New Orleans, LA — Deploying ambassadors to speak at the marketing conference DigiPharma Connect, Snapchat is vying to position itself as the best social media outlet for pharma marketing. Snapchat representatives maintained that young consumers are more likely to open up on Snapchat about their sensitive health-related matters, such as sexually transmitted infections or excessive sweating, than they are on Facebook or Twitter. This makes sense, as the sort of negative comments that often accumulate in response to Tweets or Facebook posts are not nearly as big of an issue on Snapchat, where users can’t leave comments.

Currently, though, Facebook dominates the social media pharmaceutical ad space. “Facebook has been doing really well in our industry,” Shwen Gwee, head of open innovation at Swiss pharma giant Novartis told CNBC. “It started with right-column ads—which were essentially like banner ads—but the industry quickly learned that sponsored posts in the News Feed were much more effective.”

But Snapchat’s less hostile digital environment isn’t just good for promoting conversation; it could also mean fewer adverse events to report to federal regulators. This is because pharmaceutical companies are required to report negative comments made on social media about their products. It’s possible that they could have to do a lot less of that if they shift some advertising efforts to Snapchat.

On top of that, Snapchat representatives claim, the platform is best for content shared among smaller groups of closer friends, making it a more likely medium for healthcare engagement.

Last year, Merck’s Snapchat ad for its HPV treatment earned praise for breaking new ground. It was aimed at millennials, and unlike other anti-HPV campaigns it targeted both men and women (frequently, ads make it seem like men can’t get the disease). It raised new awareness within an often-misunderstood disease state, and it successfully accessed and educated the millennial market.

Kyle Avery, Snapchat’s sales lead for health, has not yet commented publicly regarding the company’s plans to pitch pharmaceutical clients. But the company has already updated its ad policies to include a “Pharmaceutical & Healthcare” section, where prospective clients are told they “must only promote those products or services that have been approved by the local regulatory authorities in each of the countries targeted.”

Why This Matters

With the digital space still quite newly open to pharmaceutical advertising, the World Wide Web is the Wild Wild West, as intellectual property attorney Colleen Tracy James said to Forbes. Brands are still crafting their basic social media identities and learning about what kinds of engagement might be the best approaches for them. To access the right audiences and keep their messaging up to date, companies must craft new, platform-specific content that accesses the audiences who stand to gain the most from their therapies.

About the Author:

Ben helps spark innovative healthcare thinking as Associate Director of Innovation. Previously on the editorial staff of Vanity Fair, he brings experience in engaging, rigorous storytelling to the healthcare world. Ben’s goals are to move brands to rethink their roles, own their evolving narratives, and maintain vital and vigorous consumer relationships.