Citing recent research into online advertising, Caroline Criado-Perez takes us back to basics to remind us - advertising needs to be targeted!
First, I’ll make an assumption: we all know that old adage, ‘all publicity is good publicity’. Right? Well, surprise, surprise, looks like it may be wrong – at least when it comes to social media. According to research from eMarketer, consumers have had enough of being followed around online by advertisers.
This really shouldn’t come as a shock to any of us. Translate advertising on social media to the ‘real’ world. Picture the scene: you’re having a coffee with a friend. And it’s lovely – you’re having a proper catch-up and setting the world to rights. But there’s a problem: there’s this annoying group in the corner who keep piping up at key words. “You like politics? Here’s a Mitt Romney action figure – only $1.99 – bargain!”
Problem is, you’re a Democrat.
OK, that’s an extreme example, and most online marketing is not quite as clunky as that. But you get the picture. Offline, this would be unacceptable, so why do we think it should be acceptable online?
The thing is, social media is seen in general by the user as an online extension of the café where they can get together and chat with friends. So they don’t relish being badgered with marketing that doesn’t interest them. Yes I concede that Facebook et al offer a multitude of options for reaching out to the right people, but when you’re in a social environment the last thing you need is another peddler plying their wares. And in a climate where pharma advertising is increasingly shifting to digital, now is the time for pharma to get au fait with the etiquette.
Web Trends claims that healthcare ads have the lowest click-through rate and highest cost of any category. And of course the lazy response to this is to conclude that digital advertising doesn’t work, and to beat a quick retreat to base camp. But this is to ignore that Web Trends presents healthcare ads at the bottom of a list – i.e. there are those for whom online marketing is working.
So where are we going wrong?
Simple answer, targeting.
It’s not only a waste of time contacting those who don’t want to be contacted. It can actually be counterproductive and be detrimental to your brand. But targeting your online marketing just to those who are actually interested in your products can be incredibly effective.
And thinking logically, why on earth would you want to spend time and money on the wrong people? That kind of thinking needs to get left behind in the television and print age, where publicity inevitably had to have a wide sweep. But in the digital age, you simply don’t need to promote your latest clinical trial for cancer to diabetic specialists. When a new report finds that doctors can, and should, be segmented by speciality for marketing purposes, you don’t need to and you shouldn’t want to market to the masses.
Of course it’s old news that the playing field has been greatly confused by the lack of clear regulatory guidelines from the FDA, as well as the slightly hit-and-miss approach of their decisions about what is and what isn't acceptable. But actually, Google Ads are decreasing in effectiveness anyway, as users increasingly rely on organic search results and subconsciously filter out ads and boxed off information – and this is before you even consider the wide range of AdBlocker plugins available for most browsers.
So old-style advertising, even if you’re doing it online, even if you’re doing it on social media isn’t enough any more. You need to be targeting the right people and you need to be targeting them in the right way.
And how do you make sure you find these ‘right people’? By using social media properly. Remembering that the digital age is an interactive age, your consumers are directly accessible in a way they never have been before – talk to them, find out who they are and what they want.
Resist the urge to advertise on profile pages, which could be seen as intrusive by some. Instead advertise with corresponding Facebook groups, online blogs and smaller social media websites geared specifically towards illnesses that your product can tackle. Engage in debate, set up online forums for people to approach you.
Making use of the internet in this way is not a cynical move – your mantra should be, ‘The more I know about my consumers, the better I can serve them’. And really, that’s what pharma is about, and we shouldn’t forget it.
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