Overcoming Regulatory Risks and Gaining Critical Insights through Social Media Listening


The pharmaceutical industry as a whole has struggled to delve into the social media world. The main reason for this is due to regulatory restrictions, with organizations fearful to engage in online conversations with patients due to the perceived high risk.

According to an article by FiercePharma, 10 organizations have overcome this challenge. While many are still hesitant to engage in conversations with patients, they have at least begun engaging in direct-to-consumer marketing via social media. The article, “The Top 10 Pharma Companies in Social Media,” lists out pharma giants, Johnson & Johnson, GSK and Novo Nordisk as the top 3 companies pioneering the way for the healthcare industry.

Online disease state discussion among patients, physicians, caregivers and other key customer groups is flourishing across both established and emerging online channels.  Recognizing the value potential of this online discussion, savvy healthcare companies have launched innovative Social Media Listening programs to capture critical market insights.

Is your organization participating in any social media listening activities?

From one of our recent studies we were able to learn more about how prevalent social media listening activities are, as well as how some organizations are excelling in this area. Some key insights included:

  • Industry Snapshot: Most companies who participated in the study (85%) are currently doing some form of Social Media Listening. This program is generally owned by either the Market Research function (at 58% of organizations) or by a Digital / IT group (42%).
  • Top Listening Goal: All surveyed companies seek to capture brand-specific market/patient insights, with another 91% gathering data at the disease state level. Approximately 1/3 of companies also use Listening for competitive intelligence purposes.
  • Arguments against Listening Programs: Though Listening has paid dividends for early adopters, some companies are skeptical of its value. One “devil’s advocate” argument which emerged in interviews is that Listening – since it is not bounded like traditional surveys – cannot be relied upon to replace existing and expensive market research.

While pharmaceutical & other healthcare organizations have been slow to delve into social media, Listening allows them to “dip their toes” into the social media world while avoiding many regulatory risks. Understanding how to do this effectively is critical to capture maximum patient and market insights while maintaining strict compliance.

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