Industry use of social media ‘miniscule’
Social media opens many new opportunities for healthcare organizations to engage consumers and is changing the nature of healthcare interaction, according to a new report by PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute.
The report, “Social media likes health care: From marketing to social business,” called social media activity by hospitals, health insurers and drug companies “minuscule,” and found that while 8-in-10 healthcare companies had a social media presence, health-related community sites had 24 times more social media activity than corporate sites.
“Health organizations have an opportunity to use social media as a way to better listen, participate in discussions and engage with consumers in ways that extend their interaction beyond a clinical encounter,” PwC U.S. health industries leader Kelly Barnes said. “Savvy adopters are viewing social media as a business strategy, not just a marketing tool.”
In addition, the study found that one-third of consumers use social media sites for seeking medical information, tracking and sharing symptoms, and sharing their thoughts about doctors, treatments and health plans. Meanwhile, between 20% and 40% had used social media to find health-related consumer reviews and information about other patients’ experiences, or had posted information about their experiences or joined a health forum or community. Thirty-four percent said information found on social media would affect their decision about taking a certain medication, and 32% said it would affect their choice of a health insurance plan.
Social media a marketing platform for health care
Social media ranks as one of those technologies that has changed the world in many ways, allowing networking across the world, sharing of thoughts and events from people’s lives, embarrassment of public figures and, more recently, even helping to feed political revolutions.
It also has created a new platform for companies looking to get their products — and word of those products — out to a wider audience.
Last month, the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council released the last installment of a five-part report on social media, reporting that grocery marketers significantly can leverage any social media participation by responding to tweets on Twitter and using LinkedIn, a professional networking site. “The explosive growth of social networking seems to have caught much of the marketing world by surprise,” CCRRC research director Michael Sansolo said. “In one survey, we found nearly 70% of supermarket chief marketing officers state they feel unprepared to integrate social media into their marketing mix.”
But consumers certainly aren’t unprepared. Considering that so many people are on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or a combination of those, not being on them soon may become the new Luddism, with a social networking account being regarded as indispensable as a cell phone. In this type of environment, not having a social media presence isn’t the best way to do business. “When you’re marketing on cable [television], you’re kind of just talking to the person sitting on a couch versus the person sitting on the couch who’s talking to all their friends at the same time,” Robin Leedy, president of public relations firm Robin Leedy & Associates, told Drug Store News. “So I think it’s about targeting [people] who [are] in a specific place that you need them to be to drive them to purchase, and then also influencing like-minded people in their circle almost in real time.”
The companies that do embrace social media are finding this out in real time also, as has been the case of two companies making health and hygiene products for women that have sought to increase their presence in the U.S. market.
One company is Lifes2Good, which markets the natural hair-growth product Viviscal for women who have experienced hair loss due to stress, hormonal changes or medications. The company has focused most of its attention on Facebook, as well as Twitter, sending its products for review to bloggers, who then drive traffic back to the Facebook site. Meanwhile, many influencers — including fashion and style magazine editors — have mentioned Viviscal on Twitter, getting the product further attention.
“It’s the easiest way to engage customers,” brand manager John Halbert told DSN. Later this year, the company plans to create a new online hair-loss community for Viviscal that will tie together all of its social media, Halbert said.
Another product is Softcup, made by Evofem and marketed as a convenient and environmentally friendly alternative to tampons and sanitary napkins. Its marketing campaign has included a lot of social media, particularly Facebook, a blog and a Twitter feed. These have been useful in addressing the large number of women with questions about the product, including TweetChats on Twitter with Evofem’s resident OB-GYN and endorsers, as well as allowing new and prospective users to ask questions on Softcup’s Facebook page. “Social media is about empowering our existing consumers to speak for us and to validate the brand to women who are new to Softcup,” Evofem VP sales and marketing Tracey Saenz told DSN.
One thing that many people seem to agree on is that social media is about more than just getting the word out — it’s also about getting the word from consumers themselves. “One thing that is common across all those platforms is that we use them to listen to our customers, because listening is just as important as talking,” Saenz said, noting that consumers sometimes would respond to questions posted online before Evofem’s staff had a chance to.
Leedy had a similar view. “Sometimes, you don’t know what you’re listening for, and someone makes a comment, and then 10 other people comment on that,” Leedy said. “You wouldn’t have had that dialog had that consumer not had the open place to do it.”
Q&A: Enhanced insights
Drug Store News spoke with Adam Holyk, Walgreens divisional VP loyalty and consumer insights, about the newly created consumer insights team focused on enhancing Walgreens’ engagement with its patients and customers, and how it will help complement Walgreens’ marketing efforts.
DSN: What is the overall vision for the insights team?
Adam Holyk: We’re building world-class capabilities around … a team of mathematicians with statistical backgrounds, market researchers and management consultants. Ultimately what we’re focused on is helping Walgreens listen to our customers both through customer satisfaction and understanding what they actually do within our stores. Building the team is all around helping us achieve our strategy to be closest to customers.
DSN: How do you expect to deploy those insights into actionable programs?
Holyk: It will start with the data, and we will be collecting [that] data through multiple channels. Through our analytics, our goal is to discover key insights across the store to start changing customer experience and ultimately [drive] customer loyalty. [This will help us deliver] on the promise of being “My Walgreens” for everyone in America. That will involve localizing our store assortment based on who shops our stores, when they shop our stores and what they’re interested in. In addition to that, we also have opportunities on refining our promotional strategies based on how customers interact. And finally, [the insights will help] guide our product development ideas.
DSN: With Walgreens extending its health reach beyond retail pharmacy into atypical venues like workplace clinics, how does this effort support that dynamic?
Holyk: A thorough segmentation of our customers [will help us] understand gaps in current product offerings and services. Based on those insights, we’ll be able to make decisions, such as informing site locations for our Take Care Clinics to delivering better and more personalized services to each individual customer within our stores.
DSN: What role will payers and CPG partners play?
Holyk: We’re beginning a ramp-up and increase in collaboration with our vendor communities. We believe we actually further accelerate the mission to be closest to customers by partnering with vendors in order to discover, share and implement insights. I would say a lot more to come on that front and stay tuned.
To listen to the full audio Q&A, click here.