We’re all familiar with social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, and video hosting channels like YouTube and MySpace. But for most of us, they’re personal channels — we use them to catch up and tune in. It’s not work (even though LinkedIn pretends to be). It’s play.
But if marketing is your business, it’s a different story. Or at least, it should be, because social media channels exercise tremendous influence over consumer attitudes. This is becoming increasingly apparent in the healthcare and pharma sectors, with patients and their families looking for opinions and experiences from other consumers via the web. If you want to know how well you’ll be looked after at a particular hospital, you can tap into former patient experiences. If you’re worried about the drug you’ve been prescribed, you can see what other consumers feel about it.
The surprise here is how willing searchers are to believe the consumers who post opinions: not the rants and raves, but the apparently rational, considered, first-hand opinions. Why are they so credible? Because they offer their opinions and experiences for free, for the benefit of other consumers. They have the credibility that comes from the perception of honesty, in an age when consumers are instinctively sceptical about marketing messages.
One of the key factors to bear in mind with content on the social web is that patients will consume content — good or bad — about a disease, treatments or your brand, irrespective of where that content comes from. A patient in the UK looking for advice on what to expect from her chemotherapy does not care if that advice comes from a fellow patient in the US, Singapore or the UK. It’s the social element of shared experience, empathy and kinship that is important rather than where that connection lives.