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Published March 6th 2015

Research: Social Media Intelligence for the Life Sciences Sector

How do people with HIV talk about the disease online? We discovered this using social listening.

Through social media, today’s consumers are empowered by an unprecedented ability to question, complain or praise brands in a very public way.

That newfound capability has forced businesses’ customer service teams, vying to become leaders or maintain competency, to develop dedicated social media customer service teams and technologies.

The social customer service teams in sectors such as retail or travel & hospitality are among the most competitive. However, their success has set a high standard, one that consumers are beginning to demand from businesses of all sectors.

One industry that has naturally lagged in adopting strong social strategies is pharmaceuticals.

A major reason for the hesitancy is the false perception that in such a highly regulated industry, listening on social will become a liability.

However, the opportunities for pharmaceutical companies using social media intelligence technology are immense.

Insights on HIV patients

For example, in a study with PharmiWeb Solutions, we investigated how conversations around HIV treatment played out across key author groups.

The figure below reveals where different author groups discuss HIV online. Across all author groups, Twitter is the most common form of communication.

1However, a higher percentage of healthcare professionals discuss HIV on Twitter as compared to patients. Patients’ higher participation rates on blogs and forums could be a reflection of the fact that these channels offer anonymity. Also, support workers had the highest percentage of contribution to blogs of any of six author categories.

Such insights can help pharmaceutical businesses target the appropriate audiences for their messaging.

A deeper analysis of each other group’s conversations reveals the topics that they are most likely to discuss online.

2Journalists were by far the most likely to discuss finding a cure or long term remission.

For healthcare professionals and medical publishers, the conversation seems to be focused around increased life expectancy and to slightly lesser extent, living a normal life. However, patients had the highest percentage of conversation in the living a normal life category.

Targeting important information

This analysis may have important implications for how the driving motives around HIV differ across the six author categories.

Additionally, it provides pharmaceutical businesses with even more insight into the topics and tone of conversation that will resonate across different groups. Combined with the Channel Distribution insights, it can help professionals to target important information or resources to the audience that needs it.

While the social presence and listening strategies may never be as competitive for the pharmaceutical industry as they are for more public-facing sectors, social media intelligence will increasingly become a standard for all businesses as customer expectations and demands rise.

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