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.

Engage
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
s.sharma@skimgroup.com. Follow him on
@sssourabh.