How Pharmacies Are Using Social Media
“You’ve got to do it.”
This is the identical advice offered by two community pharmacies that have made social media — particularly Facebook pages about their pharmacies — an important way that they communicate with customers, attract new customers and create buzz about their pharmacies.
Similar backgrounds. Similar marketing approaches.
Jeannie Marr of River Road Health Mart in Eugene, Oregon, and Terry Vasenden of Sierra Health Mart in Reno, Nevada, both had previous careers but now work with their pharmacist-husbands managing the business operations of their independent pharmacies. Both wear many hats overseeing areas such as accounting, HR and marketing.
In terms of marketing, both Jeannie and Terry emphasize activities that immerse their pharmacies in the community. They engage in frequent networking, participate in local Chamber of Commerce events, conduct educational seminars and actively support other local businesses. The primary focus of their marketing is building relationships and educating their communities about the unique services they offer, such as compounding.
Using Social Media Seemed Obvious
In the past few years Jeannie and Terry noticed not only individuals but more and more businesses using social media to communicate, and decided they should too. Neither developed formal strategic plans for social media; they both just started and have learned along the way.
“Business is ultimately about relationships, as is social media,” Terry said. “Social networking is about being friendly. It is about being part of the community. This is just one thing we do … but we need to be there.” McKesson’s VP of Retail Marketing, Matt Lowe, agrees, saying that even though social media is broadly used, it is still early in its development and is still evolving. It is important to get experience and learn what works for you.
Jeannie’s interest in social media began after she started using Facebook personally and enjoyed the ability to connect with others. Since she was always engaged in networking on behalf of the pharmacy, she saw Facebook and other forms of social media as a natural extension of her pharmacy’s network.
Goals, Strategy, Results
Jeannie and Terry each have an idea for the role they see social media playing.
- River Road Health Mart: Ultimately, Jeannie views social media as a way to connect with the pharmacy’s current customers, create word of mouth and attract new customers. In addition to using Facebook (here’s the link to set up a business page on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php), River Road also reposts their Facebook information on Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare. They try to post information daily and their messaging is focused on three specific areas: convenience, service and price. They often share success stories online, such as a customer realizing significant savings by filling a prescription at River Road. Jeannie uses social media to educate customers about delivery, compounding, or products and services for pets. River Road has also conducted promotions through social media. For example, a posting might say, “Mention our Facebook page and save.” The intent of such promotions is to attract new, long-term customers.Jeannie has seen benefits such as customers taking advantage of Facebook promotions or people in the community mentioning the store’s postings.
- Sierra Health Mart: For Terry, Sierra Health Mart’s presence on Facebook helps get their name out, creates buzz about the pharmacy and has positioned Sierra Health Mart as a valuable source of health information for the community.
Terry tries to post on the store’s Facebook page each day. Her posts aim to provide people in the community with interesting healthcare information and wellness tips. Her perspective is that if she finds an article interesting, then others in the community are likely to find it interesting as well. While she hasn’t measured the business coming from the store’s presence on Facebook, Terry feels that Facebook has created awareness, has sparked conversations and is one more way for Sierra Health Mart to be seen as “a go-to healthcare resource” in the community.
Reflections on the Experience
Jeannie and Terry recommend that other pharmacies try social media. Both say Facebook is easy to set up, requires minimal technical skills and requires a limited investment of time. They suggested looking at the sites and postings of other community pharmacies and small businesses to get ideas, and Jeannie also follows what the major chains are doing. Once you get started, both say it is important to maintain your presence and post updates several times a week, if not more frequently. This will keep your followers engaged and provide them with more opportunities to interact with your pharmacy.
Social media allows for unlimited flexibility. Pharmacies can adopt a focused messaging approach (like Jeannie does) or a more casual approach of posting interesting, relevant, fun information (as Terry does). Regardless of the exact approach, these early adopters encourage community pharmacies to “jump on the wave of the future.”
Check out these pharmacies’ Facebook pages at:
River Road Health Mart: www.facebook.com/pages/River-Road-Health-Mart-Pharmacy/112706202088750
Sierra Health Mart: https://www.facebook.com/SierraFamilyPharmacies/