PharmExec Blog

Advancing Pharma's Social Media Listening Analytics

Big Pharma’s tin ear for social, user-generated content online is softening despite regulatory anxiety. In the quest to better understand what patients and doctors need, pharma – thanks in part to a bevy of third-party service providers – is beginning to recognize and incorporate insights from social media into their development and commercialization programs, according to a report from IDC Health Insights.

The pharmaceutical industry still lags other industries in spending on outbound social media programs that engage customers directly, but they are – at least Big Pharma is – spending more on so-called inbound social media software and analytics, which lets them listen to what is being said online about brands and unmet needs and match that up marketing strategies.

A new report from IDC Health Insights, titled “Worldwide Pharmaceutical Social Media Analytics 2012 Vendor Assessment,” found that pharma marketing departments are “starving for new ways to measure market sentiment, competitive analysis and promotional effectiveness” in areas that were previously difficult to gauge, according to Eric Newmark, program director, life sciences, IDC Health Insights and author of the report. “Companies are trying to answer questions like, ‘What are the sentiments being shared by our highest targeted physicians about brands in popular online communities,’ or ‘What is the biggest unmet need among our highest targeted physicians?’”

Insights gleaned from listening in to social media conversations aren’t being widely integrated at an enterprise level just yet, but pharma is “becoming increasingly interested in integrating this information back into the broader spectrum of CRM and sales and marketing intelligence, so they can start to relate what they’re seeing online back with the actual customer profiles and CRM systems…that gives them something closer to a 360-degree view of what physicians are saying online, and actually tying that back to a [physician] profile,” says Newmark.

Some companies continue to use third party service providers as a kind of regulatory buffer, in the belief that keeping a social media wiretap at arm’s length protects them from having to report adverse event discussions – discussions which may or may not meet FDA’s criteria for reporting – but source validation, relevancy, and weighting one online conversation against another, is becoming a strong area of focus and attention for pharma, says Newmark. “You don’t want to be misinterpreting what’s out there.”

So who are the top vendors, according to Newmark’s six months of research and discussions with pharma? The leaders, in no particular order, include Indegene, Cognizant, ListenLogic, Genpact and Semantelli. On the next rung down – major players – Visible Technologies, Genpact and Radian6 made the cut; all have experience working with top pharmas.

Companies have misjudged the market in the past – Newmark gives an example of a pharma company focusing on the “fast-acting” capabilities of a product, when, come to find out, patients aren’t as concerned about fast-acting as they are about specific side effects – which makes listening software, or monthly reports from service providers, a valuable tool in the marketing arsenal.

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  1. Posted September 6, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Thank to all our customers who provided feedback!!!

    We are really thrilled about being ranked in the Leader’s category.

    We are also compliance ready for pharma, and the most user friendly.

    Siva Nadarajah
    Semantelli Corp.
    “Compliance Ready Social Media Solutions for Pharma”

  2. Posted September 7, 2012 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    SDL, who acquired Alterian earlier in 2012, was ranked by Forrester as a leading supplier of social media monitoring solutions in their latest wave.

    Our work in the pharmaceutical space as well as our industry experience allow us to bring immediate relevancy to the social data making it actionable and easily understandable through our analysis and experienced interpretation.

    Statistics show incident reportable events are generally less than 2% of all social media conversations and our ability to seamlessly pass along this information to pharmacovigilence ensures compliance.

    Don Peterson
    Director, Social Media Intelligence

  3. Posted September 10, 2012 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    When getting involved with social media analysis, make sure you know what you are after. There are many types of social media listening companies that provide very different services. Some provide engagement platforms, others sentiment, and still others more advanced analytic platforms. Many are DIY software products that leave the user feeling short changed or boxed in.

    Pharma would benefit by an analysis process that allows them to understand and measure more than listen and engage, especially given the barriers in the healthcare industry to this type of information that borderlines personally identifiable.

    The principles of the health care industry that we talk about in this white paper are applicable for pharma. There is a need to analyze more holistically instead of treating social media content as bytes of information that need to be analyzed on a case by case basis.

    Vaughn Mordecai

  4. Posted December 4, 2012 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure of the methodology of the study but Converseon is also a clear leader on pharma. With nearly 10 years of experience and a range of top clients, it has been cited in Forrester Wave of Listening Platforms Q3 2010 as category leader. Also has been cited widely by Gartner.

    Social conversation for pharma’s requires very high precision (accuracy) for sentiment, emotion and more. Converseon’s Convey technology was recently named Dataweek’s Top Social Data Mining Innovation for it’s ability to achieve near human level analysis at massive scale through it’s machine learning algorithms.

    This precision is the core of the company’s solutions. As disclaimer, i am the CEO of the company

  5. Posted April 19, 2013 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    We have recently launched a new social media monitoring tool into the pharma space called Creation PinPoint. The niche thing about this tool is that it allows you to only monitor conversation between healthcare professionals on public social media. This helps reduce the number of adverse event reports that occur and gives you some interesting new insights.

    Our clients are using the tool to build up a picture of their key digital opinion leaders (see who they are/who they are influencing), see what’s being said about their/competitors brand, see where the healthcare professionals are discussing their therapy area/brand and see when spikes in conversation are taking place and what’s being said.

    We are currently analyzing over 115,000 healthcare professional social media profiles.

  6. Posted March 17, 2014 at 2:45 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the article Ben,
    I will join Rob Key in saying that I am not sure how extensive Newmark’s research was. In any case DigitalMR’s social media listening solution can report a world class 85%-90% sentiment accuracy in any language. We use a unique combination of machine learning algorithms and computational linguistic models. We have access to posts from any public website on the planet. Our reporting deliverable which includes semantic analysis, focuses on actionable business insights that are synthesized using data from multiple sources – not just social media listening.

    Michalis A. Michael
    CEO – DigitalMR

  7. Posted October 30, 2014 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Listening to healthcare professional on social media is a great way to find out where your HCP customers are both on and offline. You can find out – what digital channels they are using, what congresses they are attending, what publications they are reading, what blogs they are reading and who they think is an influential leader in their industry.

    Check out our article for more details:

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