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6 Essentials for Successful Social Listening in the Pharmaceutical Industry

6 Essentials for Successful Social Listening in the Pharmaceutical Industry

For a long time, pharmaceutical companies haven’t really needed to focus on patients expressing opinions over treatment. It was the physicians after all who would make key treatment decisions for patients, so pharmaceutical companies could in turn focus their marketing towards the physicians themselves. This was especially true for complex diseases like Parkinson’s. In the present day however, things have changed significantly. Empowered by social media and technology, patients can now have more of a say than ever before when it comes to options for treatment. Patients express opinions on where and how they want to get treated as well as whether they want to get treated at all. They even have the ability to affect the decisions of other patients by sharing their thoughts over social networks and blogs.

The things patients share online offer a multitude of valuable insights for pharmaceutical companies to draw on and improve their communication with patients and physicians alike. Online conversations between patients, doctors and researchers also promote patient education and raise disease awareness. As a consequence of this improvement in education about different diseases patients can better manage their condition.

Through social media monitoring, pharmaceutical companies can gain insight into what is driving patients, improve treatments and patient compliance and in turn, increase the overall effectiveness of their products. Here are the 6 essential steps pharmaceutical companies should take for successful social media monitoring.


In many cases, the conversation within patient communities does not mention specific brands. By looking at only brand and company names, it is easy to miss the key points patients are making in these forums. In contrast, looking at the overall conversation offers an opportunity to see not only the whole picture of a disease, but also what is most important to the patients suffering from it.

With regards to Parkinson’s disease, conversations might centre around the symptoms and their effect on the daily life of a patient. It might also be about famous Parkinson’s patients, such as actor Michael J. Fox or Muhammad Ali, and their influence on awareness for the disease or their efforts to raise money for charities dedicated to fighting the disease.

  • A comparison of different Parkinson’s-related topic shows high interest in research, medication and symptoms of the disease.

Many patients turn to blogs and social networks to share their stories and exchange information with others. They use these platforms to document the progression of their disease, talk about the medications they take or talk about a variety of other topics. In order to have a complete picture of what Parkinson’s patients talk about, pharma companies need to monitor the overall conversation before drilling down on specific aspects.


For pharmaceutical companies, knowing where patients are talking is key in tailoring their communication to that audience. Different channels can be better suited for different purposes. Awareness campaigns, for example, are likely to succeed on social networks with their wide audience and users who are likely to share content with their friends. In contrast, patient insights about medications or symptoms are more likely to be found in support forums or blogs focusing on these issues.

A closer look at the different channels shows that most discussions about Parkinson’s disease and related topics happen on blogs, Facebook and online news. Since healthcare topics, especially for complex diseases like Parkinson’s, are sensitive subjects that usually require more in-depth explanations, these platforms are better suited for such discussions that platforms like Twitter with its low character limit.

  • A comparison between different platforms shows that conversation about Parkinson’s focuses heavily on blogs, online news and Facebook.

Because of the very distinct nature of the conversation, it is also not surprising that the number of results is lower than it would be for a topic making global headlines, such as Ebola. However, drug manufacturers or suppliers should be careful to not dismiss these results. Despite the comparatively low numbers, the people talking about topics related to Parkinson’s, and the medication or treatment may still enjoy great influence within the community.

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