The first of two parts of Pharmaceutical Executive’s Q&A discussion with Vinod Badami, Vice President, Data and Analytics at Indigene.
Like most internet users, healthcare professionals (HCPs) have a strong presence on social networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter. They share valuable information and engage in a wide range of healthcare conversations, promote therapies, interact with patients, and increase awareness of medical news and discoveries – all of which ultimately improve overall health outcomes.
Mining this data presents a promising opportunity for life sciences organizations, as it provides insights into the key drivers of healthcare professionals’ conversations on social media, the type of content they share, the events they attend and how they prefer to engage online. This insight helps sales teams laser-target their prospecting efforts with relevant content, enabling them to build and nurture HCP relationships in truly meaningful ways and convert them into sales opportunities.
This technique is known as social selling, and businesses across all industries have been using it for decades. According to LinkedIn, 78% of social sellers outsell their peers who don’t use social media.
In the first of a two-part Q&A session, Pharmaceutical Executive chats with Vinod Badami, Vice President, Data and Analytics at Indigene.
Pharm Exec: We know healthcare professionals are normal people who have integrated social media into their daily lives. Why is social media seeing an increase in HCPs in recent years and where are they spending the most time?
Vinod Badami: In the age of tech-savvy digital natives, the rate at which HCPs are adopting social media platforms for engagement is comparable to that of non-HCP users. As channels like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook permeate almost every aspect of a person’s life, they are undoubtedly becoming one of the most popular ways in the world for people to connect.
It’s no different in the world of HCPs.
The number of verifiable healthcare professionals on Twitter has grown steadily since the platform launched in 2006. The last recorded1 The number of healthcare professionals on the platform was 600,000 in 2019, marking a six-fold increase over the past decade. The number is even higher on LinkedIn, with more than one million pharmaceutical professionals active on the platform. Healthcare influencers on LinkedIn have over 2.4 million combined followers2thus creating a large community of people searching for health-related content every day.
Social distancing norms imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic have restricted in-person meetings between healthcare professionals and pharmaceutical organizations and their peers, propelling the use of social media channels to exchange and seek information valuable information about health care and medicine. Healthcare professionals are not only increasingly comfortable discussing healthcare topics such as the latest treatment options, clinical trial results and patient care with their peers, but they also prefer to engage with sales representatives on these platforms.
According to Indegene’s 2021 Digital-Savvy HCP Report352% of healthcare professionals said they prefer to receive medical and promotional information from pharmaceutical companies on social media – a big increase from 41% in 2020.
But their engagement is not limited to channels like LinkedIn, WeChat or Twitter. Closed community groups like Sermo and Doximity are also widely used by healthcare professionals to network with peers and share/discuss patient experiences.
What specific aspects of social listening does pharma bet on?
As the use of social media continues to grow among healthcare professionals, a massive amount of information is exchanged around medical news and discoveries every day – making these platforms a treasure trove of information for pharmaceutical organizations. This presents a golden opportunity for sales teams to find ways to efficiently deliver content to the channels these HCPs are already using.
Understanding the type of content healthcare professionals resonate with on these platforms is key to effectively engaging with them. It starts with analyzing the content shared by healthcare professionals and tracking their conversations on social media. Through this, organizations get the information they need to identify the top drivers of HCP discussions, enabling them to:
- Design laser-focused marketing campaigns
- Identify target prospects much faster
- Build new relationships and nurture existing ones
- Create meaningful engagements with relevant content
- Increase brand awareness among healthcare professionals
Social listening also addresses a key challenge highlighted in Indegene’s 2021 Digital-Savvy HCP report4 where 70% of healthcare professionals said pharma reps don’t fully understand their requirements, and 62% said the most important area where pharma reps can add value is understanding the needs of healthcare professionals and share only relevant content with them to make interactions more insightful.
How is the issue of data privacy addressed when extracting information from healthcare professional/patient data on social media?
Preserving privacy in social media data mining is crucial to ensure that all sensitive user-generated data is secure as it travels through different third-party platforms. Organizations should adopt privacy-preserving data mining (PPDM) techniques to facilitate the extraction of knowledge from large social media datasets, while preventing the disclosure of sensitive information. Models trained in artificial intelligence (AI) or natural language processing (NLP) can automatically intercept any sensitive information during the data collection or data sharing phase. This is done either by randomizing specific values or by anonymizing specific records before the data is collected or shared between parties.
What percentage of digital spend goes to selling on social media?
According to Indegene’s 2020 Survey of Pharmaceutical Marketers5organizations in the United States allocate approximately 6% of their overall digital marketing budget to social media activities, while Europe and Asia allocate 8% individually.