The opportunities for healthcare marketers on Facebook are numerous, given the six million health-related groups on social media platform that together accommodate 70 million users, said Facebook Health industry manager Danielle Salowski.

According to Facebook Health industry manager Danielle Salowski, it’s the combination of reach, scale, and engagement that make Facebook and Instagram useful tools for healthcare marketers. Facebook reaches 1.7 billion people around the world per month; on mobile, it reaches more than one billion people every day. Similarly, there are 500 million people using Instagram every month and 300 million each day.

One in every five minutes on mobile is spent on either of the social media platforms, Salowski noted.“When you think about that in context, there’s actually a Super Bowl happening every single day on mobile in the U.S.”

It goes without saying that marketers continue to fall over themselves to affiliate themselves with the Facebook juggernaut. There are four million active advertisers on Facebook and 500,000 on Instagram, with 98 of the company’s top 100 advertisers using both platforms. While Salowski declined to share specific details about the presence of pharma and healthcare marketers, she said that opportunities for them are numerous, given the six million health-related groups on Facebook that together accommodate 70 million users.

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“We’re getting there with pharma brands getting more comfortable on the [Facebook] platform,” Salowski added.

Established about a year ago, Facebook Health is the social-media giant’s newest industry team, comprising a mix of experts from pharma, healthcare, and digital media. It is staffed by Facebook veterans across a range of markets, including New York, Washington D.C., and Menlo Park, California.

For pharma marketers hoping to more effectively reach audiences on Facebook and Instagram, Salowski offers the following ten tips from the Facebook health team.


Parents spend 1.3 times more time on Facebook mobile than those who are not parents.

Some drugmakers may think that Facebook is not relevant to their audience, but Salowski said that parents and users over 45 years old are actually quite active on the platform. According to the company’s findings, parents spend 1.3 times more time on Facebook mobile than those who are not parents. In addition, Facebook found that 82% of its 45-plus audience said that modern technology allows them to connect with friends and family easily.

“We see new moms using groups a ton. When you think about that life stage, there are obviously lots of questions you have. You want to create a community to get answers,” Salowski explained. “We also see a lot of groups for caregivers. They have a loved one who’s suffering from a certain condition and the groups become a way for them to vent.”


With a common advertising infrastructure, advertisers only need to create a single ad for Facebook and Instagram deployment. Photo credit: Franklin Heijnen/Creative Commons

As part of its effort to be marketer-friendly, Facebook has a common advertising infrastructure across all of the company’s products. This means that advertisers only need to create a single ad for Facebook and Instagram deployment.

“All the technology, targeting, and measurements live in one portal, so it’s really easy for advertisers to start using Facebook for mass global reach across variants and different products,” Salowski said.

Of course, advertisers with more flexibility can choose to tailor their ads to provide custom content for each platform.“For pharma, sometimes it can be so hard to just get that one asset approved, they may want to use that across both platforms,” Salowski continued. “What we want the brands to do is experiment, because there’s not a one-size-fits-all.”


Since both Facebook and Instagram are feed-based products, all advertising is integrated in the user’s feed. There are no pop-ups or interstitials.

“When you think back in the day, people used to have really personal relationships with their physician and pharmacist. We got a little away from that, but we believe that Facebook can help bring that back and help pharma reconnect with people one-on-one,” said Salowski.


At a basic level, Facebook can target users by age, gender, and device, but it can target by specific interests and locations as well. “We built an interest graph where we can target people based on things they’re interested in, people they follow, and pages they like,” explained Salowski. “It’s not just mass marketing being bought on television. Our targeting can get to the root of more about your patient than just age and gender.”


Building a branded page provides drugmakers with a vessel for their media content and allows them to leverage Facebook advertising’s capabilities. At the same time, It can serve as a tool for drugmakers to drive business outcomes.

“Our goal is to work as a partner with [pharma companies] every step of the way and get from asset creation to talking about content strategy and helping them navigate med/legal review,” said Salowski. She points to Allergan’s Facebook page for immunosuppressive agent Retasis as an example of a branded page done well.


AstraZeneca’s Save Your Breath community for patients suffering from COPD has nearly 100,000 members.  

“We’ve seen some brands build unbranded communities off their Facebook pages that become safe places for people to come together and connect,” said Salowski. “It’s more about the condition they’re suffering from.It’s never actually about the drug.” To that end, AstraZeneca’s Save Your Breath community for patients suffering from COPD has nearly 100,000 members.  


Bayer was the first pharmaceutical company to test Facebook’s scrolling ISI capability within the newsfeed. The drugmaker is using the ISI capability on an ad for its bluetooth-enabled auto-injector Betaconnect. The ad includes a click-to-call feature that directs users to Bayer’s nurse call center.

While not a new ad product, Facebook’s scrolling ISI allows advertisers to layer text on existing Facebook ad units. Drugmakers can stitch together a static or video ad with a scrolling video of all the text in the ISI.


Drugmakers have the option to disable comments on Facebook pages to avoid adverse event reporting. It’s a change the company made with pharma in mind, Salowski noted.“There are clear ways to contact the brand that we feature. But if the user has a question or wants to connect with the company,  they can do that through the page.”


A video for GSK’s meningitis campaign garnered more than 63,000 views and nearly 2,000 likes to date.

More than 100 million hours of video are watched on Facebook every day, and pharma advertisers who have brought their videos onto the platform have seen good results, said Salowski. In September, GlaxoSmithKline ran a campaign on Facebook to raise awareness of meningitis. One of its videos for the campaign garnered more than 63,000 views and nearly 2,000 likes to date.

Drugmakers such as Pfizer are also starting to experiment with Facebook’s more immersive products such as Canvas, which combines text, links, images, and videos for a full-screen mobile advertising experience. “Canvas is a product where you can activate sight, sound, and motion to take over the entire screen,” said Facebook Health’s Sachin Nanavati at Digital Pharma East in Philadelphia in October. “The average dwell time on Facebook Canvas ads is 31 seconds.”

And there’s also Facebook Carousel, which allows users to scroll across several images and integrate video. “It’s a good opportunity to tell a story on mobile,” said Nanavati.

“Canvas and Carousel ads are appealing because of the opportunity that additional screen space provides to display the appropriate balance of information related to our medicines and their ability to engage and inform consumers in an interactive way,” said Julie Thaler, Pfizer’s director of digital strategy and data innovation, in a statement. 


There are two different purposes for each platform, said Salowski. Facebook is about content discovery, while Instagram is a platform for inspiration.

“When I go on Instagram, I’m following fashion designers, beauty artists, and fitness stars – those are the people who inspire me in my life,” she explained. “You’re going to Facebook to seek information. You might want news or you might want to see what your friends are up to. When you think about that from a brand perspective, brands can have it all on both, especially if you’re demanding mobile first.”

This story has been updated.