Pharma Marketers: Think You Can’t Do Moderated Chat?

Is your brand actively engaging its customers, enabling them to share their stories and opinions, and hear from “other consumers like them”? (In the latest PEW Internet and California Healthcare Foundation study, 68% of all adults ask a friend or family member for healthcare information-second only to asking a healthcare professional at 86%, and 57% of all adults use the internet.) Or are regulatory and AE concerns keeping you from considering moderated chat, even though it could strengthen two-way conversations  and help move your brand closer to building a genuine community?

Asacol, P&G’s prescription treatment for Ulcerative Colitis has recently launched a new Community for UC patients to share stories-and share advice.  Asacol created a moderated chat where consumers can share their stories -if they keep it focused on their experience managing UC – diet, travel, telling others, etc. – and do not mention “Asacol” or other drug treatment options by name. (See their Guidelines for submitting stories.)

In the Asacol Community, consumers are encouraged to provide stories or to ask questions.  Content is carefully moderated per the guidelines, but consumers can rate and vote on story content and answers. 

To help implement their program, Asacol partnered with Bazaarvoice, a company who provides a framework for capturing, managing, marketing and leveraging authentic user-generated content so that brands can capture and leverage their customer ‘word of mouth’ asset.  Bazaarvoice offers fully supported, hosted technologies that provide multiple levels of careful moderation. While new to the pharmaceutical industry, Bazaarvoice has provided their products across many other markets and for such key clients such as Walmart and Disney.

Some of the products they offer within their platform:

The Ratings & ReviewsTM solution combines technology, services, and expertise to harness customer opinions and help you build a dialog with your customers. (Ratings and reviews have also been shown to have a huge impact on organic search listings.)

Bazaarvoice StoriesTM offers a new way for your brand advocates to share their experiences on your site. This functionality allows visitors to talk about their experiences  without having to assign a rating. It’s a great place to build a community for people with similar interests while making your site – or brand – the “destination.”

The Ask & Answer TM solution taps the power of online communities to address consumers’ unanswered questions. This direct customer education can increase brand engagement and loyalty. (For addtional learning on the use of Bazaarvoice products, read Lessons from the Bazaarvoice Conference- ClickZ)

Another Pharma company building a two-way community is UCB. Recently, they announced a partnership with Patients Like Me to launch an epilepsy-focused patient community, and will report adverse events to the FDA through round-the-clock surveillance. The biopharma said in a release that the partnership will create “an online, open epilepsy community” in order to “collect, analyze and reflect information received from people with epilepsy, regardless of their diagnosis, prognosis or treatment regimen.” The online community is expected to lunch in early 2010. (Medical Marketing & Media)

So it seems that Phrama companies and brands are beginning to move into greater two-way conversations and community-building. As companies and brands become more comfortable with these new platforms, hopefully they can further evolve to giving consumers more freedom to speak about their brands and treatments too… And pharma will see that the number of AE’s is small and manageable…(The Myth of Adverse Event Reporting, Dose of Digital)

Hats off to Asacol for launching a community building effort on their branded site! (though the site itself could use some improvement with regard to user experience and graphics)

Other thoughts?


3 thoughts on “Pharma Marketers: Think You Can’t Do Moderated Chat?

  1. Ellen – I guess it’s not a coincidence but I have been using the Asacol example in recent discussions with clients as a way to leverage the potential of conversation even though it’s a moderated forum. I think UCB’s approach is brilliant and game-changing – hopefully more pharma companies will learn to embrace the dialog in a similar way. There is so much upside possible, and the myths about the concerns with AE reporting are manageable – especially for a company that believes in its products.
    Thanks for the Rosetta mention as well!

    • Xavier, I believe that Asacol is using the Bazaarvoice platform that integrates right into their site and having BV manage the moderation. But the Asacol guidelines are pretty strict about no mention of any product names so I would guess that there will be very few product related stories submitted and as you know AE must meet 4 criteria: 1) an identifiable patient; 2) an identifiable reporter; 3)a specific drug or biologic involved in the event; and 4)an adverse event or fatal outcome…I do like the way a consumer can share stories or ask questions and also rate the information…


      So agree–will be great to see how this all unfolds and evolves.

      The next big win and game changer will be when consumers can compare similar prescription products like they are able to do when they are preparing to purchase a new car!

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