Social listening data is good, but it's better when combined with offline insights: agency

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Pharma companies should be working to combine social listening data with offline findings for best effectiveness, CMI/Compas says.

Social listening can be a powerful tool for pharma companies. The good news is that most pharma companies are now using it to tap into online conversations and unearth data and intel. What would make it even more effective, however, is marrying that online social listening data with offline intelligence, says the director of social media at CMI/Compas.

Julie Hurvitz Aliaga was inspired to look specifically at the pharma industry after a recent article in the New York Times that talked about a consumer study that found brands often wrongly assume social media provides a full, accurate and sufficient assessment of consumer sentiment.

Social listening data alone is not enough for the pharma industry either, she said.

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“It’s very important to take your offline media and pair it with your online data or social listening to find the full story about what’s going on with your brand and how folks are behaving towards your brand,” Aliaga said.  

Conversations around healthcare and conditions are often vastly different online and offline, she said. Sensitive health concerns, privacy and even embarrassment tend to play out differently in closed online community discussions versus offline conversations in focus groups, for instance. Those differences may necessitate creating different messages even for the same target audience, depending on whether you're trying to reach them online or offline.

Aliaga positioned the combined strategy as an audience-first approach that leverages all available data in an effort to understand patient journeys.

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Her suggestion for pharma is to continue adopting social listening solutions but also think about moving beyond data-gathering to analyzing social information, in conjunction with other real-world data, to develop insights and action plans. Social listening is especially important before a campaign launches, she said, to audit conversations of patients, healthcare providers and competitors, but the key is to use that data along with offline findings to inform marketing and media plans.

“Do not think of social listening as the end-all-be-all, but do think of it as a really good vehicle to help bring online and offline conversations together,” Aliaga said.