Friday, July 18, 2008

Pharmaceuticals and Word Of Mouth

An article in today's Emarketer, reports on a study by Keller Fay that "less than 10% of pharmaceutical-related word-of-mouth in the US takes place online, compared with nearly three-quarters that happens in person".

I was very interested in this study, and how they measure offline word-of-mouth. It is not as if they can talk to everyone. Their methodology is to poll 36,000 people >13 to find out what the buzz is of the moment and how worth-of-mouth marketing travels. Is this ligit for pharmaceutical marketing?

I rarely have conversations with friends about medications, except to tell them the negative side effects of what I am taking (Niaspan burn). Maybe 8 conversations in the last two years, not including my wife and family. Whereas online, I have had over a hundred "discussions" including conversations through Daily Strength, Revolution Health, posted blogs, hit up chat rooms, commented on other blogs, etc...

Fard Johnmar and I had a "conversation" on Twitter yesterday about the Keller Fay report and how it relates to online trust. He discusses the marketing angle with social media today on his Healthcare Vox Blog. He tweeted the question, how do you define online trust vs. offline when you actually talk to people you know. Per Fard, from an iCrossing Study, only 23% of patients trust others with the same condition online.

How does this relate to medication adherence? Most of these "discussions" are about medications that I have taken, explaining the efficacy, as well as the side effects both positively and negatively - just factual about my personal experiences. On all of the posts I have been very transparent about my ID, and can be easily Googled. Does that mean that a stranger should or would trust me because we both have high triglycerides? 23% do. What effect do I have? Well, 1 in 4 will heed my warnings and trust my positive outcomes.

When I look at a patient who has commented online about a medication that I have taken, I will trust them if they have had the same experience, but I am not really looking for their advice or input. I prefer to rely on my doctor who has prescribed the medication for me and went to med school and who is an authority. Is this a double standard since I freely dose out my own advice? Probably. I have seen patients who have had bad side effects from a script where I had none. They will probably not trust what I have to say, considering we had a different experience.

My point is that I feel I have more influence online, not that I am trying to influence anyone, but I will answer questions, comment when I have something to add, and try to help others figure out what medication regime is best for them based on my own experience. Granted I am 35, and the majority of my friends are not on any medications so I do not have that offline word-of-mouth experience because no one needs my advice or cares. I am also in the Healthcare Technology biz and Health 2.0 movement, so I am more online health sensitive than others.

Will patients take or not take medications based on what they read about online? That is the real question for pharma marketers, and how do you control all the negative reporting?

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