While the FDA ponders the use of social media for DTC marketing marketers can still use this channel to provide patient insights into specific disease states, medications and treatment options. I had a chance to take a deep dive into social media for MS patients and uncovered specific needs and segments of patients.
I spent the better part of a month mining social media, Twitter, Facebook, patient communities, for a client interested in covering MS patients needs, Here is some of what I found..
Specific MS Segments
Newly Diagnosed – These patients wanted two things via social media. The first was answers about why and how. The second was information about how to live with MS. They were often looking for mentors and usually went back and forth sharing information.
Patients with MS - These were patients that have been diagnosed with MS for awhile. Their communication was around encouragement an experiences around specific medications with an emphasis on the medication side effects vs. quality of life. I was also surprised that this segment was very aware of new medications in development and followed their progress very closely. In addition, these people openly shared information about dosing of current medications. Their need is medication side effects vs. not doing anything at all.
Caregivers – This segment had specific needs to better understand MS and what MS patients are going through. More importantly, they are looking for support for themselves. They want to vent and seek ways to make life better for their loved ones.
I also identified several influencers within the social media MS category. These were patients who spent a lot of time helping others and sharing information and encouragement. One thing became apparent; there is a real need for one MS patient resource that combines social media, patient communities and access to medical professionals to answer questions.
Among the companies highly regarded in the MS patient community was Biogen and Novartis.
So what can a DTC marketer do with this information ? They can use it to provide better targeted content. For example, how about sponsoring a patient’s BLOG as they started treatment ? Sure, there are risks, but that conversation is happening anyway via the Web.
Then there is the possibility of sponsoring a chat with a thought leader to answer questions about MS and how best to live with this horrible health condition.
Social media allows up to listen to patients, but unless we are ready to use this information to provide help and answers patients will have to turn more and more to each other instead of to biopharma companies which are a wealth of information.