Date posted: 29 September 2017
Custom Audiences: Pharma’s Social Saviour?
We know the pharma industry can present robust compliancy challenges for marketers attempting to reach audiences online. Fortunately, in their efforts to monetise themselves through their ‘custom audience’ features, the social networks have given the industry a useful means of addressing this. This post explores how these custom audience features have developed, what they include and best practice advice for pharmaceutical marketers.
Burden of Proof: Social Media Marketing and Return on Investment (ROI)
In the late noughties, Facebook and the other major social networks were aware they needed to show advertisers clearer ROI in order to demonstrate their worth as a serious alternative to established media. As the new kid on the block, there was arguably greater scrutiny and ‘burden of proof’ to demonstrate this than with traditional channels.
To address the challenge, Facebook launched ‘Custom Audiences’ in 2012. Twitter followed suit with ‘Tailored Audiences’ (in 2013) and LinkedIn with ‘Matched Audiences’ (2017). Each of these effectively offers the same thing.
Custom Audiences 101
The theory behind Custom/Tailored/Matched Audiences is very simple – enable organisations to target social network publishing to customer specific segments. This is done by matching the profile an organisation holds about a customer with that customer’s social media profile(s) using data points, such as email address or mobile phone number.
The organisation can dice and slice its customer base as it wants (e.g. by specialty, seniority) and share great content – relevant, timely, actionable – to them.
Clearly this raises a number of data protection points, which the social networks had to address. These include processes to stop the social networks from actually seeing which customers are being targeted and requiring a minimum size of audience to target.
Significantly, these products have helped social networks move from being ‘just another channel for reaching people’ to a starting point for sophisticated customer relationship management.
Pharma Industry Compliance
Clause 9.9 of the 2016 Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) Code states, ‘The telephone, text messages, email, telemessages, facsimile, automated calling systems and other electronic data communications must not be used for promotional purposes, except with the prior permission of the recipient.’
Consequently, you will need the explicit consent of your target audience to serve them content using Custom Audiences (regardless of industry this is the right approach to take). Ultimately this means if you’ve established a diligent process for using Custom Audiences, you’ll have pharma compliance-proofed it. Handy.
The way in which you actually capture those permissions has been discussed in our content marketing article, and we’ll discuss it again in future posts. But in terms of persuading people that it’s worth their while to opt-in… well, a promise of contextual, timely and useful content is a good place to start!
These Custom Audience products have evolved significantly over time, becoming much more straightforward to use than when they first launched. However, regardless of how simple they are to use, unless you have some interesting customer data upon which to create an audience segment, you’ll be limited to what you can do.
Let’s assume you’ve collated a list of healthcare professionals (HCPs) who’ve all opted in. Now, what else do you know about this group that you can use to segment and serve up different content? This presents an interesting question for the point of data collection. What additional information will you ask for? What’s the minimum viable amount while still having enough to make meaningful segmentation? Like most things, it’s important to have some clear objectives before you begin.
Telling a Better Story
None of this is to say that using targeted audiences is all plain sailing. The matching process will never be close to 100%. In fact, depending on how much information you’ve collated about your audience, it might be significantly less. To be clear, that doesn’t mean you might reach the wrong people, just that you won’t reach all of the people that you’d like to.
What I really like about using targeted audiences is the ability to tell each audience a better story. By building a picture of both who they are and what they do (i.e. the content they respond to and engage with most) you can get smart with what you tell them next, hopefully building a stronger relationship. We’ll also talk more about website retargeting in future posts.
Which Networks to Use?
Now that this audience targeting feature is available across Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, pharmaceutical marketers have many options. In targeting HCPs, Twitter and LinkedIn are pharma’s preferred networks; however, given the scale and ubiquity of Facebook it shouldn’t be ruled out. Of course, every sub-section of an industry and every audience is different, so a test-and-optimise approach is advised. Start small; identify what works and what doesn’t; do less of what doesn’t and more of what does.
A Final Thought on Diluting Brand Value
Much of this post has been about the benefit of reaching target audiences, in the channels they’re using, with contextually relevant and valuable content. Content that addresses the needs of the audience first and supports business/brand goals second.
This is important, because when I see companies, or brands publishing irrelevant, unhelpful, self-serving content, they’re in danger of brand dilution. By this I mean, each piece of poorly targeted/frequently repeated/boring content erodes audience interest/trust/consideration for that brand (even if just a tiny amount).
Respect your audience’s time, inbox and feeds. Offer them great content that’s relevant, timely and actionable. Put their needs first. That’s how you build relationships, earn their trust, and enhance your brand value.
Have you considered using these types of targeting options through social media?
Do you see content in your own newsfeed from a brand you shop with that feels hyper-relevant?
Please share your experiences and comments below.