Intelligence preparation of the social media landscape

Erroin A. Martin

Von Gehr Consulting Group

Change is coming to Pharma and how it embraces social media. Just read the number of posts on this site and others in regard to opening up the communication between Pharma, Healthcare Providers (HCPs), and Patients. Everything is beginning to come together to allow for a change in regulations that permits an open dialogue.

While it feels very limiting not to be able to proactively engage in social media due to the numerous regulations on pharmaceuticals, it is actually a blessing in disguise. Your product teams and brand managers get the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of others, identify which mediums are appropriate to enter into, and conduct an active gathering of intelligence. Companies can start preparing their marketing teams now by building their social media intelligence.

What is intelligence preparation?

A simple definition is identifying the areas of interest your business wants / needs to identify to be successful. To do this you first have to know the landscape you are working in.

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. they all have different facets in how they foster communication. It is not just limited to their communication style. The communities on these sites are unique in their interaction, how they build followers, and even how they speak. You need to identify the voice of these platforms before you start your campaigns once the chains of regulation are lifted.


“You need to identify the voice of these platforms before you start your campaigns once the chains of regulation are lifted.”

After you have identified the voice of the various platforms you are going to engage in, the next step is for your brand managers to establish is how the communities talk about your products, disease states, the competition, and your company. This valuable task will provide valuable information on how users of your products actually speak. With that information you will be able to craft messages and train your sales force in how to educate physicians on what their patients are saying.

Take for example the treatment of diabetic peripheral neuralgia, the disease of constant pain and / or numbness experienced in the feet or hands of patients who have diabetes. Those patients do not come in talking about the specific damage to their nervous system that diabetes is calling. They talk about “pins and needles”, or the feeling of wool on their feet is like “a thousand bee stings”, and / or that their hands are always “on fire.” These patients talk about ways to control their pain and understand the causes behind their pain. One thing they do not do is speak specifically about diabetic peripheral neuralgia.

Your firm could hold market surveys and pay for the opinions of a select few to get the same information. What those interviews will not give you is the real-time conversations of actual patients. This is what you can get by listening and preparing the intelligence in social media.

How to conduct intelligence preparation

It is more than setting up a Google alert or hanging out in different patient forums. You need to have a plan on how you want to listen and monitor the flow of communication. The one item you must keep in mind is that it will take time.


“You need to have a plan on how you want to listen and monitor the flow of communication.”

The first step you have to take is to gather all the different terms your company and physicians use to describe the disease state you will be treating and the treatments that you will be competing against. This will begin to give you a starting point to set up your “areas of interest” that you want to investigate further. These “areas of interest” could be how patients describe the disease, how patients describe the effects of products in the marketplace, and how they describe using the different treatments for example.

The second step is to select the tools that you will be using to monitor the online conversations. These tools go beyond any Google Alert that you may set up. The tools you select should allow you to see when and where your “areas of interest” were mentioned and who was doing the talking. The best tools for this type of work are Radian6, Scoutlabs, Techrigy SM2, and Visible Technologies to name a few. These tools need some time to run in order for you to gain any meaningful results.

The third and final step is for you to monitor the information that comes through the tool you had selected and analyze the data.

Using the data from your intelligence preparation

Monitoring the different social media channels is a great advantage for any company, especially Pharma. While the industry is restricted and cautious about directly engaging in social media, the information gathered from great intelligence preparation will allow companies to adjust faster. These adjustments can be in the form of better marketing materials to representatives that reflect how patients and physicians talk about disease states. The data gleaned from listening and monitoring can help companies decide where to spend resources on promotion, education, or general awareness.


“The data should also be used to discover new “areas of interest” that should be monitored and to challenge preconceived notions or stigmas around specific diseases.”

The data should also be used to discover new “areas of interest” that should be monitored and to challenge preconceived notions or stigmas around specific diseases. Intelligence preparation of social media is an ongoing process that puts the power in the product manager’s hands.

While some in Pharma will bemoan the inability to send tweets or post facebook updates about their specific product, the good news is that in their silence they get to watch, listen, and learn.

About the author:

Erroin A. Martin is a Business Advocate with the Von Gehr Consulting Group, LLC, a business coaching and consultancy provider for business owners, executives, and entrepreneurs. He has fifteen years experience working within the pharmaceutical, manufacturing, natural resources, medical devices, software, technology, business services, and agriculture industries in various levels of leadership across six continents. He has led diverse teams in sales, marketing, planning, and in the Army. He currently coaches business leaders and physicians in the tools needed to plan for their success. Learn more about the Von Gehr Consulting Group, LLC at or call +1 203 433 8079. You can follow him on Twitter at @Erroin.

How do you build social media intelligence?