Earlier this week, we hosted a webinar on the importance of monitoring your brand in the healthcare space. Prior to the webinar, our CARAVAN team–which offers a suite of omnibus surveys- conducted an online survey that illustrated just how important social media is to healthcare marketers.
Our research found that 67% of people rely on online sources when they are looking for information about medications of any kind. In fact, online sources came in second only to physicians/other healthcare providers. Interestingly, traditional word of mouth, which still plays a significant role in other industries, came in fourth.
Of the respondents who said they use online sources said 32% rely on online medical forums and blogs. On the other hand, just 7% said they rely on Facebook and 3% said rely on Twitter. What these results are starting to show is that consumers who are researching medications prefer to use sources that allow for some form of anonymity. For example, when looking for information in forums, consumers don’t have to reveal their medical conditions to others and can usually use a pseudonym if they want to ask a question. However, traditional word of mouth and social networking sites require people to be more open about their health, which is something most consumers may not be ready for.
It’s also worth pointing out that for consumers who rely on online forums and blogs and medical information websites, a lot of importance is placed on the data gathered through those sources. Among those who you rely upon medical information sites when searching for, or seeking information about medications of any kind, 93% of respondents said the opinions and information they find there are important. That number for forums and blogs drops slightly but is still at a robust 86%.
Finally, our research also shows that social media channels are equally as important to reputation as conventional channels. In our survey, respondents were asked how greatly certain events would impact the reputation of a drug. The results showed that negative patient reviews and disparaging online comments from doctors matter more than traditional news reports of bad financials. In addition, online physician comments are on par with press reports of medications not meeting their primary end points in clinical trials.
So what is all of this data telling us? The answer is fairly simple. These results just reinforce the fact that monitoring social media and understanding how your brand is perceived online has become vital. People are constantly talking and your job is to listen.