According to research from Hubspot, pharmaceutical companies are among a group of the least liked industries on Facebook. Hubspot has evaluated a dataset of 500,000 Facebook groups and come up with an average fan base of 624. The pharmaceutical portion of that dataset looks to have (the exact number is not provided) an average fan base of 550-575—slightly below average.
These numbers are all well and good but my question is this: should we be judging social media success purely on the ability to amass a large following?
For the record, Hubspot makes no such implications in the post outlining the data, and instead merely presents the empirical data it has found. But much of the chatter I’ve seen thus far in the dreaded pharma social media echo chamber uses this data to bemoan the lack of success pharmaceutical companies have had on Facebook. Blindly interpreting data as a benchmark for success is a futile exercise.
For starters, did anyone actually expect the pharmaceutical industry to be higher than average when it comes to the fan base it has accumulated? We are talking about an industry that is fighting long-held distrust, strict regulations and sensitive topics. The hill is a bit steeper for healthcare companies than it is for the movie industry (the most liked industry according to a separate post). Frankly, I’m a bit surprised that the pharma industry is that close to average.
The more important issue at hand is the idea that Facebook fans is an accurate measure of success in social media—particularly pharma social media. I don’t buy that. It should be part of the equation but it provides only a small glimpse into the success of your social media strategy. In the pharmaceutical industry, we should be taking a closer look at the level of engagement of your established fan base, whether it is trending up or down and how active and vocal that community is. These are all a blend of objective and subjective measures but provide a far more accurate picture of social media success.
The empirical data presented by Hubspot is useful in that it provides a top-level sense of the interest in pharmaceutical social media engagement. What it does not evaluate is how long the group has been established, what purpose it intends to serve, what benchmark for success has been determined and how active the group itself is. These are all critical factors in evaluating success in pharma social media.