Among the 50 largest drug makers in the world,more than halfstill aren’t actively using social media to engage healthcare consumers or patients. Most of them primarily use social media as a broadcasting channel, andno more than 10are on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube.
Even with drug makers’ recent increases in digital spending, the pharmaceutical industry is repeatedly said to be a laggard in adoption of social media.
Drugmakers’ common excuse for remaining social media wallflowers is largely due to the regulatory uncertainty and the doubts on how to measure social ROI.
1/ The rise of the empowered patient
With the role of social media rapidly expanding, patients are increasingly turning to popular social networks, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs and forums obtaining and sharing information related to their health.
In the US, for example,over one thirdof consumers manage their own health and are using social media to help them make important healthcare decisions.
The consequent empowerment of the patient in making decisions around their treatment has led them to be more aware and have a greater say in the treatment process.
But it’s not just patients who go to social media to voice their opinions. The pharma industry hasmultiple stakeholderswho actively research and discuss online, including patients, physicians, payers, caregivers, providers and advocacy groups.
This trend only heightens the imperative need for pharmaceutical companies and regulators to take notice and contribute to the overall healthcare discussion, particularly to the appropriate use of medicines.
But how do you actually know what physicians are saying about your drug? Can you identify your patients’ primary concerns about your market leading product?
What are the conversation themes around managing the disease? How does the online reputation of your brand compare to competitors? Are patients switching brands and if so, why?
2/ Using social media as a research tool
The most immediate benefit that social media has to offer pharmaceutical companies is as a research tool.
The answers to the questions above require a more proactive embrace of social media analytics tools by pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Social media analytics tools, such asBrandwatch Analytics, can mine not only Twitter but also public forums, blogs, news sites, Facebook and other social networks to uncover patients and physicians’ sentiments and opinions.
One of our clients, Creation Healthcare, did exactly such a thing not too long ago. They indexed half a million healthcare professional profiles across thousands of sites using Brandwatch Analytics to understand how treatments and products are perceived by those who may prescribe them every day.
The online market research consultancy was able tospot healthcare trendsand concerns months before others did. Offering unrivaled insight into the views of healthcare professionals, Creation Healthcare’s research business attracted six times more clients than before.
Identifying the opinions of healthcare professionals and patients is, indeed, a complicated process, particularly because of the amount of noise and spam surrounding pharmaceuticals. With boolean operators and rules, you can filter out spammy websites and irrelevant views.
3/ Using social media to foster discussions with your stakeholders
Understanding the kind of people who make up the conversation in your niche can prove far more insightful than listening only to those who mention your product or brand.
In a recent report we analyzed thousands of mentions online usingsocial media analyticsto understand people’s attitude towards HIV treatment and to inform targeted messaging.
Their target audience is often seen as being the healthcare professional. But when analyzing all HIV discussion on social media, it turns out it’s the patients, caregivers and those that actually aren’t directly affected by HIV who offer the most powerful insights.
The general public spoke nearly three times more about HIV treatment than healthcare professionals, suggesting a general interest in the topic and that online influencers may differ from offline.
Diving deeper into this data, we noticed that the different stakeholders are chatting about HIV in entirely different places.
Data like this could dramatically impact how a drug manufacturer develops its communication strategies and targets its messaging.
4/ Building tailored marketing strategies
As shown below, social media analytics can be applied at various stages of a drug lifecycle; right from your drug discovery stage (understanding unmet needs) to the launch (improving your brand messaging) to the maturity stage (monitoring brand reputation and intimately connecting patients and physicians).
Insights generated during each stage can be utilized across all departments in your company.
If you’re still analyzing the conversation about your own brand or products, then now is the time to rethink your social media activities.
While social media is not a panacea, it provides an arguably underused opportunity across the business to research, understand and boost discussions with all healthcare consumers.
There’s no such thing as having a remarkable drug without having tailored strategies to appeal to your own target audience.
Forget the mass market, segment and evaluate healthcare conversations by the different stakeholders. Find outwhat they are talking about onlineand how your organization can fit into that.
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It seems as if healthcare providers have only recently considered using social media to connect with their patients. This might be due to many considerations, not the least of which is protecting patient confidentiality. Social media is a great marketing tool that will help build your practice and help your clients.Learn how your patients are using different social platformsand understand how your practice can reach out.
Growth of Social Media
According to the Pew Research Center, Facebook is the most popular site, (as of September 2014). Facebook is no longer experiencing the growth surge that it did just a few years ago, but the user is engaging with it more than they used to. LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest are seeing significant growth and gaining more popularity among adults who use social media.
Who Is Using Which Platform?
Over 52 percent of adults who go onlineuse two or more social media sites. Around 56 percent of adults 65 and older who are online use Facebook. In the younger crowd, ages 18-29, 53 percent of the ones who go online are on Instagram. When it comes to Pinterest, you will reach more women than men. LinkedIn is growing among the college-educated. Around 50% of the internet users who have higher education backgrounds use it.
Facebook is by far the most popular platform, and it seems to be home base for many people. Around 70 percent of individuals who use check in daily at least once. Just a year ago, that figure was only 63 percent. The number of people who use Facebook hasn’t changed, but how much they use it has. About 36 percent of Twitter users check in daily, but this is a 10 percent drop from last year. LinkedIn has more users, but they are not logging on with more frequency.
Using Social Media as a Tool
As a healthcare provider, you do need to be cautious about how you use social media in your practice. However, when used appropriately and with forethought, it is a good marketing tool. You can also increase your patient’s awareness of health issues that they may forget. A quick reminder to come in a get a flu shot during the season benefits the community and keeps your patients healthy.
Develop a social media strategy and risk management plan now to fully utilize the capability of it, while maintaining the legal requirements for your business. This technology has a place in your marketing plan, but you do need to proceed wisely to get the full benefits. Reach out to your patients and build your practice wisely.
Madrid and Washington, D.C.—May 28, 2015—The global voice for rare disease patients launches today. More than 60 patient representatives from 30 countries are gathering in Madrid, Spain for the inauguration of Rare Diseases International (RDI) and to adopt a joint declaration to advocate for rare diseases as an international public health Read more >
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