As marketing evolves, brand managers are intuitively moving beyond broad-based content dissemination in favor of targeted and personalized engagement with niche audiences. It’s exceedingly critical to ensure timely and targeted delivery of core messages to avoid noise that’s irrelevant and ineffective.

In order to execute strategic and tactical engagement, brand managers really need to understand their audience. Behaviors, interests, location, etc.—these are all central to dynamic and effective marketing campaigns. Thus, market research is a key component for crafting and deploying engagement strategies. But is traditional market research insightful enough?

Market Research Evolves

Much like marketing initiatives, market research methodologies are also evolving, enabling more timely insights and subsequently arming brand managers with actionable information. Digital data collection and virtual focus groups are cost effective and efficient alternatives to traditional market research, which can prove to be very time consuming and expensive.

Launching online surveys and virtual ad boards are becoming exceedingly popular, and they are especially effective when complemented with social media monitoring and listening.

Combining the basic principles of market research with the power of digital tools like online communities can unlock a genuine grasp on the perceptions and preferences of target audiences in real time. Social listening is simply defined as the monitoring and analysis of what is being said about your brand online—a highly relevant way to derive perspective on preferences in a timely fashion.

Recommended best practices include:

  • Be selective—not all opinions are created equal. Target verified and credential physicians who are specialists in the disease state of interest. Ideally, KOLs are engaged given their pulse on developments and innovations in a particular disease state.
  • Know where to listenlocation, location, location. The digital ecosystem is massive and full of interaction and opinions, so effective and relevant social listening should be refined and focused on communities and networks that comprise niche and focused conversations and information exchange. The greatest value comes from destinations where discussion is vibrant among verified peers.
  • Strategically determine what to listen for—quality is king. It’s critical to isolate discussions that are focused on meaningful and high-quality exchanges regarding a brand’s disease state, treatment challenges and treatment decisions.
  • Apply the findings to your forthcoming campaign—keep the conversation going. Detailed analysis helps brands identify the informational needs of their audience, and social media monitoring affords real-time insights. Campaigns should include a key focus on the topic areas that are identified.

Moving beyond traditional research, embracing digital channels and tapping into the conversations that are occurring across the digital ecosystem allows brand managers to truly understand what physicians are discussing and what information is needed. Social listening across specialized online medical communities provides brands with access to a desired audience in a place where they are already engaged and conversing with peers. The result is a better understanding of the target physicians and the ability to create tailored campaigns quickly and deliver the information, tools and resources audiences are seeking in a meaningful and impactful manner.

  • Dr. Theodore F. Search, PharmD

    Ted is Founder and CEO of Skipta, which comprises more than 30 specialized medical communities with more than 800,000 healthcare professionals as members in the U.S. He is an innovation advocate, tech guru and an expert on “virtual professional networking.”