How life sciences companies can get ‘social’

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April 28, 2015 - IDC Health Insights recently released their report IDC MarketScape: Worldwide Life Science Social Media Analytics 2014 Vendor Assessment, in which Genpact emerged as a leader, ranking high in capabilities and strategies. Receiving this recognition is not only a great honor (one that we have received consistently over the last two years) but also a challenge for us to continuously innovate and design path-breaking solutions for pharmaceutical companies that deliver real business impact.

Social media analytics, although no longer the “new" kid on the block, is still “cool." Everyone wants to jump on the social bandwagon. When I worked on several social media solutions for pharmaceutical companies, the key was always to use social media as a means to an end or, in other words, create solutions that can show a distinct measurable business outcome. Having said that, I continue to see companies apply the power of social media in areas where they cannot possibly demonstrate a tangible business outcome, often resulting in lack of sustained support from their top management. Unless you apply social media analytics for a specific objective, you will never be able to show return on investment or create competitive differentiation.

Whenever you want to use social media listening and analytics, make sure you can answer the following questions:

  • What is the business problem you want to solve for?
  • What is the business outcome you want to achieve?
  • Do you want to aim for qualitative impact or quantitative impact

These questions affect each other and define how your social media analytics program should be designed, implemented, and sustained.

Many life sciences companies have some level of social media listening and analytics in progress but are unable to exploit the true value or potential. I have encountered such situations in the past. Here are my top tips:

  • Use social media as part of your stakeholder experience and engagement arsenal, provided your stakeholders are engaged in the medium and actively participate. Social media can be a cost-effective channel for improving stakeholder experience and engagement. For example, when you combine social media with traditional channels such as call centers, email, etc., social media will help you be proactive in resolving consumer complaints and enhancing your customer experience holistically.
  • Social media can help grow your top line by helping you identify unmet needs, newer segments, and markets. Monitor your stakeholders and markets constantly to get insights for creating new products, markets, or segments.
  • Use social media as a complement to your traditional market research: Social media can act as a great complement to traditional market research. For maximum impact, you should know when you should use social media as a precursor to traditional market research or when social media will provide better results and insights compared to traditional market research. There are specific use cases when you add social media insights after you have already completed traditional market research.
  • Buying a social media software solution isn't the panacea for your social media efforts: Many basic social media–related needs (aggregating social media data quickly, basic listening, and monitoring) are satisfied to a certain extent by software solutions. However, you need to contextualize the software solution to your business situation. We call it the bytes + brains approach in which a team of experts thinks through the context and then applies the solution at hand so it provides the necessary insights to address the business problem.

Social media can help you listen, learn, and engage with your key stakeholders. The key is to understand that social media is a means to a successful business outcome, and not an end in itself. Your social media experts must have deep understanding of your industry and processes and focus relentlessly on the end result or business objective.

So, if you want to get social, you must understand the key metrics you want to impact and bring on a team that has knowledge of your industry and business and not only looks at social media analytics but also combines it with other processes and solutions to achieve outcomes - both qualitative and quantitative.

The results will be something that you and your management will definitely “like."

Author: Neelesh Sali - Vice President, Research and Media Services, Learning and Marcomm Services