell you important factors on what you should be doing next.

Yes, the life sciences industry is more conservative and regulated than other industries. However, this doesn’t mean your organization can’t add a thoughtful social media strategy to your to-do list. To differentiate yourself in the marketplace, social media is a must.

Need help tackling social media? From content planning to daily monitoring, we provide a wide range of social media services that connect to your overall strategy. Contact us online, or call 610-421-8601 x122 to get started.

Claire Brucher

Equal parts creative and analytical, Claire Brucher is capable of synthesizing complex concepts and datasets into messages that get results for clients. She is responsible for producing a wide variety of content that results in increased brand awareness, website traffic and leads. Claire began applying her educational experience at Altitude in the summer of 2018 as a marketing, PR and social media intern. Since joining the team full-time, she’s leapt headfirst into the world of content marketing and distribution.
Claire graduated from Lehigh University with a double major in marketing and finance and a minor in creative writing.