Thursday, October 3, 2013

Can healthcare companies learn about social media from consumer products?

Given that we live in a consumer savvy world, its logical that social media uptake is heaviest by consumer brands. However, despite my own consumer focus, I do have a background in healthcare and have often wondered how this regulated industry can navigate the social space by learning from its consumer counterpart. Having been published for this topic before, these are four things I hypothesize.

Listen Carefully
In the world of social media “listening,” there is virtually no end to the ways you can slice, dice and cull social media content. This makes it easy to filter out valuable competitive insights by listening too narrowly, such as by ruling out content from rogue bloggers and advertisements that could prove useful. Healthcare brands can benefit from listening to patient and provider reviews of themselves and their competitors, perusing online ads, and monitoring the blogosphere for competitive intelligence. Social media is also a great way to keep up with the industry reaction to regulatory changes including interpretations and opinions.

Brands love to love themselves, and social media lets them do it on a grand scale. However, CPG brands have learned that the key to mutually fulfilling social media relationships is to give and take. By actively engaging stakeholders in a two-way dialogue through various platforms. Healthcare and pharmaceuticals are particularly segmented industries with complex decision-making ecosystems. Whereas in the “real world” this presents a marketing research challenge, social media is the perfect place to find self-segmented groups. Physician groups, disease-specific support groups and health care news aggregators are online right now, exchanging unedited, unfiltered insights. Those insights are an invaluable complement to traditional marketing and advertising. 

Develop Thought Leadership
Personal care CPG brands know the value of using Twitter to share a beauty tip, not just a coupon. Social media thought leadership content is all about enlightened self-interest. Healthcare brands have an opportunity to share highly relevant, altruistic content with highly segmented audiences that have “opted in” to what the brand has to say. And by sharing high value information, the notion of “benefits before brands” can really strengthen a brand’s credibility. In order to provide quality healthcare in our fast moving modern world, healthcare professionals have to stay on top of an almost overwhelming amount of information. Social media is already being used as a tool that filters, aggregates and delivers information that is specifically relevant to various practitioners. In return, they are contributing to the conversation. 

Discover Opportunities
Classical research usually delivers insights based on a brand in the absence of competition, or within a constructed, stagnant competitive environment. The insights are usually brand-specific, and a function of the questions asked. But social media lets marketers see the whole, dynamic competitive ecosystem, as everybody chats about everything. And since everyone in this ecosystem has access to the exact same information, the first to stake a claim wins. The healthcare industry still has lots of unclaimed territory on the social media space. While several studies have revealed that over two thirds of medical practitioners utilize social media weekly for professional purposes, the activity can be harnessed by patients or brands alike. 

Over time, I feel that healthcare will overcome many barriers that consumer has learned to conquer via practice. But the industry is perfectly poised to uptake social media in a stronger way. For at the end of the day, even a healthcare consumer is a consumer, after all.

Sourabh Sharma, Communication & Social Media Research Expert at SKIM, an international consultancy and marketing research agency, has a background in engineering, marketing and finance from the University of Pennsylvania, and the Wharton School and Rotterdam School of Management. Having worked in marketing and product development at L’Oreal, followed by a stint in management consulting, he now passionately enjoys the world of social media, and can be found on every platform with his alias sssourabh. He is a food critic and a fashion writer, and documents these alongside strategy on his blog called 3FS. He may be reached at Follow him on @sssourabh.


Ademola Okubena said...

Yes, I agreed; social media is absolutely the great way to listening to patient and get their reviews.
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