How Do We Spend Our Time Online?

A recent infographic from Go-Gulf presented striking numbers about just how much time people spend online. Social networking is the most popular activity by internet users while Google has the highest number of unique visitors monthly, followed close by Facebook. With 30 percent of the world’s population online the average time spent globally on the internet in one month only adds up to a mind-blowing 3,955,444 years.

According to the infographic below looking for health-related information online is the third most common activity among internet users. Only emailing and using search engines top its popularity. But looking for and finding valuable information can be two very different things. So do we trust online health info? Based on a new survey carried out by Wolters Kluwer Health people do trust the medical content they find on the internet. And this means a huge responsibility for every online publisher who create and distribute health-related information on the web. According the the survey:

65 percent of those seeking medical information online say they trust the information they find and 63 percent say they’ve never misdiagnosed themselves based on something they read online.

A recent post on KevinMD.com points out that Twitter can be a valuable medical resource for patients and their relatives as well. With many doctors, patient groups and health services providing help and information on the micro-blogging site, there is a pool of knowledge that could be tapped into after getting used to the idea of sharing and co-creating a knowledge base with only 140 characters at a time.

To think that only a decade ago we didn’t even have the term social networking, using Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites didn’t play any part in our everyday life. It’s safe to say that these fast paced changes in technology remodeled the way we look at medical information and diagnosing conditions entirely.

 

(Source: Mindjumpers.com, FierceHealthIT, KevinMD.com)

 

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Why Social Media? – Andrew Spong Shares His Thoughts With H2onlinehu (Part 1)

With this post we would like to start our first interview series on H2ONLINEHU. Our aim is to discuss the idea behind pharmaceutical online communication and the recent trends of the field with experienced professionals and influential experts. And what better way to start, than to talk about the importance of social conversations in pharma with one of the founders of #hcsmeu, healthcare social media Europe, Andrew Spong.

Anyone that is involved in the field of health and social media knows you mainly from your key role in healthcare social media Europe. Could you talk about the idea behind building this particular community and having the weekly Twitter chats?

I think the story behind healthcare social media is quite well-known now, so I will just re-cap it really briefly. I was looking in the Summer of 2009 for health conversations on the social web, and I didn’t find that many at that time. What I did find however was a lady, called Silja Chouquet (@whydotpharma). We found that we were using the same key words, searching for the same sort of health-related things and, as a consequence we found each other. However, what we didn’t find at the time (although the case is very much altered now) were the sort of regular conversations about social health that we were looking for. Or rather, we didn’t find any systematically organized or regularly held contexts for those conversations to take place on the social web in Europe.

We therefore decided to launch a tweetchat. We thought we’d call it Healthcare Social Media Europe, and use the hashtag #hcsmeu following the example of #hcsm, the healthcare social media conversations started by Dana Lewis (@danamlewis) in the US. Within 10 days of our initial conversation we had the first #hcsmeu chat. We promoted it quite widely through our own networks, and were delighted when a dozen or so people turned up at 1pm CET on Friday 7th August 2009 on the #hcsmeu hashtag. And that was in August 2009, and now of course we’ve had two real-life hcsmeu conferences, we’ve had a healthcare social media global conference, and nearly 120 weekly events now which take place every Friday as you know at 12:00 UK time, 1 o’clock European time.

To an outsider, how would you describe health conversations on the social web? Why social media, what are the advantages of this platform compared to other channels for health-related conversations?

The advantages of social media in connecting people are numerous really, but let’s just focus on a few of them. First is the instantaneous nature of the connection. To find and identify people – assuming that their bios are properly formed and feature the relevant keywords – and immediately connect with people across the world, but also with people in our own geographies around Europe who share our interest in the health conversation on the social web. So in terms of building community, social media has been I think crucial for all the healthcare stakeholder groups. What has been also very interesting is the way that social media has enabled those different stakeholder groups (patients, healthcare professionals, the industry, public health providers and so on) to find new ways to interact and new spaces to interact in, to share and to address some of the issues which we consider when we ask „What does improving the quality of care look like?”. Immediacy, speed and also availability of one-to-one connections is something new and something that social media fosters very effectively, I think.

You mentioned a couple of key words that stood out to me: interact, share, address issues. Why are these crucial? Why is it important for pharma companies especially to be involved in social media when it comes to health conversations?

While there are similarities across the different stakeholder groups, there are clearly differences as well. From pharma’s perspective, for example, the opportunities that social media offers include the rebuilding of its reputation, the building of a level of trust in its activities, and to credential itself in such a way as to offer tangible evidence of its commitments to patients and providers rather than some of the more abstracted and esoteric claims that pharma companies are prone to make on their websites along the lines of ‘wanting to make the world a healthier place’. That’s great, but really: who doesn’t want that? In short, you are far more likely to be convinced by a company’s claim to want to do that if they can actually demonstrate to you that they are doing it rather than just telling you that they’re doing it.

Thus perhaps the biggest opportunity possibly for the industry is to reach out, to credential itself, to build trust, and build credibility. However, that is also its biggest challenge, because when levels of trust in the pharmaceutical industry are as low as they currently are from an observer’s perspective, it is always going to be difficult for any given company to make that first step. It can be problematic for companies to find the most appropriate context within which they can begin to build all those adjacent benefits that we just identified. Being a heavily regulated industry as it is, pharma has not always found an easy route into this conversation. It is noteworthy that the companies that have succeeded such as Roche, Pfizer, and Boehringer have been those that have been most willing to put themselves out there. Not in an irresponsible way, but clearly, these companies understand that this is an experimental environment, and that unexpected things can and will happen. Let’s not forget that the conversation on the social web that Twitter drives has only been happening for five years. Twitter as a platform is only five years old, and whilst it is only the first generation of real-time information networks, what’s qualitatively different about the interactions that it creates and about what the industry is consequently having to learn to do in order to participate effectively is to get involved in a dialogue rather than merely making pronouncements, although at this time there is still far too much push messaging taking place.

Within European online health communication how do you see the position of pharma companies and agencies located in Eastern-Europe? Based on your past experiences what kind of advice would you give them?

I think from a Western European perspective we’ve seen evidence of interest arising across stakeholder groups including pharma, but on an individual level it hasn’t been a great deal of evidence, at least among English-speaking circles – obviously language is an issue – of affiliates within Eastern Europe coming online in a systematic way at a corporate level. So whilst individuals are beginning to mobilize, there hasn’t been a great deal of evidence of wider initiatives. Coming back to language issues, it is note-worthy that those conversations are conducted in English. However, I think that encouragement should be taken from the fact that companies like Pfizer, Boehringer and Roche are beginning to attempt to support their affiliates by supporting the bringing together and launching of local-language social media presences. And I think Pfizer is probably the leading example of this at the moment. They developed best practices from the head office in the US which have been expertly filtered out to European affiliates and they have been really supporting local colleagues in their desire to connect with the customers that matter to them in their geographies.

We know that the internet has no boundaries, so effectively everything they publish could be theoretically read by everybody. If they take it upon themselves to identify a need within their own territories, within their own geographies, in their own language then the more progressive companies are seeing that they have a responsibility to support those affiliates and help them grow those presences themselves. So, there’s not a massive amount of evidence thus far, but you get a sense that the conditions of possibility are being created to support the development, the emergence, and the blossoming of pharma social media in Eastern Europe.

And finally, how would you evaluate 2011 in terms of health conversations on the social web? What do you foresee for 2012?

I wrote a blog post about this subject recently. I believe that we are in this three-stage process of identifying trends that are slipping away, trends that are dominating, and trends that are emerging so it is interesting to watch this organic process take place. I’ve only been paying close attention to and participating in the social web since 2008, it was my third Twitter birthday in November. So I’ve personally been on Twitter for 3 of 5 years of its life, and do not possess a complete contextual framework from which I may speak to this question with any more authority than anyone else who has been using the platform. However, it is my observation in the three years that we have seen what were considered fundamental issues for the industry, when it was more focused on trying to orient itself rather than participating, we have seen these issues like listening and engagement becoming less important. That’s not to say that you don’t need to listen and you don’t need to engage, but it’s a prerequisite of maintaining an effective presence on the social web: that one listens, and listens well and continually refines one’s listening strategy. So it’s pointless to talk about that, you have to be doing that anyway. And similarly if you’re not engaging on the social web than what are you doing? So these are trends that I think are disappearing.

I’m hoping that we will talk rather less about mobile next year because it is beginning to seem  superfluous. Almost everything is mobile now and therefore to have a mobile strategy is a redundancy. You should be taking Google’s lead by looking to serve the interests of the mobile user first and allow everything else to follow on behind this. So we need to focus on mobile, but we don’t need to separate it from everything else that we do on the basis that is becoming the core focus of the consumption and therefore (ideally) the publication of content. Hopefully we’ll just take it for granted that mobile is integrated and incorporated in everything that we do.

I’m also hoping gamification and anything game-related will prove to be rather less fascinating for us next year. There was a fantastic paper by Chia Hwu (@chiah) who delivered a paper entitled ‘Three Major Trends in Healthcare: Social, Mobile and Games‘ at an Ideagoras conference recently. She made some great points about games – gamification doesn’t work, games do work, she was saying. You don’t want to be taking game elements and trying to integrate them into a user experience or user interface but if you can find a way of conveying a message through a game that’s appealing then maybe you’re on to something.

Search remains important as the way that we are searching and what we are searching for and the environments within which we are searching for the information is changing constantly. We all saw that statistic last year about effectively Facebook being the world’s biggest search engine because more searches are entered to Facebook than to Google because Facebook, although it does link out into Google it links to its own content first. People are looking for health information for example within Facebook. And the quality of information that they’re going to find more often than not at this point of time is very poor. So if we believe that the whole purpose of healthcare is to improve patient outcomes, then there are issues there regarding search. So search is critical, the question of where patients, healthcare professionals are looking, the environment in which they are searching for information, to inform their practice and to inform their shared decision-making and the co-creation of their healthcare.

The things that I think are important in 2012 are two-fold. I’m really interested in influence. By which I mean I’m not interested in whether Klout is better than PeerIndex or Kred, and that shouldn’t matter to any of us. Rather, what is important is the fact that secondary services are appearing now which are harvesting and processing social metadata, ‘Big Data’ analyses of the totality of our activity across the social web and they’re doing something with it. Now in the case of Klout they are just putting a big number on it, but if Klout for example becomes a trusted measure of influence – it has done a great job making itself untrustworthy recently – but let’s just say they managed to have done that, then it becomes an issue for the industry. People’s opinions of brands and companies will increasingly be informed in part by the way that the platforms harvesting, analyzing and discussing their social metadata present them.

The industry therefore will need to be growing importance of presenting itself consistently through the content that it publishes all across the web. This is not going to be easily achieved, but it needs to be something which senior employees or those with a global perspective begin to look upon as a pressing issue: to make sure that data and messages are consistent. A great start from the point of view of your readership and your geography is just to make sure that everything that they do within their own geographies is consistent. So they don’t have many different people tweeting things from different accounts. It’s not a complex matter, but there has to be a plan that everyone is aware of, takes ownership of, and that is coherent. Big Data is another emerging trend. Patient communities are – like CureTogether, like PatientsLikeMe – beginning to have access to relatively significant numbers of pieces of patient reported information which allow us to say interesting things about symptoms and treatment options for patients.

Finally, the industry has to be absolutely transparent about the reason why it is using social media. If it’s trying to represent itself in such a way as to simply redefine how it believes it may be able to control messages – which it cannot – then it will be found out and made to look foolish. Pharma needs to take a new approach to the way in which it represents itself within social web environments. Credibility is another trending issue in 2012. Direct messages are the last thing patients want to see. The social web is not for pushing messages, and it’s also not for selling. I’m hoping 2012 is going to be the year within which some of my fundamental questions – which underpin the financial planning and the growth of companies – around marketing are interrogated because to me it seems that an expectation endures that ideas forged in the offline world of the last century can simply by transposed onto the social web as if they had some sort of universal value, significance and bearing upon the fundamentally different dynamics of the social web. It is my opinion that they do not, and that they do not belong there, and that is why I advocate discussion about the subject via the #postmarketing hashtag. I think we are in a post-marketing era – people don’t want to be sold at on the social web, neither do they want to be tricked, or cajoled or persuaded. They want to converse, to be informed and they want to be heard. But they do not, for sure, want to be sold at. The transition from monologue to dialogue and all the expectations that inhere within it from the perspective of the way that businesses need to present themselves and think about their customers’ perceptions of their activities are key characteristics of the social turn in communication.

(Connect with Andrew Spong on Twitter or on STweM.com)

Social Media And Pharma: Thinking Ahead

With 2011 slowly coming to an end there are more and more articles surfacing trying to evaluate the past year and look ahead to predict what’s coming in 2012. Pharma is no different in this aspect either. With digital trends and social media being the center of the attention for a while now, it is no surprise that a lot of posts foresee online pharma engagement for next year. And looking at the progress that has happened the last couple of months I think we could finally be hopeful about social media adaptation in the pharma industry.

There are so many examples to mention from Sanofi’s WhyInsulin? Youtube channel to Pfizer’s Twitter account spreading global anti-counterfeiting messages. In 2011 we also saw the birth of Google+ which starts to draw attention from pharma as well with Roche and Pfizer both setting up accounts. While Facebook stirred up some controversy within the industry by pushing for user comments on fan pages, a lot of companies took the challenge and used this as an opportunity to connect with costumers.

For quite a while the conversation was about the need for pharma to acknowledge the importance of social media and a strong online presence. In 2011 I feel like we finally got over the statistics, we didn’t need numbers anymore to be convinced by how many people turn to the internet and social media for health information. The industry moved on from the question of “IF” to the “HOW”. And that is a significant step ahead.

With new profiles, accounts set up and social initiatives started it is pharma’s job in 2012 to concentrate on the “HOW” and use social media for what it is created for. That means no more one-way messages, but instead engagement. Connection, communication, engagement and community – these should be the key words for a successful 2012.

Embracing The Era Of Mobile

The last couple of days presented several news pieces that prove: we are indeed rapidly approaching the era of mobile. The longest Blackberry outage so far made people religiously using Blackberry Messenger furious. On the other hand, faithful believers of Apple were more than happy to share their numerous versions of “I told you so.” The timing was horrible for Blackberry and never better for Apple: days before the release of the new iPhone 4s.

It is safe to say, that by now mobile technology overtook our day-to-day life. But how much influence does mobile have  when it comes to our habits? And what does that mean for marketers, especially in the field of healthcare? The infographic below helps to understand just how much are mobile devices part of our lifestyle.

Reading these numbers and data it is obvious, that the old model of TV and print focused marketing is outdated, therefore a lot of money spent with minimum reach and success. It is time to consider regrouping marketing expenses and paying close attention to mobile technologies and trends.

(Source: Visibli.com – shared by Gary Monk)

The Social Fight For Pharma

The social fight for pharma companies has begun. As part of the never-ending rivalry between the social media giants, Facebook and Google, one of them is quick to realize what the other one missed out on. And while I stated numerous times that in my opinion Facebook “forcing” pharma to communicate is actually a good thing and doesn’t mean a big change, it gave a reason to a lot of people to start comparing the relationship of Google and Facebook with pharma.

Since Google made it possible for companies to decide what suggested videos appear on their corporate Youtube channels the score is 1-0 in favor of Google according to most pharma marketers. A lot of them only see the actions and not the consequences. They see that Google gives them more freedom on Youtube, while Facebook is introducing new restrictions.

But will full control and no communication stand against monitored conversation and active engagement? I doubt it. Sure, it is nice to oversee what kind of videos are suggested on your channel, but you can do that with Facebook ads as well. And picking the company you are in online is not the same as having the option to turn off the social aspect of a site. One is understandable, one is totally against the basic idea of social media.

So painting Google as the good parent, who gives you freedom, while making Facebook seem like the strict, evil one is nowhere near fair. Even comparing the two actions (allowing selected suggestions and turning on comments) is like comparing apples and oranges. And while people like to keep score and watch the social media moguls compete we should remember that maybe it is not worth to compromise the essence of being social to gain more traffic or an industry’s support.

(Source: ePharma Summit Blog)

Pharma Ads And Online Boundaries

It is interesting to see how different online media companies go about  find setting up rules for pharmaceutical content on their platforms. Some learn from their own experiences, some are careful from the start.

Google for example had to learn the hard way that strict control is needed when it comes to prescription drug ads appearing online. The web giant paid 500 Million dollars in a settlement over AdWords content advertising illegal import of Canadian drugs into the United States. And signs suggest that the company was prepared to handle a situation like this, since the amount was set aside for this purpose. But the hit taken by Google was still enormous: the 500 Million dollars roughly equal the company’s revenue from the Canadian pharmacy ads, plus the pharmacies’ revenue from sales to U.S. customers.

Facebook seems to be trying to avoid a similar fail. Just recently the company updated its already strict Advertising Guidelines. The description of rules has a separate section for pharmaceuticals and supplements that could be very helpful when creating effective Facebook ads.

Pharmaceuticals and Supplements

Ads must not promote the sale of prescription pharmaceuticals. Ads for online pharmacies are prohibited except that ads for certified pharmacies may be permitted with prior approval from Facebook.

Ads that promote dietary and herbal supplements are generally permitted, provided they do not promote products containing anabolic steroids, chitosan, comfrey, dehydroepiandrosterne, ephedra, human growth hormones, melatonin, and any additional products deemed unsafe or questionable by Facebook in its sole discretion.

Depending on your contract with Google you are not entirely in charge what appears among the ads. On Facebook as well several ads appear on your Page that were selected based on only the main focus of your profile. Still I feel more comfortable with Facebook’s solution since the same clear rules apply to all advertisers.

Setting up a Facebook ad is easy, but it also has the crucial step of approval process integrated. From Google’s settlement it seems that they should apply similar restrictions as well.

What do you prefer: Google AdWords or Facebook ads? Let us know in the comments section below!

(Source: Reuters, Facebook)

The Digital Era Of Healthcare

I have said before that quoting numbers from studies endlessly and keep proving that we live in the era of social networks is pointless. After a while people can say: “Ok, we get it! A lot of us use Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc.” Even the role of online content and social engagement in healthcare don’t really need further proof to be taken seriously.

Despite all that I wanted to share this video below. First of all because it includes all of the most important data about social media use and how that effects healthcare and patient information. Secondly because I believe that for whatever reason the same facts presented in a fast pace video can grab people’s attention better than any results in written words.

To make it easier for viewers to follow, here are the key findings included in the video:

  • There are 2.08 billion internet users worldwide
  • That number increased 11% in the last year only
  • There are 476,213,935 internet users in Europe
  • There are over 156 million blogs online
  • Over 200 million people on Twitter sending out 40 billion tweets per year
  • Wikipedia has over 3.65 million articles that would take more than 123 years to read
  • Facebook has over 750 million users – if it were a country, it would be the third largest in the world after China and India
  • Every second someone joins LinkedIn
  • Youtube serves 1 billion videos everyday
  • Google logs 2 billion searches daily
  • Healthcare is the second most search for topic on Google
  • Healthcare is the third largest web activity across all generations
  • 85% of online Europeans turn to the internet and other technology for health and prescription information
  • In a survey of 4,000 physicians 88% said they used internet resources to search for professional information
  • 48% claimed to visit Wikipedia more than once a week compared to only 16% visiting BMJ online
  • 50% of patients discuss what they have found online with their doctors
  • Patients who visit a brand website are more likely to request a drug by name
  • 44% of physicians prescribe a requested drug
  • 49% of physicians will recommend a website to patients – 80% for disease or condition education and awareness, 62% for patient support, 56% for health or lifestyle change, 37% for drug and product specific information, 22% for online communities for patients with the same condition
  • 95% of physicians use handheld devices and smartphones to download applications and access medical information

(Source: Pharma Marketing: The Weekly Dose)

Social Media Marketing – Just How Powerful?

It’s time for another inforgraphic. In this post we look at how effective certain social channels can be when it comes to advertisement campaigns. When you look at numbers separately it is hard to decide if your campaign was a success, or what kind of rates you should be looking for. The charts below compare some of the top ads that received the highest level of responses on different social media platforms.

The numbers are almost mind blowing: for example Evian’s ad featuring roller skating babies got 65.5 million views in 2 years. That seems to be outrageous. Until you see, that the “Will it blend?” iPad video received 12 million in only 4 months, while Coca-Cola’s promoted Twitter trend reached 86.5 million impressions in a single month. While Facebook seems to be popular for small businesses, since 70% of them use the social site for marketing purposes, sharing ads is becoming more and more expensive with prices increasing 70% in just the first half of 2011.

Even if you don’t compare your campaigns to the ones featured in the infographic (to keep at least part of your self-confidence), it is interesting to see just how big of a buzz you can create through creatively using social channels.

(Source: Mashable)

Social Media – Obsessed With Numbers

It seems to me that when it comes to different social media platforms, we tend to focus only on how many people use these applications. And because this number is constantly changing, it gives bloggers, publishers, etc. something to keep writing about.

Bloomberg put together a report about how many American adults use Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Of course the emphasis was on the last one, since Google+ became the buzz word in social media this last month. So all of a sudden everyone is surprised how fast the number of users is rising. Well if you spend any time online, you are going to come across articles on the new platform on a daily basis. And not once, but a couple of times. It was actually interesting to see that Facebook (I’m sure) unintentionally became one of the biggest advertising sites for its competitor. With all the users posting status updates about their new Google+ accounts, the platform received tremendous hype.

This is why the report is able to show that already 13% of US adults signed up for a Google+ account, while Facebook is still used by 71% of adults online in the United States. The study also suggests, that Facebook will lose 2% of its users in the next year, while Google+ is going to reach 22% of US adults. First of all I think it is highly speculative to publish these kinds of rates one year in advance. Especially in the world of social media, where innovations and new applications can and usually do appear and gain users rapidly, and where they can be taken over by the next big thing just as fast. Secondly, I don’t think that Google+ growing more quickly than Facebook or MySpace did after being introduced is any indication of its larger popularity compared to the other sites. Google+ had a pattern, a model of features to follow that made it a lot easier to market it to people. How much simpler is to say “Oh, it’s kind of like Facebook, just cooler”, than to try to explain Facebook to users that never known anything like it before.

As I said before, it is better being careful saying anything too soon about shiny new things in social media. The high user rates and hype may calm down after the initial introduction and first phase of an application. The numbers show how many people use the platform, they don’t say anything about how they are using it. And that is what studies are usually missing. It doesn’t matter if people register on a new platform if they never visit it again. And actually, we see this trend already with Google+: 31% of its users created their profiles but never posted anything and didn’t stick with the application. Other than data like this, we need a deeper analysis on what people are doing on social media sites and how they are doing it, what kind of content they share, how frequently and how they engage with others online. These questions are clearly harder to answer, but doing so would be definitely more informative than publishing a bunch of ever-changing numbers.

(Source: Bloomberg.com)

Poll: Most Useful Social Platform In Healthcare

In the most recent Social Faceoff segment of Mashable.com readers can vote for their favorite social media platform. In a time when the competition is heating up with Google+ making sure the developers at Facebook and Twitter don’t get too comfortable, the question is relevant: which one would you choose? Of course you can vote for more than one site but at the end it comes down to Facebook vs. Twitter vs. Google+.

I do agree that with more and more social media applications present online, users have to make decisions. Everyone has 24 hours in a day, which can often seem too little for long hours spent online. But I also think that asking the readers of Mashable won’t result in representative data. Mashable.com is rightfully known as the number one place to go for anything related to social media and the web, so chances are the site has the most up-to-date, early adopter audience. And as an audience like that, it is more likely to be drawn to Google+ right now, to the next big thing in social media. That is why as of now, Google+ leads the way in the poll with 38.5%, followed by Facebook (23%) and Twitter (19%).

It will be interesting to see the end result of Mashable’s poll. But in the meantime I would like to ask the question in a slightly different way. Which social media platform is best to use for healthcare marketing, to reach patients? Please, vote below!

(Source: Mashable.com)