The previous Tip of the Week examined the use of marketing theory, particularly to affect positive behavior change of patients. Marketing is an essential function for any business, including pharmacy and health care, as we attempt to influence patient behavior and do so in the context of a highly competitive and resource-constrained environment. The theories mentioned in the previous Tip can be applied in any number of ways to improve or enhance the pharmacy business. There is a considerable shift in marketing venues or platforms in recent years toward the use of social media. Social media (eg, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube) encompasses an ever-widening array of sites that have the capability of reaching large audiences or very targeted audiences at a relatively inexpensive cost. Many businesses, particularly smaller ones such as local stores, craft shops, restaurants, microbreweries, and others conduct nearly all of their marketing on social media.
Grindrod et al conducted a review of social marketing practices in pharmacy.1 They found a number of articles on social media, but much of it having to do with e-professionalism and with its use in educating students, two very important considerations. However, there had been relatively little reported on pharmacists’ use of social media for marketing purposes. That does not mean none of them were doing so, as a pharmacy's strategies might be proprietary in nature. However, it would appear as though more could be done. Some pharmacists were participating in wikis aimed to improve community health. Pharmacists and students in Virginia used Facebook and Twitter to promote a pharmacist-led flu vaccination clinic. Hospital pharmacy departments in Europe were utilizing social media to keep abreast of goings-on with various U.S. agencies such as FDA and CDC. A decentralized hospital described the success of using Google Groups, Twitter, and Facebook for collaboration across departments, and a collaborative effort of practitioners from various institutions employed social media to help each other and help students learn from clinical cases.
Social media remains a relatively untapped resource to market the pharmacy business. Innovative pharmacy managers can run public health campaigns and also help to spread awareness of the business’s mission and values through social media. Managers must be mindful of potential drawbacks such as vulgar/unwanted posts or other types of participation from various parties, and consult someone with expertise in making sure the proper settings are in place when using social media.
Additional information about Marketing Applications can be found in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 4e. If you or your institution subscribes to AccessPharmacy, use or create your MyAccess Profile to sign-in to Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 4e. If your institution does not provide access, ask your medical librarian about subscribing.
1Grindrod K, Forgione A, Tsyuki RT, Gavura S, Guistini D. Pharmacy 2.0: A scoping review of social media use in pharmacy. Res Social Pharm Adm. 2014;10:256-270.