Listen up! As we mentioned in our previous post, there are great opportunities for pharma companies to accelerate innovation and build community through social media. One of the most beneficial tactics of implementing a social media program is listening. May sound simple, but listening provides invaluable insight into your online audience and target market.
As we recently saw with the widespread BlackBerry outage, ignoring your online audience will force a loss in market share—just ask RIM. When you listen to conversations happening online you will find that people are not typically speaking about adverse events, but rather they are seeking support and sharing information on lifestyle, experiences and tips.
Fear not: Industry research has shown that adverse event reporting is a small percentage of all social conversation on pharma topics. Knowing this, it is critical for pharma companies to make a concerted effort to listen because the majority of the conversations can be a very powerful third-party endorsement.
For example: Someone seeking to live a gluten-free lifestyle might look for tips on where to shop, seek knowledgeable references for the best bread and pastas to buy, and learn how to make the lifestyle changes necessary to succeed. The more serious the illness, or permanent the condition, the more knowledge is sought. And just like consumers who seek out sites such as ‘Trip Advisor’ or ‘Angie’s List’ for “in the know” insight, people are looking for advice from those they feel do not have a vested financial interest behind their message (like brand or product advertising).
Also, if a blogger shares how a specific medication helped them, that person’s words carry more weight when they recommend the drug to others. In nearly every instance of people commenting on social channels about how a drug made them feel, other people are responding on how they managed their symptoms, or countered a negative report by sharing their positive experience with the drug. By doing so, they are essentially providing support for the product—valuable “endorsements” that the company itself did not write. This is why becoming a skilled online listener is important for every pharma brand attempting to gain insight about consumers opinions in the social sphere.
By listening and understanding what customers are saying online it is also much easier to understand issues before they escalate, realize opportunities to innovate, and proactively provide information to address concerns. As a result, your tactics will build an advocacy program that protects your reputation and leverages public support in good times and bad.
With social listening mastery, your company can gain insight into ideas for new products and campaigns, identify and create new advocates, and understand market needs to gain insight into what people are saying about competitors’ products. It provides the opportunity not only to educate your customers, but to be educated by them.
Bottom line: There is great value in learning more and being connected to your community in a vibrant two-way conversation.
Greg Singh is regional director at Visible Technologies, a social media monitoring and analytics company.