Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Getting Started With Social Media Listening in Clinical Research

Today's guest post comes from Rahlyn Gossen. She is the founder of Rebar Interactive, a clinical trial patient recruitment and digital marketing company. Rahlyn also maintains a blog, newsletter, and Twitter profile focusing on digital strategy for clinical trials.

Social media is changing the world. According to 2014 Pew Research data, about three out of four online U.S. adults use social media. Popularity varies in other countries, but overall social media adoption rates are rising worldwide. And with rising popularity comes dramatic change in consumer behaviors and expectations. No longer are people satisfied with merely being consumers of information. They also expect to share and create it. This democratization of information distribution and creation is reshaping entire industries.

Healthcare is no exception. Social media has been a key enabler in what many describe as the epatient movement. Healthcare providers are no longer the only source of healthcare information. Increasingly, patients are using social media to consume, share, and create healthcare information. And this democratization is shifting power from traditional healthcare authorities to patients. Now peer-to-peer healthcare conversations are influencing patient opinion about everything, including clinical trials.

Are you listening?

These conversations can provide key operational insights for your clinical trial. Many sponsors have shown an interest in using social media to communicate their message, particularly around patient recruitment. But listening, in this case, is at least as powerful as talking. Furthermore, listening generally carries less complexity than a social presence, particularly when it comes to regulatory issues. Sponsors who put down the bullhorn and pick up the earphones can be rewarded with valuable information, including insights into:
  • • Patient characteristics, attitudes, and behaviors
  • • Patient healthcare journey
  • • Patient engagement and recruitment opportunities
Listening can take many forms and vary in sophistication. For example, a simple Twitter search can be considered social media listening. Click here and scroll through some tweets. Congratulations, you have just listened to Twitter conversations about Alzheimer’s. On the more sophisticated spectrum, a variety of technology tools are available to help you collect, filter, and organize these conversations. However, even the most sophisticated technological tools require significant human analysis by someone knowledgeable about social media.

Social media listening is of course not without difficulties. For example, it can take some time to learn social media listening tools and become proficient at separating signal from noise. In addition, available listening tools are not perfect, so it’s good to have an understanding of where technology weaknesses are so you don’t inappropriately place trust in the technology. And lastly, for the data to be useful, you need someone that understands the digital and social landscape enough to contextualize it. In short, social media listening is not “plug and play.”

To learn more about the practicalities of social media listening, check out “Social Listening Intensive – Why Now, Lessons Learned, and Connections You Need” at Partnerships in Clinical Trials April 22-24 in Boston. Representatives from Shire, Novartis, and Eli Lilly will help you:
  • • Learn how social listening can help you understand community attitudes and behavior
  • • Explore the benefits and drawbacks of using social listening as a tool for patient engagement
  • • Gather input that may shape future research
Our ability to attract patients to clinical trials will increasingly depend on our commitment to listening to them. Social media is a valuable and accessible means to do that.

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