The effective integration of social media into the sales and marketing process for pharmaceutical companies can be complex. The complexity is further increased by the regulatory limitations (Code of marketing practice) within the industry as well as other considerations. This research explores some of these considerations and implications for social media integration. Further, the research determines the value of social capital as well as the process for social media engagement.
The study surveyed three pharmaceutical companies in different stages of social media integration. A heterogeneous sample was selected to include diverse characteristics because the topic is still new within the pharmaceutical environment. A qualitative multiple case study method was selected which included interviews, direct observations and document reviews.
Despite regulatory limitations, the findings provide insights for other industries with possible considerations for social media integration into sales and marketing. This is complemented by the Social Capital Theory that states that social media adds value. The issues of adverse event reporting and how to measure the return on investment remain a challenge. In conclusion, the engagement and management of social media processes is not easy to implement; therefore a four-phased process for social media engagement is proposed as a framework that allows easy integration.