Questions and Answers


by Russ Ward (@russcward)

What does it feel like to have a heart attack? Whats the cure for muscle soreness post-workout? What one daily habit has the most positive effect on your health?

These are real questions asked on the popular question and answer site Quora. Question sites such as Quora, Yahoo! Answers, and Fluther are proliferating on the internet. On these sites members can ask or answers questions on a wide range of subject matter. Other sites such as Healthysparx are more narrow-focused.

Crowdsourcing opinions and guidance for health and wellness information gives patients much more control over their own health care than they ever had before. It also empowers them to help other patients, especially when a question matches their experience or expertise. But, a lot of time answers may be inaccurate, incomplete and inconsistent. And, everyones experience can be different.

Pharma has an opportunity on the question sites, especially as patients seek an authoritative voice and accurate information. But, is pharma prepared to participate?

Customers are going to talk and research products so it makes sense for pharma to figure out how to be part of the conversation. A lack of social media guidelines will likely limit participation for the time being, but it doesnt mean question sites should be ignored.

Pharma can train social media spokespeople to respond with consistent, compliant messages, such as a link back to the company website. Because question sites often show up in the first page of search results, having a presence and quality content can bring patients to other properties such as a branded Facebook page or YouTube Channel.

Right now, the bigger opportunity lies in listening. Even under legal scrutiny, pharma marketers should be tracking and monitoring question sites to gather valuable business insight.

Users reveal data about themselves. What is every marketer looking for? To understand their customers pain points. On question sites, users are communicating the problems theyre looking to have solved. Keeping an ear to the ground can pinpoint opportunities for education, new customer segments or product uses or reveal disconnect between product messaging and public perception.

Learn who your influencers are. Who are your most vocal adversaries and advocates? Monitor frequency of occurrence to understand who and what is being posted and to ensure message accuracy. Gain insight into influencers and craft a communication strategy to ensure your products are promoted properly and that consumers have the education they need to make informed decisions.

Connect with people at key decision points. For the mother deciding which cough syrup formula is right for her congested three year old, receiving a coupon or information on how to keep her child comfortable during illness from a brand she trusts could influence a purchase decision. Companies such as New York-based Hunch are developing algorithms to recommend certain products when people pose commerce-related queries. By knowing what patients are asking, pharma companies can respond appropriately and ensure their actions and answers resonate with customer needs.

Pharmaceutical companies have a challenge responding via any social media, but they can get the listening component in place and develop internal social media guidelines that enable them to proceed in a compliant manner.

Any questions?




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