That's not necessarily a good thing. Has anyone bothered to ask the patients whether they welcome the involvement of pharmaceutical companies and what need they would fill? We've all read the stats that support the idea there is a void waiting to be filled. Pew Internet reports that 61% of online users are actively seeking health information and that individuals with chronic diseases are more likely to spend time on social networks than the average individual. This may point to the patient appetite for content but it does not imply they want that content to come from pharmaceutical companies.
There is a common belief that even if the pharma industry decided to implement social media programs that patients would automatically rebuff its efforts. There is considerable logic to this line of thinking.
Individuals generally don't join a social network to engage with brands. Because of this dynamic, people are predisposed to place more scrutiny on a corporate entity than on an individual. This holds true for any company, but when you consider a pharmaceutical company, the effect becomes magnified.
Pharmaceutical companies are in a highly regulated industry where every move they make is placed under the microscope. More so than other industries, customers (in this case, patients) pick apart every message and every nuance that comes from a pharmaceutical company. When a pharma company decides to become an active participant in social media, you can bet a horde of people are watching its every move just hoping for a misstep.
This is the lens that shapes the opinion that pharma is not welcome in social media circles. Sure, patients are wary of the participation of healthcare companies for all of the aforementioned reasons. But even more so, they are wary because their health is at stake. This isn't a decision on which laptop to buy or which new cell phone has the best apps. This is a decision that literally impacts the way you live your life. Patients have every right to be wary of pharmaceutical companies.
But that doesn't mean they don't want and need them to be a part of their communities. Generally speaking, what someone suffering from an illness wants is information. It provides comfort, peace of mind and some semblance of control.
Patients want information. Pharma holds the information. Pharma has a unique ability, in fact a responsibility, to educate patients as much as possible. Why should a little extra scrutiny stand in the way? As a company, if you are there for the right reasons and keep the patient at the center of your decision-making process, you will welcome the added attention. What are you waiting for?