Social Became a Real Channel at ASCO 2016. Are You Ready?

ASCO 2016 just wrapped up. It’s the Super Bowl of medical conferences and sets all the trends—including the social ones.

The last two years at ASCO were about volume and pharma. Twitter impressions around ASCO grew by 90% per year from 2013 to 2015. In 2013, social was a cottage industry for leading oncology voices. By 2014, pharma noticed the trend and started tweeting. By 2015, BMS, Novartis, Roche, and Pfizer each ranked in the top 10 for Twitter impressions. AstraZeneca, Bayer, Genentech, and others dominated share of social voice (SoSV) on certain days.

This year was different. The ASCO community set a new trend. They became diverse. Only four of the top 10 Twitter accounts carried over from 2015 to 2016. Three of those four placed lower. Publishers moved up the charts. Healthcare stalwart Medscape made the top 10, along with mainstream publishers such as The Economist and Forbes.

With publishers, KOLs, patient advocates and associations, social now looks like every other channel. It’s a real place with real voices and real (savvy) competition. ASCO leads—other conferences follow.

What does all this mean for healthcare marketers? You’d better get to social and you’d better bring your A-game—“A” as in analytics.

Followers and Likes Aren’t Enough

The cowboy-era of social media is over. It’s not enough to tweet and get followers. As in other marketing channels, you have to know who you want to attract and how to attract them.

Brands are investing in their Twitter campaigns. The new ones use polished mini-infographics to create awareness. While interactive campaigns, some with surveys, engage.

What does that mean? Who’s aware? Engage who?

In every other channel, we strive to know the audience. We rank each individual’s value to our brand. We optimize and rate programs based analytics around the audience quality. Well, every channel except social.

If you’re a derm brand, do your followers tweet about derm issues or during derm events? Do their bios suggest they are clinicians, patient advocates, or otherwise involved in the space? Are you optimizing messages to your audience segments—like you do in other channels?

We’re entering the age of hyper-targeted programmatic ad buying in some channels. Yet three years into pharma using social, most brands still cheer raw, headline numbers—quantity over quality.

Social 2.0 Can Predict Your Future

It’s safe to say we’re in Social 2.0 now. The tools to collect and analyze social media data are improving. Brands that use them can form a stronger game plan than their competitors.

We analyzed more than 7,000 tweets in immuno-oncology throughout 2015. We determined that oncologists needed basic science on the subject, not nuanced research. We found that ASCO spread immuno-oncology content to the broadest universe of oncologists—even more than the aptly named Society of Immunotherapy and Cancer (SITC). That putting information into soundbites helped it go viral. And, that the National Cancer Institute (NCI) played a key role in distributing information.

A tweet from NCI about immuno-oncology that included a simple graphic was the most re-tweeted ASCO Tweet.

We’re not tooting our own analytics horn—O.K., we kind of are. But only to point out that the data in social can help you plan a strategy for potential future events.

The Social Channel Needs to be Part of Your Multichannel Strategy

“Multichannel,” “peer-to-peer,” and “surround sound” have been the buzz for the past few years. Social is now a real channel. Is it part of your channel strategy?

Most so-called surround-sound programs still tout big-hair 80s throwback channels like business reply cards (BRCs) and ignore a channel their customers actually use—social.

Social is more than glamorous. Social delivers. Social is inherently peer-to-peer. When your audience engages around social, they are open to new messages—your messages. A socially enabled program can produce results for branded, unbranded, and promotional campaigns in days instead of months. Adding the social channel to your surround sound takes it from Dolby to Dolby Digital in an IMAX 3D theatre.

The future is so bright you’re going to need shades. Groups are linking Twitter handles to NPIs. New tools emerge nearly every week that allow you to understand your social audience and compare it to other channels. Leading social clinicians are talking about the value of Vine and Periscope for healthcare research.

This ASCO Super Bowl affirmed social as real channel. Not all Super Bowls are memorable. I think this one will be.

  • Charles Benaiah

    Charles Benaiah is the Chief Executive Officer of Watzan and a PM360 ELITE Entrepreneur. He spends his days running Watzan and thinking about ways to use technology to connect media, doctors, and brands.

  • Sean Mott

    Sean Mott is a Nova Scotia native who was raised on fiddles, movies, and seafood. He studied journalism at University of King’s College with a focus on filmmaking and online reporting. He joined watzan in May 2016 as the Communications Specialist.


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