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Published December 8th 2016

Coming up Against Adverse Events: Social Listening in the Pharmaceutical Industry

We understand that all industries are regulated differently. To help pharma companies, we've become experts in Adverse Events. Tsvetta Kaleynska explains.

It’s interesting to monitor the transition from traditional marketing to social media marketing from a behavioristic perspective.

Is social media not the way to get your daily news, communicate with loved ones and share your wittiest thoughts?

Brands have been banking seriously on consumer’s interests online, on all of your comments, likes and shares of their stories on Facebook, Twitter and a bunch of other platforms. Small and large enterprises have been creating their campaigns and strategies solely on your posts online.

hands holding two black speech bubbles on blue background

So when it comes to evaluating which brands use social insights the most, it’s quite surprising that one of the largest industries out there – pharmaceuticals – is somewhat new to social.

Their efforts to listen to their consumers online are still fresh due to the strict regulations imposed across each continent.

The FDA and Adverse Events

In recent years, the pharma companies worldwide have been better at understanding what their consumers are saying online about their products and brands. In the United States, the FDA has been strictly moderating all pharma access to social data which has ultimately reflected in a slower adoption for social across the board. The FDA refers to “adverse events” scenarios, anything posted online matching 4 criteria:

  • Identifiable patient – should contain the patient who it happened to (personal pronounces often help with that – i.e. “I got sick / My sister felt / My brother experienced.”)
  • Identifiable reporter – with robots, cyberbots etc. the FDA requires that the person who reports the message is a person and also reachable via their social handle, email, phone, etc.
  • Medication identification – should contain the specific name of the medication.
  • An adverse effect / event – the content posted online should describe an adverse or side effect the medication may have had.

So how have the FDA and adverse events hindered social listening for pharma companies?

The adverse events regulations have prevented the large pharma companies to not only listen to what customers are saying, but also to see the mentions themselves.

Social media insights platforms provide clients with all of the mentions and data there is on the topic of interest, but it turns out that pharmaceutical companies cannot actually see the individual content.

As the best in class social listening solution, Brandwatch offers a special permission setting pharma companies are required to be compliant with the FDA.  The “view only” permission settings allows users to extract the insights they need without being endangered by viewing the mentions themselves. All components charts are compliant with the policies implemented in the pharma space and provide users with the opportunity to tap into the data fast and safe.  

You’ll find the User Role in the User Role drop-down when creating or editing a user.


The View Metrics Only User Role has similar permissions to the View Only User Role, with a few important differences:

  • Metrics-Only users cannot see Components that show mentions, or parts of mentions
  • Metrics-Only users cannot click through to any mentions from any Components
  • Metrics-Only users can only export image files and metrics, not full mentions

For example, here is a Dashboard viewed as a regular user:


And here is the same Dashboard viewed as a View Metrics Only User:


At Brandwatch, we understand that various industries are regulated differently.

To help pharma companies we have not just developed the special permission setting, but become experts in Adverse Events. If you need help with social listening in the pharma space, don’t hesitate to drop us a note at [email protected].

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