The impact of user-generated content on medical and healthcare marketing

The medical and healthcare industry is constantly changing, particularly in light of developments in modern technology. Digital marketing strategies now involve SEO, social media, and a whole host of other methods to ensure online brand recognition and favourability. However, it’s important to remember, in the midst of these digital techniques, that the voice of the customer is still of paramount importance.  Monitoring user-generated content online is a useful method of gauging public reaction to a particular product or service.

Pharmaceutical and healthcare companies can benefit simply by monitoring the conversations about their brand that are already happening all around the Internet. Many websites, such as and, have discussion forums which allow users to create an account and post comments with questions and recommendations. Private blogs are also a good source of opinion based content, and even informal social media platforms such as Twitter can be searched for a mention of a particular product or condition. It is also possible for companies to invest in software which can collate information on public opinion from multiple web-based sources.

The information gleaned from user-generated content will offer a clear insight into public perception of the brand, and this information can then be used to identify the aspects of a current marketing campaign that are working, as well as those which may need revision.

To learn more about how Genetic Digital can help you to monitor the digital environment, get in touch.

Twitter chat for pharma and health companies

Twitter chats are one of the most useful ways for pharma and healthcare companies to engage other people in the industry as well as their potential customers.

For those that are not aware of Twitter chats, they are arranged in advance with one or two hosts and at a pre-designated hashtag, which is used to link the tweets in a real time conversation. They can be viewed on the Twitter timeline, but it is better to use a tool that displays the tweets as they are posted. There are a number of free tools available on the web of which TweetChat, Tweet Deck and Twitterfall are just a few.

If companies within the pharma and healthcare sectors want to explore the world of Twitter chats, there are many existing chats to choose from (we have included a list of some of the most popular at the end of this post. One problem for UK companies is that most of the chats are hosted in the United States and the timing is not always convenient.

Nevertheless, for areas of particular interest a chat may well be worth staying up for. Chats can cover a wide area or very specific topics. For example the National Health Service social media chat (#nhssm) covers a huge variety of issue but #rheum concerns only Rheumatology topics.

After familiarising themselves with the Twitter Chat format, companies may wish to start a chat themselves to discuss issues relating to their particular products and services. Good planning and advance promotion is vital to success, but it is an excellent way of getting customer feedback and identifying areas of concern.

Popular Pharma and Health Twitter Chats
(All times are GMT but subject to change)

Rheumatology    #rheum    8pm

Non-Communicable Diseases    #NCD    24 hour
Postpartum Depression    #ppd    6pm

Nurse Chat    #NurChat     8pm (fortnightly)
Occupational Therapy    #OTalk    8pm

National Health Service SocialMedia    #nhssm    midday
Elderly Care    #eldercarechat    6pm
Medical Devices    #MedDevice    9pm
Health Care Social Media UK    #hcsmuk    12.30 (on the third Thursday of every month)

Brain Tumours    #BrainTumorThursday    all day

Health Care Social Media Europe    #hcsmeu    midday
Health IT and Social Media    #HITsm    3pm

Social Media and the GP – A Tweet too far?

GP using TwitterThe General Medical Council is on the case! In a very 21st century directive to its members it advises:

The standards expected of doctors do not change because they are communicating through social media rather than face to face or through other traditional media. However, social media does raise new circumstances to which the established principles apply.

In days gone by a local doctor would have been part of a community and be well known by his patients.  In its way social media facilitates this kind of familiarity in our less personal modern environment.  Those medical professionals who resist using social media to reveal more of themselves to their community of patients, site the necessity for keeping a professional distance.  Then there are the issues surrounding confidentiality, can this really be maintained in a social media setting?  How much of a responsibility do doctors have to maintain privacy for a patient intent on disseminating their details on social networks?   Where decision-making on treatment is no longer the province of the treating physician but rather a shared decision between the patient and his or her doctor, can social media help towards a further understanding and de-mystification of procedures and diagnoses?  With more than half the UK population now using Facebook and a trend towards new sign ups in the 50 plus age group, this is a perfect platform surely for medical and other socially significant information to be circulated.

In the Untied States they have, of course, got all manner of doctors and healthcare professionals on Twitter with Facebook pages and more information being circulated than you could shake a stick at.  Here in the UK, I suspect your surgery might be a little slower to start tweeting about flu jabs or Christmas opening times, but it will come.

On the other side of the coin, social media has become part of all our lives – whether it is knowing the comings and goings of our celebrities on Twitter, establishing business contacts on LinkedIn or making contact with a long lost friend on Facebook this form of communication is well and truly entrenched in our society.

But, as patients, how would we feel about finding and communicating with a GP by social media? Patients have traditionally had very few tools at their disposal and those they do have tend to be geared towards the more drastic areas of dealings with the medical profession such as malpractice or complaint actions.  It is always possible to find out the qualifications and accreditations of a medical professional but what about her bedside manner?  His affinity with children?  A special interest in a specific complaint?

Well social media and contact with other people through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and other social media platforms has opened the door to connection with all sorts of people – including doctors. With a little detective work, and the ability to pick up on the clues, shrewd patients can use social media to help them research and make an informed choice of the doctor or consultant they see.   If a doctor/consultant writes a blog, has a page on Facebook or Twitter followers, uploads photos to Flickr or even videos to YouTube, then you will know that, at the very least, he or she is in touch with the 21st century!

If you’d like to learn more about our healthcare and pharma social media marketing services, please contact us.

Mobile revenue rise for Twitter

Speaking at The Economist Group Conference in San Francisco, Twitter founder and CEO Dick Costolo revealed that the social network had generated more advertising revenue from its mobile incarnation that its desktop version for many days in the last quarter. Twitter only introduced ads to smartphone users’ timelines in February, so the news highlights the way in which mobile marketing campaigns can be quickly and successful integrated – as well as confirming the ever increasing popularity of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets amongst consumers.

“We’re borne of mobile,” Costolo commented, when asked about Twitter’s mobile strategies. “We have an ad platform that already is inherently suited to mobile, even though we launched our platform on the Web and only started running ads on mobile recently.”

It is interesting that whilst Twitter’s mobile ad campaigns appear to be flourishing, their prime social media rival Facebook is frequently criticised for their equivalent offering. Facebook have stated that they hope to make improvements to their current mobile strategies, but as of yet they have not experienced the levels of success that Twitter is reaching.

Comparison between the advertising of the two platforms demonstrates both the positives and the pitfalls of mobile marketing campaigns. Mobile marketing is a valuable technique within the digital marketing industry, but only when it is done well. Campaigns that are too invasive or offer information that is not particularly relevant to the  audience will not provide the desired results, so it is important for marketing professionals to strike the right balance to ensure that their campaigns produce the desired results.

Nearly all young adults connected via social networking sites

A total of 91% of young adults in the UK are connected to social networking sites.

According to new research from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), half of all web users are also accessing the internet via their mobile phone.

The ONS opinions survey also reveals that 45% of internet users have accessed the internet via a mobile phone at some point this year.

The survey also shows that surfing on the move is a growing trend.

In total, 4.9 million people connected to the internet via wireless hotspots in 2011 – double the numbers from last year.

The ONE research also shows that social networking is becoming more and more popular.

A total of 57% of adult internet users have used online social networks this year – a figure up from 43% last year.

Younger surfers make up the bulk of people using their phones to connect to the internet. Just over 70% of 16-24 year olds use their phone to access the internet, whilst a massive 91% use social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

The smartphone boom is largely responsible for the huge growth of social networking sites. Facebook and Twitter are now better optimised for mobile use than ever, whilst even LinkedIn, the business networking site, has just launched its very well received smartphone app.

Pfizer has biggest marketing spend and best social media presence

A new report from healthcare technology and services company Cegedim has investigated how much the world’s top 100 pharmaceutical companies spent on traditional sales force and marketing channel spend as well as their presence on Facebook and Twitter.

Pfizer achieved first place for traditional spend and has also achieved the best social media presence – it’s in third position for the number of likes on Facebook and first position for the number of followers on Twitter.

Whilst Novartis came second in terms of traditional spend, its position for social media was far less impressive, coming in 17th for the number of likes of Facebook and fifth for the number of Twitter followers.

Meanwhile, Merck & Co achieved eclectic results. It ranks tenth for the number of Facebook likes, but comes top for the number of pages. Similarly, it ranks 15th for the number of Twitter followers but third for the number of tweets.

Johnson & Johnson came second for the number of Facebook likes whilst Roche came second for the number of Twitter followers.

Christopher Wooden, head of promotion audits at CSD said: “The study shows clearly that most major life science companies are establishing a presence in social media – but coverage, methods and sophistication do vary significantly.

“We can see an attempt by companies to reach out and create a positive, on-going message about their contribution to better health. The ability to target that message and encourage constructive dialogue through social media will bring value.”

Janssen and NHS team up to offer new social network for GPs

One of the world’s leading research-based pharmaceutical companies has launched a social network-based service for doctors who are involved in commissioning mental health services.

Janssen is teaming up with the NHS Confederation Mental Health Network to link up GPs using Yammer, which is a social networking programme not dissimilar to Twitter. It is often used within organisations to help colleagues communicate with each other quickly.

The partnership has arisen because clinical commissioning groups are set to take over responsibility for commissioning many NHS services in England. It will be one of the largest spending areas for GP commissioners. Digital pharma marketing services are therefore likely to play an important role in this.

The NHS Confederation says that many GPs have already expressed an interest in the social networking service. It will give GP commissioners policy information and evidence-based approaches and will also help them share best practice and gain opportunities to learn from current commissioners of mental health services.

GPs who join will also be given the opportunity to meet face-to-face at dedicated regional events.

Isabel Laas, business unit director at Janssen, said: “The transition of mental health commissioning to primary care will raise questions and challenges for the effective delivery of care to patients. This partnership is a fantastic opportunity to help GPs optimise the way in which people affected by mental illness are managed by the NHS.”

Sanofi using social media to drive diabetes tech competition

Sanofi U.S., the American arm of the French pharmaceutical giant is effectively using social media to drive its Data Design Diabetes Innovation Challenge. Currently in its second year, the challenge aims to generate innovative ideas that can be used to improve the lives of people with diabetes.

Last year the challenge was won by which created an app able to transform a mobile phone into a monitoring device with the capability of real time identification of diabetic problems. This year the company has doubled the prize money to $200,000 and the challenge is generating huge interest on social media.

Central to the process of the challenge is using crowd sourcing to define the focus for this year’s challenge. Sanofi has set up a dedicated website as well as Facebook and Twitter accounts for the challenge. This use of the internet is pulling a highly varied mix of people into the project resulting in a  significant  public contribution to the shape of the project.

Sanofi claim that the involvement of the public through social media has delivered ideas in just six months that would normally take up to five years to develop. Speaking about the project Michele Polz, the head of Patient solutions at Sanofi, said ‘We wanted to cast a wide net, look beyond the four walls we play in every day.’

Doctors need to use social media more, says report

Doctors are more likely to use social media channels for education and communicating with fellow healthcare professionals than they are for interacting with their patients and taking advantage of possible digital marketing opportunities offered by social media.

According to a new report from American consulting firm CSC, doctors are reluctant to use social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter to interact with their patients, but they need to overcome this.

The report states that larger hospitals, academic medical centres and paediatric clinics are the healthcare institutions that are most likely to use social media. Jason Lee, lead author of the report, explains: “Large hospitals are more likely to use it because they have large budgets. They might also need to spend more on legal resources to check their Facebook and Twitter postings.”

Meanwhile, children’s hospitals are most likely to use social media for fundraising activities.

The report suggests that several business goals can be achieved with the help of social media, such as patient monitoring, care management and care coordination. It says that care management in particular will be helped by the increasing role that social media will have to play in it.

Lee says that some of the most frequently stated reasons that doctors give for avoiding linking up with their patients via social media channels include worries about liability, privacy and lack of reimbursement.

New social media guide published to help doctors get online

An online healthcare directory based in the US has published a free online guide aimed at doctors to help them understand how they can use social media, an aspect of web technology that many healthcare organsiations have yet to exploit to the full for healthcare and pharma marketing.

Avvo, which provides listings and ratings for doctors across the States, has just made its guide “Being Influential Online: Social Media Tactics for Physicians” available via its Facebook page.

It says that the social media guide is designed to help doctors and healthcare marketing professionals to establish an online presence that could help them attract new patients, expand their referral networks or better manage their online reputation. Expansion into digital marketing for healthcare is the aim.

The guide looks at issues such as liability and social media and how to use search engine optimisation (SEO) tactics in order to achieve a better search engine ranking.

In addition it helps doctors to establish their core online presence through a series of 15 easy-to-follow steps.

The guide was also released and distributed at the Third Annual Health Care Social Media Summit, which was held in Rochester, Michigan, last week.

One American doctor, Howard Luks MD, was part of a panel speaking at the event. He told a local healthcare news website that there were currently several barriers stopping doctors from engaging with social media. These included a lack of understanding about Twitter and its use; a lack of understanding regarding how social media can help patients and a lack of awareness about social media guidelines.

To download the guide visit