I founded the San Diego Biotechnology Network in 2008, and we keep a directory of the life science companies, and we also created a Twitter list of all the companies who use the application. We’ve noticed that the number of companies with Twitter accounts has roughly doubled over the past 5 years, and now roughly half of the biotech companies in San Diego are active on social media. Almost all of the companies have a LinkedIn presence, and many of these companies have a Facebook page in addition or instead of a Twitter account.
Since 2008, I have been a champion for life science companies to embrace social media, but I have often felt as though I was metaphorically pushing a rock up a steep hill, against the wind. I’m definitely encouraged by the increased adoption of social media. However, again with the metaphor, I feel like we’ve made progress, but it’s like reaching a plateau along that uphill slog. While many more companies have social media accounts, on the whole they’re not used often, and too many companies use them only for self-serving means. This strategy does not do well in social media, because as the name implies, followers, especially scientists, are looking to engage with your brand socially, not just hear about your latest products or events you’re attending.
We may have vicious cycle on our hands, as we’ll stay on this plateau until companies see traction and ROI on social media. Here, I’ve provided the top 5 reasons your life science brand needs to have a strong social media presence:
- Demand and Lead Generation. Creating demand for your products is about staying on a potential customer’s radar while introducing themselves to your brand and which problems you could solve for them. Social media is perfect for this, as the best messages will be seen by them unobtrusively during their time on social media. For lead generation, while utilizing social media won’t automatically result in leads, they can be part of campaigns that include lead collections tactics. The great thing about social media is that anyone can create accounts, and use hashtags to extend the reach of each message. For an example, check out Tecan’s #BeARockStarInYourLabcampaign which has been running all year. They used social media combined with conferences, content, and even a rock and roll band to generate demand and leads for their lab instrumentation products (presumably!).
- Multi- or omni- channel marketing. Everything old is new, you likely have heard the old ad-age (get it?) that someone must see an advertisement 6 times (or more) to react to it. While many factors have changed since this rule was proposed, I’m fairly sure the human brain has not changed that much since the advent of advertising. If anything, with all the advertisements we’re bombarded with these days, we need to see a message more than 6 times. You need to reach scientists more than just via too-frequent email blasts (and your list may have suffered a substantial decrease due to recent GDPR regulations) or hoping they’ll visit your website. These days, there are many factors that lead to scientists using different digital channels throughout their day, based on their age, digital proficiency, and personal preferences, among other factors. The best way to reach them, and to get their eyes on your message multiple times, is to cast a wide net, and have social media profiles on all the major platforms, Google adwords as well as scientific publications and communities. With any luck, you’ll not only reach them, they’ll see your branded messages in more than one place. While it sounds difficult, applications such as Hootsuite and Buffer help you to share content across applications. Complementing organic social media with paid placements, and/or remarketing, is also suggested.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Using social media to improve your SEO is both a short term and long term tactic. In the short term, there is empirical evidence that social media directly affects SEO. SEO algorithms’ dependence on social media is a fluid situation, however, as search engine access to social media data changes often. Over the past 6 months alone, we’ve seen significant social media platform changes due to privacy and possible election tampering issues. Thankfully, you can count on the long term benefits of using social media. By building a following and posting relevant content with social media-savvy scientists and potential partners, you’re much more likely to motivate them to share your website’s resources both on social media and on their website. Even with all of the changes in SEO algorithms, and their tendencies to be a “black box” to those trying to improve their rankings, backlinks to your website, especially from other websites (as opposed to social media) are STILL SEO gold.
- Public Relations. These days, anyone can send a press release, which means, everyone sends press releases. While I think there is still merit in using a PR outlet to send a press release, we all know that a significant percentage of these releases go largely unnoticed. And no, the backlinks you receive from posting on sites that pick up every release (e.g., Yahoo News) will not improve your SEO appreciably (if they did, it would be a huge pyramid scheme that would soon collapse). If you’re a small biotech, and you had to send a release with non-earth shattering information (let’s be honest, most press releases aren’t), tomorrow, would you get any coverage? Having a large social media following that cares about your company is the best way to ensure that all of your news gets some coverage. Additionally, just the fact that you HAVE a significant social media following, gets people to pay more attention to whatever you’re sharing—I call it the ‘Kim Kardashian’ effect.
- Business Intelligence. If you’re like me, if you watch the nightly news, it’s only to see a recap of the news you’ve been seeing on and off all day on social media. Social media breaks most world events these days, and same goes for biotech news. On the short term, don’t you want to be the first one to know which companies just got funded, and may have the funds to purchase your product? On the long term, you’ll find and follow influencers who see trends before anyone else, helping you to guide your business. Additionally, as part of collecting and curating content for your followers, you’ll get up to speed on your competition and trends. I have developed myriad business intelligence feeds for companies for the dual purpose of serving as business/competitive intelligence for internal use, as well as for social media (competitor information is of course not shared externally). Your entire organization can benefit from internal and external curated feeds.
As an early proponent of social media for life science companies, I am thrilled that biotech companies are embracing it more fully. Now that I’ve hopefully made the case for life science brands to further leverage social media, I will follow up with an article about the best practices. My consultancy Comprendia is available to help with social media strategies and tactical implementation, fill out the form below to get started.
This article appeared originally on the Biotech Marketing Network.