Where do people go when they want information about a health condition or how to treat it? They don’t call their doctors now, they look online. A study from Pew Research Center found nearly 60 percent of adults in the US went online to get health information. While many of those people used a search engine or Wikipedia for their research, a small percentage turned to social media, particularly Facebook.

As more people go online or to social media to get health and medical information, it makes sense for pharmaceutical and other health-focused companies to find ways to connect with an audience or customer base online. Pharmacy influencer marketing is one way companies can reach people who are searching for information online.

What Is Influencer Marketing?

Companies that use influencer marketing work with people who have established a following and a high level of engagement on certain social media platforms, aka “influencers.” The influencers create content for brands that subtly promotes a product or service.

Influencer marketing works because influencers have established a certain level of trust with the people who follow them. When people see a post from an influencer, they are more likely to listen to it or take its advice to heart compared to when they see an advertisement on TV, in print, or on a webpage.

According to the 2018 State of the Creator Economy survey, two out of five marketers have used influencer marketing within the past year. Among the most popular influencer marketing tactics are sponsored Facebook posts, having an influencer “like” or follow a brand, sponsored tweets, and sponsored videos.

Particular Challenges of Pharmacy Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing campaigns need to comply with the guidelines set up by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Specifically, that means posts created by influencers on behalf of brands need to reveal any material connections between the influencer and brand. A simple way to reveal that connection is by using the hashtag #ad.

Pharmacy influence marketing has to comply with the FTC’s guidelines. Also, it needs to comply with the Food and Drug Administration’s rules for advertising drugs and medicines. According to the FDA, any ad for a drug needs to include the following:

  • The drug’s name
  • The FDA-approved use of the drug (the ad needs to list at least one approved use)
  • The most significant risks of the drug

The FDA stresses that any advertisement of a medicine or drug needs to present its benefits and risks in a “balanced” fashion.

Pharmacy influencer posts that don’t follow the FDA’s guidelines or regulations can land both the influencer and the pharmaceutical company in hot water. Back in 2015, Kim Kardashian-West created an influencer post for Diclegis, a medication for morning sickness. What her post didn’t include was a list of the risks and potential side effects of the drug.

That didn’t go down well with the FDA, and Kardashian-West quickly deleted the post after the drug’s manufacturer received a warning letter from the agency. A few weeks later, Kardashian-West created a #CorrectiveAd listing all the risks and side effects of the morning sickness medication.

Examples of How Pharmacy Influencer Marketing Can Work

Kardashian-West’s example can be seen as a “what not to do” when working with pharmacy influencer marketing. There are also plenty of positive examples out there that show how pharmaceutical companies can and are using influencer marketing. A few of those examples include:

  • Novartis: Novartis produces Entresto, a drug that helps to treat heart failure. In 2016, the pharmaceutical company teamed up with Queen Latifah, whose mother suffered from heart failure, for a Facebook Live discussion on World Heart Day. More than 1,000 people watched the discussion live.
  • Amcal Pharmacy: Based in Australia, Amcal Pharmacy teamed up with race car driver Jack Perkins, who has diabetes. On Instagram, Perkins regularly discusses his “journey” with the disease and how Amcal has helped him get the medications he needs to manage the condition.
  • Her Life. Her Adventures.: Her Life. Her Adventures. is a program from Merck. Its goal is to help women take control of their lives by better understanding their options for birth control. The pharmaceutical company has partnered with celebrity influencers including Mandy Moore, as well macro-influencers such as dentist and photographer Tiffany Nguyen and rock climber Emily Harrington.
  • Allergan See America: Allergan partnered with numerous influencers, including football player Victor Cruz and actor Alexandra Daddario, for its See America campaign, an effort to end or reduce preventable blindness. The influencer campaign encouraged people to snap a picture of their eyes and share it with the hashtag #eyepic. For every photo shared, the See America program donated $10 to the American Foundation for the Blind.

What Effect Is Influencer Marketing Having on the Pharma Industry?

One positive effect influencer marketing can have on the pharmaceutical industry is it can help the industry rebuild or establish trust with consumers. There are many reasons why people don’t trust the industry, from price hikes to the risk of becoming addicted to certain medicines, as Pharmaceutical Technology notes.

What (or who) people do trust are influencers. The vast majority, nearly 90 percent, of 18 to 24  year olds trust health information they find on social media. Working with influencers who have a trusting following can help pharma companies to rebuild trust with their target audience.

Another way influencer marketing can help shift the pharma industry for the better is by changing the conversation. Instead of putting doctors in a position of power and influence, pharma companies are looking at the patients. For example, in the hemophilia community there are a few bloggers who are very influential. Pharma companies that have worked with those bloggers/influencers have found they are able to create a narrative that’s patient centered, which tends to appeal to audiences more than a doctor-centered narrative.

Pharmacy influencer marketing can help brands build trust with their target audience. As long as pharmacy brands remember to follow the rules set up by the FDA and FTC, influencer marketing can be an effective way to connect with consumers who might otherwise tune out pharma messages.