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Community building

A patient community on social media

One of the most effective ways to reach patients is through a disease awareness campaign. For a Life Sciences & Health organization, such a campaign often aims to indirectly create awareness about a (new) treatment or medicine. There are numerous options for setting up an online campaign for a disease. In most cases, as we know from experience, a platform is central. This is the source where all the information is, and which is linked to by other online channels. Social media is often the main source of traffic to such a platform.

In this whitepaper we explain how to use social media within a disease awareness campaign. Just to be clear: there are more options to reach patients. This manual specifically helps with the use of social media channels for the target group “patients”.

Pros and cons


  • Bring the campaign to life!
    A patient community helps bring a campaign to life. By regularly sharing content to which your target group responds, the campaign becomes tangible and gains organic reach.
  • Source of information
    A social community is an interesting source of target group information. What is going on within the target group? Where lies the information need? These are all matters that are very relevant to a community manager when creating and optimizing content.
  • Open the dialogue
    By starting a social community, you open a channel where the target group can get in touch with each other. About a certain clinical image, for example, and everything that comes with it. Where previously patients from your target group may not have been able to contact each other so easily before, now there is a place where you can.


  • Good webcare is essential, but it takes time, attention and expertise
    A social community requires proactive webcare. This takes time and attention, and therefore budget. It is very important that the webcare is of high quality; imagine language errors in the responses of a large organization, for example. Social media users will take the account and therefore the company less seriously because of this. It is important to make sure that the webcare is carried out by a good quality team or external agency.
  • Adverse Events
    Furthermore, a community opens a channel where possible side effects can be reported. This seems daunting, but a specially developed and watertight protocol can anticipate this in advance. You can read more about the social media protocol here.
  • Not always the right means
    Setting up and managing a social community is a time-consuming affair, so it must be well worth it. In this respect, keep your goal in mind at all times. Do you really want to build a community, or just generate website traffic? If you only want to drive traffic to a campaign website and you do not want to publish any further organic content, then an ad campaign using dark posts may be effective enough. Therefore, consider this carefully!

Growth strategy: social advertising

When we set up a disease awareness campaign with our client, we usually work on the basis of three phases: awareness, consideration and conversion. In the awareness phase, the intention is to create a first contact moment with the target group. Social advertising is an excellent tool for this. By advertising via social media, you can appear very targeted in the news overviews (or other places within a social platform) of your target group. In addition to creating the first point of contact, social advertising lends itself well to a continuous growth strategy. It is very effective to continue advertising via social media during a campaign in order to continue to appeal to new people from the target group.

AE monitoring & social listening

When you start a community for patients, you open a channel on which side effects (AEs) can be reported. This seems scary, but a clear and watertight protocol prevents unclear and undesirable situations. Such a protocol describes what should be done when an adverse reaction is mentioned, and who is responsible for which step. Furthermore, the protocol describes examples of what is an adverse reaction and what is not, and many more relevant matters.

Another important part of a community for patients is social listening. By using a tool to investigate how your target group behaves online, you can adjust your content accordingly. It is a useful tool before a campaign (if you want to discover what your community should look like), but also during the campaign. For example, you can discover whether there is more talk about the relevant clinical picture after the start of your community.

Would you like to know more about the AE protocol? Feel free to contact us.