Founded nearly ten years ago by two fresh out of college graduates who met while working at Paypal, YouTube is the result of their capitalisation on the problem of video sharing online (as in there was none), seeing a gap in the market and filling it.  A year later they were acquired by Google for $1.65 billion in Google stocks (clearly they filled the market gap successfully!). Today, YouTube has more than 1 billion unique users a month, watching 6 billion hours of video, while 100 hours of video are uploaded every minute.

Valuable information

There are thousands of pharma videos on YouTube, from CSR and HR videos to MoA videos and patient stories. But what value do these videos provide to viewers (media, healthcare professionals, employees and prospective employees, patients) and what value do they provide to the pharma brand? Videos are costly to produce, and many times, a large budget is spent on production, but nothing is spent on promotion.

Upload it and they will come doesn’t work for YouTube videos, it’s better to spend less producing a few videos, which are promoted and tested before more videos are put into production. Test, measure and learn is definitely a concept that should be applied to YouTube content creation, to improve the ROI, watch time, and sharing of valuable video content.

Social first

YouTube was one of the first social media platforms adopted by Pharma; it’s a safer way of getting information into the public domain (comments can be switched off, reducing regulation/administration) making it a more viable option than other social media channels.

But what makes content successful for pharma on YouTube? As with any content, the human element, drawing on people’s own experiences or ability to empathise with the people on screen can have great success. Think of how many times you’ve hit the ‘like’ button because you’ve related or empathised with the content in front of you?

One example is Johnson and Johnson who launched a channel called JNJ Health with the tag line ‘videos about health, family and social responsibility’. Not just bringing you technical explanations of how devices and drugs work, Johnson and Johnson have gone the extra mile by bringing the viewer stories from real people with real problems, showing their side of the story. Stories like these are not just important to patients and relatives but also to doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals, helping them to understand the patient journey, not just the clinical facts or what text books tell them.

Heads or tails?

However, on the flip side of the coin it’s also essential that heartwarming stories do not cloud the facts. Boehringer Ingelheim has done this with great success; creating videos that relate directly to how a condition can affect someone physically through to videos presenting the process of researching and developing new compounds.

They also create content specific playlists for key events in the healthcare calendar. Take the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) annual conference for example, for two years running BI have had a playlist created of all the key information so that healthcare professionals who may not be able to attend are able to watch, or for HCPs who were there, they can watch again later.

This was particularly important for BI in 2013 to support their presentation of significant clinical data to oncologists. Using this method helped to make sure that everyone got the message about key developments, not just the conference attendees. Debbie Denison, Head of Marketing for Nitro Digital, says: “We found that HCPs and media engaged with patient stories and MoA videos in pretty much equal measure. YouTube is a valuable asset for pharma brands to use during major conferences. Promoting the individual videos and playlists extends the reach of key messages and video content is often much more engaging than text!”

In bed

Youtube particularly works for campaigns focussed on a particular subject. For example the ‘In Bed Story’ from Bayer (with Pharma Digital Marketing), used animation to follow the patient journey of a man called Dennis who had Erectile Dysfunction (ED). Following Dennis from the initial embarrassment he felt about having ED through to finally making an appointment to see his doctor, meant that they could effectively address questions men have and dispel any common myths. Their target audience was 40+ men, who they found spent more time on video sharing sites than any other sites. The aim was to improve the amount of time men take (typically 2 years) before going to see a doctor. Their campaign was so successful it was award winning, scoring the Healthcare/Pharma award and Grand Prix award at the Revolution Awards.

Risky business

A careful balance is needed for pharma and YouTube. Firstly, sub brands of the same company developing their own channels, essentially driving valuable views to potentially the wrong material, or creating an extra hurdle in the user journey can tip the balance. This can, in some cases, delay or prevent the success of the video/channel, sometimes significantly. However with the right name for the channel or the right targeting you can also tip the balance in your favour.

A second issue is not staying on top of the information you have given. If the information is old or inaccurate, this could be potentially damaging for your reputation, which is a key component of gaining and keeping customers and advocates for your business.

Thirdly, just because a video is posted on YouTube it doesn’t mean that it will become an internet sensation. The video still needs to be marketed and people still need to be told about it, so using other social elements to enhance the message is a great way to do just that. Promoting videos through social channels and YouTube paid ads is a great way to do that. The information should also be timely and with purpose, not just for the sake of posting.