Social listening should be a no-brainer for pharma, study finds

Start listening to chatter on social media and you'll discover that Pepto-Bismol is commonly used for face masks, allergy OTC meds' side effects are disruptive, and knitters get lots of headaches.

Infegy's recent study divining social insights for pharma also found some interesting prescription drug gems as well. For instance, cancer patients talk more about marijuana than Zofran for nausea relief. And along with insulin shots, diabetes patients also use almonds and nuts, apple cider vinegar and high fiber to manage their disease.

Rion Martin, Infegy's marketing director, said social listening is often an untapped resource for pharma, which even some drugmakers admit. Initial feedback on the study included several companies noting they had never thought of using social media that way, he said. The other significant feedback centered on regulations, particularly adverse events and the question of whether findings via social listening would have to be reported. (The answer is currently no.)

"Today the major value is insight and analysis because of the problem of (vague) regulations," he said. "We advise people to use social media more as a point of research than a point of engagement."

But what to do with all those insights? That depends. In the case of the discovery of knitters getting headaches, the digital ad agency for Tylenol, which uncovered the new target group, caused the headache medicine to shift marketing and SEO strategies, resulting in an increase in visits to its website, according to the Infegy report.

Other findings, like the marijuana chatter, diabetes dietary aids or the side effects of allergy medicine, can be used to look at the impact of side effects, address what's working and what's not working in treatment management or tailor messaging to address specific pain points.

- download the report

Special Report: The top 10 pharma companies in social media