Pharmaceutical Industry & Social Listening…

Pharmaceutical Industry & Social Listening…

First things first – what is social listening?

Social media listening, also known as social media monitoring, is the process of identifying and assessing what is being said about a company, individual, product or brand on the Internet.

As for the way pharma interacts with its consumers through social media, pharma is lagging way behind other industries. Customers’ expectations aren’t being met by the industry, this does not just include the patient, it also includes the HCP (don’t forget, out of their professional lives, HCP’s consume media like anyone else – they’re real people!). People are used to seeing campaigns from the likes of Coke, Apple, Amazon, etc…

As an industry we are operating based on the adage that ‘content is king,’ whereas other industries are very good at creating social media ‘experiences,’ this means your audience is understandably frustrated that this cannot be transposed into the health sector. Just because of the industry we work in, it does not mean we can’t learn lessons from these companies about giving the customer a voice.

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3 reasons why…

Healthcare professional (HCP) social media market research is fast becoming considered as an excellent means for pharma to make its step into the digital arena. Here are three reasons why:

1:

  • HCP social media monitoring is a great new source of market research. Over the last few years HCPs have started using public social media channels to discuss news, policy, opinion, treatments and brands with their colleagues from all over the world in real time. They are using social media to create their own communities like the #FOAMed movement (Free Open Access Medical Education). This hashtag was created by emergency physicians, for emergency physicians, and is used as a way for them to collaborate and seek advice on clinical cases.
  • Listening to their organic conversation allows pharma to access insights into what HCPs are discussing rather than taking the lead in the conversation with survey questions like traditional market research. Even if you are not yet ready to start your social media strategy these insights can help inform your offline tactics as well.

2:

  • Market research allows you to create a digital strategy that will resonate with your customers. Brand managers realise the importance of adopting digital marketing but understand they need to know which channels customers are using and what content will appeal to them before incorporating it into the brand strategy.
  • HCP social media monitoring gives you access to tens of thousands of HCP discussions which can be used like an extensive focus group. Finding out which channels each stakeholder is using, what his or her unique needs and concerns are and what type of content he or she is sharing will ultimately produce content you know will be valuable

3:

  • Market research allows you to create a digital strategy that will resonate with your customers. Brand managers realise the importance of adopting digital marketing but understand they need to know which channels customers are using and what content will appeal to them before incorporating it into the brand strategy.
  • HCP social media monitoring gives you access to tens of thousands of HCP discussions which can be used like an extensive focus group. Finding out which channels each stakeholder is using, what his or her unique needs and concerns are and what type of content he or she is sharing will ultimately produce content you know will be valuable

The benefits…

Once this data is collated, use this HCP market research to create an engagement strategy for HCPs, both online and offline. Your content and strategy can be tailored to their expressed needs and will provide information that will actually resonate with them. Insights can be used to:

  •    Create a list of HCP digital opinion leaders and produce a bespoke engagement strategy for them
  •    Develop a training programme offline that answer the problems/issues an HCP is expressing online (find that niche in your therapy area)
  •    Provide field reps with personalised information about the doctors they are meeting
  •    Prepare congress messages.

…and many more. HCP market research studies through social media can use insights in new and innovative ways, which makes this an exciting time for pharma to start its involvement with social media.

Things to consider

  • Collaborative working is key – guidance on KOL’s, keywords, therapy trends from the brand team
  • Content for any campaign, will of course be heavily regulated, the joy of a social media campaign is how it allows rapid communication with your audience, but this does not work as easily when working with strict medical legal guidance. An ability to supply quick responses to questions/comments is important.
  • Use imagery (have you got the rights?)
  • Be the informer of news, become the trusted supplier of their industry news – therapy, financial, industry wide, etc…
  • Have a goal – what do you want to achieve?

Managing the risks – it’s pharma after all!

Given the risks associated with being liable for content over which a company has no control, and the lack of detailed guidance from regulatory agencies, a company must consider how it will use and respond to social media. It is useful to note the three categories of control identified by the ABPI, as set out below:

  • 1: Listening/No control: a company can establish a static website containing approved product information, allowing one-way communication only. It can steer clear of social media sites or engaging directly with patients, although it can monitor such platforms.
  • 2: Broadcasting/Reactive control: a company can be active on social media sites, but be cleat that it is not engaging with patients (although the company may seek to correct inaccuracies made by users). This raises the company’s online presence and participates in new social technologies while limiting some of the risks associated with direct interactions with users
  • 3: Engaging/Active control: a company may seek to control every company-sponsored, and third party platform relating to company products, and scrutinise every comment or post before it is made public. While this strategy produces a significant monitoring burden for companies/agencies, it will significantly reduce the risk of being found liable for user-generated content. However, such active control may also stifle free discussion and the full “social” aspect that is after all the aim. In addition, it is unlikely that a company will be able to control every comment before it is posted, leaving it open to liability for “missed posts”

Whatever strategy you use, risks can be reduced by the following steps:

  • Set out the nature of the company’s involvement. If the site is a company site, this should be clear and the company’s policy on how user generated content will be dealt with should be stated. If the site is third party, it should be clearly stated that is has been set up in collaboration with the company, or if the company’s involvement is limited to sponsorship (through an arm’s length arrangement)
  • Be clear on any jurisdiction or audience-specific criteria; enforce theses distinctions and ensure they operate effectively
  • Be clear when something has been published by the company, or an employee, so there is no suggestion of disguised promotion
  • Avoid discussion of company products
  • Approve all company content before publishing
  • Have a dedicated social media moderator and contributor, and set out clear escalation and oversight procedures
  • Implement a global policy on social media to ensure that affiliates in one country do not inadvertently infringe the regulatory requirements in another
  • Establish clear internal policies and procedures for reporting adverse events and dealing with complaints
  • Ensure employees, and in particular sales reps, are aware of the risks associated with the use of social media and thoroughly trained on company policies

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