Pharma social media listening benefitsMore pharmaceutical and biotech companies are employing comprehensive social media listening to access the world’s largest focus group. They are learning that monitoring social media can transform the millions of posts by patients and caregivers into valuable insights that can form the basis for a successful marketing strategy.

In addition, social media monitoring can help the companies develop and launch products, maintain market share and identify for side effects of drugs. Likewise, companies in other industries are using social media listening to improve products, respond to customer questions and complaints, and spot and resolve emerging issues before they grow into full blown public relations crises.

While social media listening is relatively new for many pharma and biotech companies, a few innovative pharmaceutical companies have used it for years. CyberAlert, now, developed its first version of social media monitoring software in 1997 because a product manager at a major pharmaceutical company wanted to be able to identify message board posts about his brand and to correct misinformation posted by doctors. That software evolved into the CyberAlert media monitoring service for tracking print, news, broadcast, and social media including blogs, Facebook and Twitter. The company now also provides customized measurement and analysis of news and social media to major healthcare companies.

Comprehensive social media listening includes coverage of blogs (100+ million), message boards and forums (250,000+), video sharing sites (200+), and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others. For global medical companies, social media listening is best done in multiple languages. With the overwhelming amount of social media conversation worldwide about health, medicine, diseases and treatments, the medical companies must have access to advanced analysis capabilities to optimize the benefits from the social media listing data. Social media listening is most effective when integrated with news monitoring and other corporate data including the corporate website. Most companies opt to outsource analysis to a media measurement service.

These are main benefits life science companies are realizing from social media listening:

Developing market strategies. By listening to problems of patients and understanding their pain points (pun intended), companies can identify unmet needs and develop more targeted marketing strategies and messages.

Combatting misinformation. The Internet is overflowing with medical misinformation. Consumers have difficulty distinguishing credible sources from quacks, charlatans or scam artists. Pharmaceutical marketers can learn what people are reading, then employ SEO tactics steer them to more reliable educational sites, including branded websites or online patient communities.

Identify influencers. Comments by influencers can be instrumental in directing conversations about companies and their products. Social media monitoring can identify the major influencers, such as leading bloggers in their niche or others with large social media followings. After finding the influencers, brands can conduct a concerted outreach effort. Companies in other industries, such as the fashion and cosmetics, have used this strategy to good effect.

Detect trends in adverse reactions. Some pharma and biotech companies have been slow to embrace social media listening, fearing that uncovering adverse drug experiences will force them to complete potentially costly investigations and reports to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). A lack of clear FDA guidelines on reporting obligations heightens their concerns. However, research has demonstrated that social media monitoring rarely presents a reporting issue. Social media monitoring, in fact, can be a valuable research tool to help better understand market trends concerning patients’ reactions to side effects.

Maintain market share. Pharmaceutical companies can maintain and improve market share by improving patient treatments. One major company was perplexed over why patients were stopping its “miracle cure” oncology treatment before completion. Social media listening provided answers. Health care professionals were ending treatment because it raised patients’ blood platelet count too high, resulting from the initial dosages that were too high. As a result, the company changed it dosage instructions, meeting both patients’ needs and improving the drug’s market share.

Measure sentiment and campaign effectiveness. Companies can track mentions of its products and rate mentions as positive, negative or neutral to measure sentiment. By tying mentions to PR and marketing campaigns, they can gauge the effectiveness of campaigns. They can then examine how marketing campaigns impact sales and ROI.

Effective Monitoring Strategies

The amount of data produced by comprehensive social media monitoring can be overwhelming – and the findings and insights may be less than overwhelming.

To control the amount of data and filter out social noise, some health and medicine companies utilize more targeted social media monitoring queries. Others aim their monitoring at a selected group of social platforms instead accumulating data from the universe of social media. Combining both strategies can minimize data overload.

To gain better findings and insights, pharma and biotech companies are now avoiding the packaged social media listening solution and using more customized approaches that provide them analysis that is tailored to their specific needs and that delivers actionable insights about individual product categories, brands, countries or disease states. Sharing results across the enterprise – marketing, product management, country managers, customer service, and sales – helps achieve maximum benefit.

Bottom Line: Social media listening has become essential for pharma and biotech companies. Companies in the life sciences can use social media data to great advantage in correcting misinformation, identifying problems patients are having, developing better-targeted marketing messages, and developing new products.