How to respond to patients on social media.

For many pharmaceutical companies, clinical research organizations, and other businesses in the healthcare space, engaging with patients and customers on social media can be intimidating. And with HIPAA regulations, broad FDA guidelines, and unavoidable internal red tape, it’s easy to understand why. To help you get over these hurdles, we put together this guide for the next time you’re stumped trying to respond to a patient comment

First things first: Before responding, identify the general tone of the comment. For the sake of simplicity, let’s divide comments into three main groups – positive, neutral, and negative – and look at how to deal with each.


This one is easy. They’re happy with you, your product, your staff, or your service. And they’ve taken the time to tell you. A “like” of their tweet, comment, or post will do, but a quick response with a simple “Thank you!” is even better.


A neutral comment is a bit harder to detect. It might read something like, “I tried this medicine once. I received a free sample from my doctor, but it didn’t do anything for me.” The commenter isn’t necessarily saying anything bad about the medicine, but he is saying it didn’t do anything for him, and he’s taking the time to make it public. In this situation, we recommend responding publicly, asking the person to either send you a direct message or an email to discuss the matter further. This shows other users that you take feedback seriously – no matter the sentiment – and may give you an opportunity to have this person try the medication again. Either way, you can move the communication offline from here.


A negative comment is the most complicated of the three and can come in multiple forms, so we’re going to break this one down a bit further.

Legitimate complaint.

This person has a reason to be upset. Respond publicly as soon as you see the message, and acknowledge her frustration. If a simple solution is available, provide that in your first response. If further information or dialogue is needed, ask the person to send you an email or a direct message with her contact information so you can move the conversation offline.


A person who comes to your page solely to disrupt, attack, annoy, or offend you or someone else in your social community provides no value to your brand. If you’ve identified a comment from a troll on your page, we recommend deleting the comment and promptly blocking the user. Be sure to do both, because if you only delete the comment, the troll may notice and come back for more.


As with trolls, spam accounts posting on your page add nothing of substance to your community. In addition to deleting and blocking these accounts, you can also report them to the respective network.

A few additional tips.

  1. Encourage engagement. Ask questions to spark dialogue and gather meaningful feedback about your product or service. This shows your social audience that you care about their input, and that you want to improve their lives.
  2. Respond quickly. According to Brandwatch, 60% of Twitter users expect brands to respond within one hour. What’s more, 77% of Twitter users feel more positive about a brand when they receive responses from those brands.
  3. Be proactive. For many brands, both inside and outside the pharmaceutical industry, community management (the act of engaging with your social community) is a reactive practice. We suggest taking a proactive approach. Why wait until someone has an issue? Adopt social listening techniques to identify potential barriers and address questions and concerns before patients point them out for you.

Have a question that wasn’t answered here? No problem. Feel free to get in touch with us. We’d be happy to chat with you!

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