Like most small businesses, most independent pharmacies have a social media presence as part of their local marketing programs. However, most independent pharmacies aren’t getting as much marketing value from their social media presence as they should or expect.

Social media can pay off for pharmacies if they think long-term, put in the time that it takes to make social media work and think differently about social media than other more traditional marketing tactics. With that as the intellectual framework, below are five ways independent pharmacies can make their social media programs more successful in terms of attracting new customers and generating more business from existing customers.

Five Ways Independent Pharmacies Can Maximize Social Media1. Post or distribute the right mix of content

Content that can be posted to or distributed over an independent pharmacy’s social media channels generally falls into one of four buckets: education, fun, sharing and promotion. How content should be apportioned among those four buckets largely depends on a pharmacy’s typical customers or customer personas and what those customer types want from their local pharmacy. For example, if many of a pharmacy’s customers are filling prescriptions to manage chronic medical conditions like high blood pressure, then a large share of educational content on medication adherence would be appropriate. If many customers have young children, then educational content on immunizations and proper use of car seats would be useful. Educational content can be original or shared from credible third parties like state or federal public health agencies. Fun content is designed to entertain customers. That can be anything from health quizzes to photos from community events to quirky medical stories from other media. The smallest share of content should fall into the fourth bucket, and that’s content that directly promotes a pharmacy’s products or services.

2. Encourage and enable customers to talk back to the pharmacy

Social media is designed to enable an ongoing dialogue and sharing of information among users of the channel. Independent pharmacies that are using their social media channels to talk at their customers rather than with their customers are misusing the platforms. They’re using them as one-way communication devices in the same way they use traditional advertising and marketing. Instead, pharmacies should be using them to have conversations with their customers. Like in any social setting, there are ways to get the conversation started. Among them:

  • Be friendly and conversations in tone. Example: What are you most excited to do this summer?
  • Encourage customers to talk about local issues. Example: We love the new streetscape downtown. What do you think?
  • Give customers an opportunity to ask questions about health issues. Example: What questions have you always wanted to ask about high blood pressure?
  • Encourage customers to be creative or imaginative: Example: If you could eradicate one disease, what would it be and why?

Functionality is important, too. Social media channels being used should make it easy for customers from a user experience standpoint to have an ongoing dialogue with the pharmacy. The dialogue—though friendly and conversational—always should be professional, polite, courteous and appropriate.

3. Take advantage of the pharmacy’s local presence and knowledge

By definition, an independent pharmacy is a vital part of its local community as a small business. That “hometown connection” is a competitive advantage over regional and national pharmacy chains that have little or no ties to the community other than their physical location. Independent pharmacies can use that advantage to get better results from their social media efforts. For example, a pharmacy can promote community events, festivals, parades, street fairs, other local businesses, sales events at other local businesses and more over its own social media channels. That type of social media content would fall into the fun and sharing buckets described in the first tip. By posting and sharing fun local content, an independent pharmacy demonstrates its loyalty to its community and customers, and the community and customers will return the loyalty in repeat and new business. Ideally, the sponsors of the local events promoted on a pharmacy’s social media channels will return the favor and promote events, programs and sales at the pharmacy on their social media channels.

4. Use tactics proven to drive sharing and engagement in other retail industries

The goal of posting and distributing content on social media channels is to drive audience engagement with the content and, by extension, with the brand. That goal is the same for independent pharmacies. Engagement means pharmacy customers are doing something with the content beyond just liking it or following the pharmacy online. They’re reading the entire post, they’re reading additional posts, they’re clicking on a call to action or a download, they’re jumping to another social channel, they’re asking for more information, they’re responding to a post with a comment, or they’re sharing the content with others. Independent pharmacies should borrow three social media engagement tactics from other retail industries that have been proven to increase user engagement:

  • The first is to include images (photos, illustrations, video, charts, etc.) with social posts. Engagement levels are substantially higher for posts with images than they are for social posts that are text only.
  • The second is to craft a social post in the form of a question. Like the examples in the second tip, asking a question invites a response from the user. Posts in the form of a question create substantially more engagement than posts in the form of a statement.
  • The third is to post on a regular schedule and at a predictable frequency. Pharmacies should develop a weekly and monthly posting calendar that teases out the four types of content by day and by frequency over each social channel. Pharmacy customers are more likely to engage with the content when they know what to expect and when to expect it.
5. Use a voice and tone that reflect the personality of the pharmacy

The personality of an independent pharmacy should be the same to customers whether in-person or online through the pharmacy’s social media channels. That starts with identifying the personality of the pharmacy. What are the personality traits or characteristics of the pharmacy? Is the pharmacy fun and lighthearted? Is the pharmacy sincere and warm? Is the pharmacy serious and authoritative? The experience created for customers who come into the pharmacy should be the same experience created for customers on social media. When those experiences don’t match, it’s a disconnect for customers who don’t know which pharmacy personality to believe and trust with their business. But when those experiences match, it’s a comfort for customers who develop an attachment to the real pharmacy. Being consistent in voice and tone in person, online and across social channels drives trust and business.

Social media can be an effective way for independent pharmacies to engage existing customers and to attract new customers. Using the five tips described above can convert that promise into reality for pharmacies that think long-term, put in the time and approach social media differently than traditional marketing.

Related: Learn about McKesson’s growth and expansion solutions for independent pharmacies.

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McKesson editorial staff is committed to sharing innovative approaches and insights so our customers can get the most out of their business solutions and identify areas for operational improvement and revenue growth.

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