How to Unlock the Value of Social Media Conversations

Apr 28, 2016

Director, Digital Strategy and Operations

How to Unlock the Value of Social Media Conversations

Billions of conversations are taking place every month on social media. All of these conversations comprise pools of rich data, but gleaning meaning from that data can be challenging.

How can pharma companies make sense of the seemingly endless data to determine how and where to listen, identify what consumers are talking about, classify the types of content they are posting and understand the behaviors they are engaging in?

A Perpetual Focus Group

Patients and healthcare providers (HCPs) are looking to social media for information and support regarding their health and the health of their patients. They serve as a “perpetual focus group,” whose social media conversations provide brands with the opportunity to listen.

Patients are sharing their opinions, asking questions about diseases and treatment options, and directly or incidentally reporting adverse events. In a recent PWC survey, more than 40% of respondents reported that information found via social media would affect the way they coped with a chronic condition or their approach to diet and exercise. 

HCPs are chatting on social media as well. They’re voicing their opinions on the industry, and providing thought leadership on a wide range of topics including participatory medicine, reimbursement, and medical education.

But What Do You Do With All That Data?

When determining how to utilize the data gleaned from social media conversations, one rule-of-thumb is to work backward.— start with objectives and determine which categories of data would support the analysis and provide actionable insights. Build a tagging structure based on relevant categories, such as source (e.g., social media platform), author, type, topic, behavior, and sentiment.

For example, if you are looking to identify who is talking about your product, the kinds of content they are posting, and the topics within their content, you could utilize a structure that would classify posts into categories such as Consumer, Branded Product, and Medical Inquiry. As more and more posts are tagged, patterns, trends, and themes can be identified.

Other tips to successfully make sense of social conversations include:

  • Train Staff: Reduce risk by utilizing highly trained specialists experienced in the nuance of monitoring, identifying, and triaging AEs.
  • Establish Documented Workflows: Configure a systematic approach to the identification of AEs and PQCs and their triaging to the appropriate Pharmacovigilance point-of-intake.
  • Utilize Appropriate Technology: Cutting-edge technology platforms are available to monitor and tag conversations. Although there is no replacement for human engagement, as volume scales, technology becomes increasingly critical for success.

The Importance of Social Media Listening

The importance of listening is always stressed in the pharmaceutical industry, but the actual work requires an appreciation of how different people “speak” on social media (patients versus HCPs), understanding the value of categorical organization of data, and the selection and application of appropriate technology.

There is no silver bullet, but building meaningful structure out of disparate sets of data is doable – in fact, it’s necessary if the industry is to make the most out of today’s social media landscape.


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