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Facebook overhauls News Feed – Implications for Marketing your Pharmacy

In our June 2017 post, we highlighted that the organic reach of your pharmacy’s Facebook Page was probably in decline.

Well now it is official. In January 2018, Mark Zuckerberg clarified Facebook’s position and announced a major overhaul of Facebook’s News Feed algorithm that would prioritize “meaningful social interactions” over “relevant content”. In effect, Facebook has overhauled the News Feed in favor of ‘meaningful social interactions’.

Since the announcement, we have analyzed 20 pharmacy Facebook Pages to determine the overall impact on pharmacies and find out what does and does not work.

Already, Facebook has started to de-prioritize videos, photos, and posts shared by businesses in favor of content produced by a user’s friends and family. These updates will result in fewer public posts from Facebook pages in the user’s news feed.

Mark Hull, Director of Product Management at Facebook outlined the objective behind the changes. The overall objective is that people have an increasing number of interactions with other people they care about (on Facebook).

Post Ranking

Facebook uses a process called Ranking to determine if and in what order a post appears in a person’s News Feed. The Ranking is calculated based on Facebook interpretation of what the person would be most interested in.

If that person likes, comments or shares the post, Facebook views this as a sign that the post mattered to that person. Any post that Facebook thinks the person will interact with will get a higher ranking and will thus be positioned higher in the News Feed.

Facebook also considers if a post is person-to-person or person-to-page. Person-to-person (a personal interaction) will be giving a higher Ranking value than person-to-page (a business or public interaction). If people are in each others network, the Ranking is boosted higher again.

Mark Hull also outlined that exchanges between people that take more time and care will be prioritized. eg typing out a longer reply to a friend’s post as opposed to quickly scrolling through the news feed pressing Likes.

Over time, Facebook expects that people will see more posts from people they are connected to and less content from businesses. Facebook also expects that people will overall spend less time on Facebook, but will be more engaged with the posts they do see.

What Do These Updates Mean for Marketing Your Pharmacy?

As Facebook begins to prioritize content that facilitates meaningful people-to-people interactions, pharmacies can expect the organic reach of their pages to drop.

Specifically, users will see more posts from people they’re connected to in the news feed and less content from pages they follow.

Facebook still values page content. But in a slightly different way, because the news feed will shift the focus from ranking content that’s directly consumed from pages (which will shrink in reach) to content that is shared and talked about among friends (which will grow).

What Types of Content Will Get More Visibility?

Facebook will prioritize the person-to-person posts that cause meaningful interactions above person-to-page and particularly person-to-page content that doesn’t. That means:

  1. Content from friends and family
  2. Posts from friends and family that seek advice or recommendations
  3. Group content (think community), particularly if the group is very active with lots of dialog among members.
  4. Content that receives or generates long comments.
  5. News content that friends share and discuss.
Maximize Your Pharmacy’s Reach on Facebook

Following our analysis of the 20 Facebook pages, our conclusion is that it still makes sense to post content. But the types of content you post must engage. The content must inspire conversations and meaningful interactions among people.

This is the filter on whether to post or not post an item: will the content inspire conversations and meaningful interactions among people.

What doesn’t work:

  • Uninspiring content – if any content makes you think nobody cares, then nobody will.
  • Generic content that gets shared out to lots of pharmacies.
  • Posts that require medical knowledge or are of interest to medical professionals but not the lay-person. Think less about posts like New diabetes cases decreased among adults and increased among children. and more about posts like 3 tips to stop your kids drinking soda every day.

What does work:

  • Entertaining and relevant content that a user will want to share with their friends and family. Think more about posts like 3 tips to stop your kids drinking soda every day.
  • Video is still considered very important by Facebook. But post it directly on Facebook and do not link to a video on Youtube. For example every month post a video of yourself in an Ask the Pharmacist series: month 1 HRT, month 2 diabetic foot pain relief etc.
  • Events prove to be popular items. Create the event post and email or text the link to likely attendees asking them to share when on Facebook.
  • Re-post. Identify content that received a lot of attention and re-post it to capture the attention of people who didn’t see it the first time.
  • Live Video. Facebook has great tools to support live video and desktop sharing. Run a live video on one of your key services eg BHRT. Get people talking about the video. Set up a schedule to run a live video every month. Make it part of your sales process because once people have become aware of you and your services, they need to research about your services to be comfortable before a purchase.
Additional Tactics to Expand Reach
  • Collaborate with your peers. Run a live video with local physician(s). Tag each other in the posts as per point below.

  • Tag partners. In appropriate posts, tag partner businesses in your post narrative. Your post will appear on the partner’s page which is likely to draw attention. Get them to reciprocate.

  • Preferred Audience. If you have specialized content that’s more likely to be of interest to a specific type of Facebook user, use Facebook’s Audience Optimization tool to choose a more friendly audience for that content. Under Preferred Audience tab, select interest tags to show topics to people who have demonstrated an interest in them. You can also restrict the audience based on age and a shortlist of demographic filters. Note at the time of writing, audience targeting requires you to have over 5,000 followers. Details on Facebook here.

  • Prioritize audience engagement. If a person leaves a comment, they are starting a conversation to which you can respond. Respond to every comment. Let them know you heard. Acknowledge people who share your posts and hit one of the reaction buttons – the Like or Love button.

  • Use paid advertising. Free reach might make the metrics look good. But if your pharmacy was not reaching new target customers or up-selling to existing ones, it was of little benefit. Facebook now enables you to precisely target patients using demographics, interests, behaviors, connections and re-marketing. You can match a target audience with content specific to them. If that content is relevant and omnipresent, then you have a direct way to appeal to new patients for your pharmacy.

Refill Assistant specializes in social advertising for community pharmacies.

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