Online health seekers don’t trust social media

  • 74% of Americans think the integrity of mainstream social media sites are diminishing and are less likely to use them to find trusted information. (Source: Tapatalk)
  • 80% trust responses on a specialized forum more than those on Facebook
  • 72% say forums are more reliable for trustworthy information.

The findings, from a recent survey of 1,000 people that trust in social media is diminishing should not be a surprise to anyone. Facebook’s total disregard for any responsibility of what appears on their website is pretty much the norm now and nobody really knows how Facebook determines what appears in your news feed.

But what about online health seekers?

What I have found via qualitative research is that people will read others posts about health on social media, but they usually won’t use that information to make a final treatment decision. Instead, they will verify what you wrote by visiting other sites.

There is something else that has started appearing with online health seekers. They are not searching by health conditions alone, they are typing questions into Google like “what are the side effects of..”. This should be a concern for all pharma marketers and agencies because the search results often dictate their healthcare treatment decisions. Pharma emarketing people need to continually evaluate where people are getting online health information since Google is the first place the search for online health information starts.

So what about online forums?

People love specialized online forums but they have concerns about privacy. More people read what others have posted rather than post themselves and if a forum requires online registration to read posts more people will leave without registering.

Pharma continues to ignore online forums because of regulatory issues, but if I was able to it 10 years ago any pharma company should be able to do it. The challenge is to ensure that posts don’t go live until they are reviewed and that you include language that some language in the posts can be modified because of FDA guidelines.

I was able to get this online forum for Sarafem thru MLR teams by assuring them that all posts would be reviewed prior to going live.

Trust in online health information is becoming a bigger issue for online health seekers. There is too much bad health information out there and people really don’t trust pharma to give them all the information they need to make key treatment decisions. The Internet is about bringing people together. It’s time for pharma to do just that.