August 18, 2015

How Pharma Can Leverage Social Video Platforms to Build Their Brands

snapchat app

According to CISCO, video will account for 69% of all consumer Internet traffic by 2017. Many marketers have embraced this growing trend and incorporated social media platforms with video functionality into big-picture marketing strategies. While these audiences typically skew younger and there are limitations due to FDA regulations, there is also potential for pharma marketers to utilize sites like Tumblr, Snapchat and Periscope.

This POV will explore opportunities for pharma marketers to take advantage of increasingly popular social media platforms that incorporate video functionality. It will also touch on some considerations that must be taken into account when implementing these platforms within the pharma industry.


As part of a fully integrated, multichannel marketing campaign, tapping into popular social platforms can help increase awareness and build education around different disease states. By leveraging the unique capabilities of Tumblr, Snapchat and Periscope, brands can engage with patients at different stages of the patient journey, offering information and encouragement. While these channels serve as an effective medium to publish material aimed at building awareness and education, they also enable real-time feedback from patients.

Ranked number one in social sentiment toward brands, Tumblr allows pharma companies to connect to and engage with their audience by sharing a variety of media content, including text, photos, links, videos, audio and GIFs. This microblogging and social networking site is popular with young adults, with 50% of the users between the ages of 18 and 34 years old. Tumblr’s second largest age demographic, comprising 26% of all users, is between the ages of 35 and 54 years old.

“As a creative canvas, Tumblr empowers brands to tell their story unconstrained by text or cookie-cutter pages.” – Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo

One feature of Tumblr that makes it attractive to the pharma industry is the ability to heavily customize blog layouts and content, making it easier to stay compliant with FDA regulations. In 2013, Janssen launched a successful Tumblr engagement within the HIV community called Positively Together (below).

pharma tumblr example

As consumers increasingly use mobile devices to obtain information and stay connected, Tumblr empowers them to access and publish content through an easy-to-navigate mobile app, simple desktop functionality, and even email. Unlike other social networks that encourage quick interactions, Tumblr users spend an average of 14 minutes per visit on the site reading and engaging with content, which is longer than other major social networks.

Marketers can use this tool to see what content resonates with the audience, since users can follow brands, favorite posts, and “reblog,” or share content they find of particular interest. Tumblr also allows brands to increase the reach of their posts through paid media. These sponsored posts can target audiences on the platform and on Yahoo!, with the potential to reach more than 800 million unique visitors per month.

taco bell snapchat ads

With 100 million daily active users, 60% of whom are between 18 and 34 years old, Snapchat is a video messaging application that allows brands to deliver curated photo and video content directly to recipients’ mobile devices. This content, known as a “snap,” is only available for viewing for a set time limit before it’s no longer available on a viewer’s device. Because Snapchat does not have a built-in analytics tool, it is difficult for marketers to measure its effectiveness. With only 14% of the user base being 35 years old or older, Snapchat is considered one of the best ways to reach Millennials, but may not be the best platform for brands trying to reach an older segment of consumers.

With careful planning, and the appropriate monitoring and moderation workflows in place, pharma marketers could take advantage of this app. Below are some general opportunities for marketers interested in using Snapchat:

  • Leverage platform influencers and create brand advocates by encouraging sharing of information to expand reach.
  • Promote other social media platforms to gain followers and engagement across various channels.
  • Build anticipation about an upcoming event by creating short teaser videos.
  • Alert followers about new promotions or news on the brand.
  • Utilize in-app advertising to reach a young audience with full-screen, paid media.
iWatch review on periscope

Launched in March 2015, Periscope is an increasingly popular live video streaming app that gives users the ability to share their stories and perspective, while simultaneously interacting with viewers on-screen. Its less popular predecessor, Meerkat, is a similar application with a slightly different user interface but many of the same capabilities.

Mashable, a digital media company, commonly uses their Periscope channel to broadcast live product reviews or discuss current events with their viewers (right). Leveraging live video with either of these apps could be an interesting option for pharma, as long as careful preplanning takes place. For example, it may be possible to livestream an event that is already public, such as a panel with HCPs or a keynote speech by an influencer. Patient advocate panels could be broadcast live, or patients might find value in a pharma company hosting “virtual office hours,” where patients ask HCPs questions about their disease states.

Pharma marketers must be mindful of both apps’ inability to moderate comments that are displayed on top of the video feed. Currently, advertising is unavailable on either platform, but there may be an opportunity to leverage influencers in this social space, keeping in mind the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) recent guidelines about testimonials and endorsements.


social video platform chart

*Demographic data on Periscope is unavailable due to the fairly recent introduction of the app to the public. However, it is likely similar to Twitter’s demographics because of Periscope’s initial sign-up stipulations, which required all users to have a Twitter account.


Depending on a brand’s target demographic and overall marketing objectives, Tumblr, Snapchat and Periscope may be viable options. To fully comprehend the space and help determine whether they are right for your brand, spend some time there yourself. With a thorough understanding of these platforms and careful pre-planning, Tumblr, Snapchat and Periscope can be valuable digital assets to many pharma brands seeking to reach a young patient population in the social space.