Biotech goes social: Tips for effective social media marketing

Social media

Kristina Tatiossian, PhD, founder of Arkitekt Agency, looks at how biotech companies are currently using social media and provides a five-step guide for how to make the most of this ubiquitous marketing tool.

Biotechnology organisations can leverage social media for a variety of purposes, from boosting awareness and increasing engagement, to connecting with stakeholders and collaborating with partners. Social media provides an effective platform for biotechnology companies to reach out to their target audience and build communities. While most biotechnology organisations are comfortable leveraging text/image-based platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, fewer currently leverage video-focused channels like TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube. As a result, wide gaps in the marketing landscape on these video-based platforms exist ripe for early adopters to leverage for organisational growth. However, these channels require different strategies and companies must learn to leverage video correctly if they are to succeed. 

In this article, I’ll explore how biotechnology organisations are currently leveraging social media and provide a powerful five step guide for how to refine or jumpstart your organisation’s social media marketing. 

How biotechnology organisations leverage social media: content and messaging analysis

On the surface, it might seem that social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram are simply casual spaces for the younger generations. However, in reality, people over the age of 30 make up a considerable portion of active users. As of January 2023, 53% of people using TikTok were older than 301 and 69% of Instagram users were older than 252. Furthermore, marketing teams can tailor the organisation’s following to feature specific demographics. For example, CRISPR Classroom, a biotechnology education company that discusses cutting edge advances in cell and gene therapy on TikTok boasts a following of over 60,000 people of which >79% are older than 25. Therefore, video-focused social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram are not “just for the kids” and can be an effective tool to engage with target audiences of any age group.

In fact, there are several dozen biotechnology organisations already leveraging Instagram, and a small handful even on TikTok. We set out to better understand how these organisations leverage social media, specifically Instagram, by analysing their messaging, content, and community growth. To do so, we randomly selected a subset of 18 accounts from a list of 50 and included a variety of organisation types from non-profit, for profit, and governmental. Our list of 18 accounts only included active accounts that had at least 1,000 followers and have made at least one post in the past seven days. Next, we looked at the most recent 30 posts for each organisation and counted how many posts were images or videos. Finally, we analysed each of the 30 posts for all 18 accounts and categorised the post’s message as either educational/entertaining or promotional. Memes, skits, science education, motivational quotes, podcast snippets, patient stories were all classified as educational/entertaining whereas company newsletter sign ups, employee life, awards/funding announcements, product highlights, conference attendance, and webinar invitations were all considered promotional content. 

Figure 1: Biotech organisation social media content and messaging trends. 18 biotechnology/science organisations were selected and the quantity of image and video posts were tallied. Additionally, the messaging in the most recent 30 posts were analysed and categorised as either educational/entertaining or promotional. The scales represent the number of posts out of 30 that contained either educational/entertaining or promotional messaging and were delivered in either video or image format. The numbers below each organisation represent the average number of followers gained per post (calculated as the total number of followers divided by the total number of posts). The following 18 organisations were included in the dataset: National Science Foundation (NSF), Genscript (Genscript Biotech), Sarepta Therapeutics (Sarepta), Leaps by Bayer, Colossal Biosciences (Colossal), STEMCELL Technologies (STEMCELL), CSL Behring, AddGene, Jackson Laboratory (Jax Lab), Promega, Innovative Genomics Institute (IGI), Eppendorf, Integrated DNA Technologies (IDT), Twist Bioscience (Twist), Allen Institute, Intellia Therapeutics (Intellia), New England Biolabs (NEB), and Amgen.

Figure 1 compares all 18 organisations across the type of content they create (image vs. video) and the messaging of their content (educational/entertaining or promotional). For example, both the National Science Foundation’s and Genscript’s most recent 30 posts were nearly all educational. However, the NSF delivered this with mostly video while Genscript with mostly images. Additionally, the number represented below each organisation refers to the number of followers gained, on average, for each post made to the page (calculated by the # total followers/# total posts). For example, Colossal Biosciences gained an average of almost 200 followers for each post it made to its Instagram page. 

While this is a limited sample size and no statistics were applied to the data, we can explore a few trends. First, organisations that leverage mostly video tend to gain more followers per post than organisations that leverage mostly images. For example, we can see that both the NSF and Genscript focus mostly on educational/entertaining content. However, the NSF posts 10x more videos than Genscript and sees on average 3.6x more followers gained per post. Second, organisations that develop educational/entertaining content gain on average 6x more followers per post than organisations that post mostly promotional content. Third, organisations that make videos about educational/entertaining content gain the most followers per post, on average 104. The next highest category at 15 followers gained per post were organisations that make videos about promotional content. In summary, educational/entertaining video posts drove more followers per post than any other content strategy. This data is supported by evidence from HubSpot that concluded social media posts that include video receive an average of 48% better engagement, regardless of industry3. 

All this to say, if a picture is worth a thousand words, a 60-second video is worth 1.8 million. But you might be thinking “video is hard, intimidating, and time consuming.” And to be fair, you’re partly right. For an organisation that has only delved into text/image content strategies, creating video content will need initial investments to set up strategies and streamline internal development systems (but don’t worry I’ll show you how below).

How to refine or jumpstart your social media with video content

Step 1: Align on the north star 

Having a clear goal is essential when incorporating more video into your strategy. It helps to define the objectives and desired outcomes, giving direction and purpose to the video content being created and the platforms being used. A well-defined goal will ensure that all efforts and resources are aligned and focused towards achieving that specific result, whether it be increasing brand awareness, boosting engagement, driving traffic, donations, or leads. This will not only improve the effectiveness of the video campaigns, but also make it easier to measure success and track progress. Remember, without a goal, your video creation efforts are likely to be aimless and ineffective, so take the time to define what you want to achieve and make sure your entire team understands and is working towards that goal.

Pro tip: Be very specific with your intent, the more specific, the better. Why do you want to start creating video? 

Step 2: Identify your target audience

Understanding your target audience is critical for all aspects of marketing and the same is true for social media. It is important to know who your target audience is, their needs, interests, and behaviours, and how they interact with social media. While many of you are already very familiar with your audience, it’s worth repeating that this information will help guide the video creation, tone of voice, and the platforms to be used. By understanding your target audience, you can tailor your messages to resonate with them, increase engagement, and ultimately drive results. Failing to understand your target audience can result in ineffective and irrelevant video content that fails to connect with your audience, so make sure you invest the time and resources to get to know your target audience before starting any video campaigns. 

Pro tip: Conduct follower interviews! Reach out to the current followers on your page, ask them for a quick interview through messaging, and learn more about who they are and why they’re following you.

Step 3: Document your value add

Every content piece that is created must pass the “so what?” test. Your content should aim to educate, entertain, or provide some form of value to your target audience. This not only helps to build strong connections but also improves the right people’s perception of your brand. Valuable content is more likely to be shared and interacted with, increasing the reach and visibility of your brand. When creating video content, consider what your target audience would find useful or relevant, and strive to create content that offers real value.

Step 4: Get creative and make awesome content 

This is the time to champion your creatives! Making amazing and creative content that tells stories is what sets you apart from the pack. Unique and visually appealing content has the power to captivate your target audience, increase engagement, and help you stand out in a crowded marketing landscape. Creatives need freedom to experiment with different formats, visuals, and messaging to find what resonates best with your target audience. Remember, the goal is always to create content that not only informs but also inspires and excites your audience, so be bold and take risks with your content creation.

Pro Tip: Create systems and processes for streamlined content creation. And don’t forget to optimise your software stack that should, at the very least, include a content scheduling tool, a content repurposing tool, and an analytics tool. 

Step 5: Track progress with data and continually iterate to improve

Finally, tracking your progress with data and iterating to improve is vital. Data provides insight into what is working and what is not, allowing you to make informed decisions and adjust your strategy accordingly. By measuring the success of your social media campaigns, you can identify areas for improvement and make changes that will drive better results. Regular tracking and analysis of metrics such as engagement, reach, and conversions will help you understand the impact of your efforts and identify opportunities to optimise your strategy. Keep in mind, a successful social media strategy is not a one-time event, but rather a continuous process of monitoring, testing, and refining your approach. 

Not ready to invest in creating your own presence on TikTok, Instagram, or YouTube? Here’s the hack for you: 

Work with influencers and leverage their following instead! Influencer marketing can help to increase the reach and visibility of your brand (even if your brand is not on social media) by tapping into the engaged and loyal following of key influencers in your industry. These influencers can create videos for you to educate their followers about your brand, providing valuable exposure and credibility. Brands like Pfizer, Regeneron, and Leaps by Bayer are already taking full advantage of influencer marketing by working with scientist-influencers like Darrion Nguyen of @lab_shenanigans, Raven Baxter of @raventhesciencemaven, and Kris Tatiossian (me) of @crisprclassroom, respectively.

When choosing influencers to work with, look for those who align with your brand values, have an engaged following, and who have the ability to create content that resonates with your target audience. Here are some examples of science-influencers you can reach out to today: Kris Tatiossian, PhD at @crisprclassroom; Ben Rein, PhD at @dr.brein; Morgan McSweeny, PhD at @dr.noc; Tina Lasisi, PhD at @tinalasisi; Alex Dainis, PhD at @alex.dainis.

Keep in mind, influencer marketing is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and it’s important to tailor your strategy to the unique needs and goals of your brand. By leveraging influencers in your niche, you can gain a competitive advantage and make a significant impact on your social media efforts. 



Kristina TatiossianAbout the author

Kristina Tatiossian, PhD is the founder of Arkitekt Agency, a social media agency that exclusively serves biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and related industries. From strategy to content creation it has worked with dozens of partners to jumpstart and refine their social media marketing. 

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