Learning By Listening: How To Benefit From Understanding Social Conversations

When people don’t feel well, they’re likely to tell someone about it – a family member, a coworker, a friend or, if the symptoms are severe enough, a medical expert. Many will actively seek out more information about their condition and, of course, what is the most effective remedy for their pain. In the online social sphere, consumers are doing all of the above, with 34% using social media to search for health information. Healthcare marketers could learn quite a lot if they’d take time to listen.

We recently evaluated the effectiveness of a social media campaign launched by our client, a manufacturer of headache remedies for migraine sufferers. We studied the general landscape of migraine-related conversation in social media, paying particular attention to conversations relating to our client’s campaign and brand, competitors and migraine triggers.

Here are just some of the things we learned by listening (and by capturing nearly 15,000 general mentions of migraines over a one-month period) and how you can apply these insights:



1.  As they say, misery loves company, so perhaps it’s not surprising to discover that people enjoy sharing headache stories with others on social sites like Facebook and Twitter, with Facebook having the highest volume of conversation (46%). Given the opportunity, many will provide great detail too:  What they were doing right before the migraine hit, how they coped with it (including what remedies they took), whether those solutions had any impact, and whether the sufferer noticed any patterns with the onset of migraines.  Interestingly when it came to remedies consumers generally looked to blogs (45%) and forums (44%)

Action: By continuing to post open ended questions on your Facebook fan page on a regular basis this lends well to personal stories and sharing personal stories online often leads to more loyalty to the brands listening to those stories.  Also, brands can “be helpful” in blogs and forums by linking to useful research and commentary on remedies.

2. Natural remedies received the most positive sentiment. In fact, natural remedies were the most widely recommended for treating migraines.

 Action:  Consider adding a natural element to your healthcare campaign messaging such as combining your healthcare offering with a cup of tea, a cold compress, etc.

3. Our client had the largest share of voice among brands studied; however, their most recent campaign only created a short-lived boost in brand conversation.

Action:  Introduce additional campaign elements that extend the campaign-life and touch-points, such as blogger outreach and supporting content.

 4. And, although our client was pleased to learn that they’re enjoying the largest share of voice in social conversation, they’re now paying much closer attention to relevant conversations that don’t mention their brand.

Action: By listening to general, unbranded conversations, as well as discussion about competing brands and other remedies, it will enable you to refine your messaging further by featuring words and phrases more likely to resonate. Discussions about migraine triggers, for instance, included common themes such as food, stress, fatigue, hormones and dehydration.

Consumers can teach healthcare marketers a great deal about what they’re doing right, nearly right, and absolutely wrong when it comes to making people feel better. Companies just need to listen.

Carly Wilcox is director of research and analytics at Visible Technologies, a social media monitoring and analytics company.

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