Pharma flocks to social media analytics

Pharma groups lack clarity on authorized marketing activities on social media websites, but that hasn't kept certain drugmakers from seeking ways to analyze the information generated on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Analysts from IDC Health Insights reported last week strong demand for social media analytics from pharma even as drugmakers hold back on some social media marketing.

The analyst report highlights an ongoing trend in the pharmaceutical industry's use of social media: Drugmakers may not want to market as much as listen on social networking websites. Analytics software and services help pharma marketing groups understand what consumers, physicians and other healthcare stakeholders are saying about diseases and medicines. With these insights, drugmakers can draw up new marketing strategies and provide feedback to their R&D units about what patients say they want to treat their diseases.

As IDC notes, the social media "listening" trend benefits providers of analytics such as Brandwatch, Cognizant ($CTSH), Genpact ($G), Indegene, ListenLogic, Meltwater, Radian6, Semantelli and Visible Technologies. Apart from the IDC data, Reuters reported in March that Infosys ($INFY) and Fabric Worldwide inked a multimillion-dollar deal with GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) to provide the drug giant with insights about its products based on online comments.

Eric Newmark, program director for IDC Health Insights, said in a statement that pharma companies have been "slow to embrace social media marketing, largely due to the lack of guidance currently available from the FDA." Yet he added: "Despite those challenges, we have received an increasing number of client inquiries on social media analytics as pharmaceutical companies realize the potential impact social media channels can have on brand perception and marketing execution."

IDC Health Insight expects the market for social media analytics to grow significantly over the next several years. And vendors with pharma industry knowledge and expertise have the best shot at winning business from drugmakers.

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