Pharmaceutical companies tend to do a poor job managing their online reputations, especially on YouTube. Major drug companies like Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, Eli Lilly, Abbott Laboratories and GlaxoSmithKline spend millions of dollars each year developing and marketing new pharmaceuticals to the public. After the cost of developing these drugs, millions of dollars are spent on television advertisements. Just watch an hour or so of primetime TV any night of the week and you’re bound to see a handful of drugs ads that promise to reduce your cholesterol, relieve chronic pain, reduce inflammation, help you sleep better, be happier, and generally improve your life.

Finding official information on Google for drugs with unique names like Abilify, Nexium, Crestor, Cymbalta, Humira, Celebrex and Advair  is pretty straightforward, and the SERPs will show the official corporate drug website in the top spot. But search any of these drugs on YouTube you’ll discover it is almost impossible to find even one of the broadly televised commercials. YouTube is the second largest search engine just after Google receiving upwards of 3 billion searches a month. Considering the millions spent on TV advertising it would benefit drug companies to spend a small fraction of this amount creating effective YouTube channels and promoting the online videos.

Obviously the biggest roadblocks for pharmaceuticals are the legal and regulatory requirements and restrictions. Many are related to side effects being spelled out in communications, but this problem is solved when an “official” commercial is being used online. If fact, both drug benefits and side effects can be listed additionally in the description area set aside for YouTube videos. And if there are issues related to the barrage of uncensored comments made by video viewers, this can be solved by simply not allowing comments to be made on a video.

Clearly there are opportunities for pharmaceutical companies to improve their online reputation by exploring how YouTube can help them extend their marketing and education reach. Here are some recommendations:

1)    Look for ways to benefit from the extremely large audience using YouTube (2 billion videos viewed every day)

2)    Produce unique longer form commercials for online use only

3)    Promote YouTube videos through other social media (Twitter)

4)    Develop an SEO strategy for videos so they’ll rank higher in both YouTube and Google searches

5)    Make videos available so they can be embedded in other drug review type websites

6)    Properly title, describe and tag videos so they can be easily found, and so they rank higher in both YouTube and Google results

7)    Use the description area of the video to link to the main drug site

7)    Use annotations within videos to help viewers find additional information

8)    Create localized versions of commercials in different languages such as Spanish

YouTube Pharmaceutical and Medicine Advertising Policy

AdWords Healthcare and Medicines Policy