The Power of Joe

Sep 01, 2009
By Pharmaceutical Executive Editors

Jonathan Landau
Something is lurking in the depths of cyberspace that could impact the credentials of your brand. If you think it can't happen, think again. Last year a client approached us with an alarming issue that involved YouTube and a woman referred to as the "Cat Lady."

Here's what happened (or, more appropriately, how the cat was let out of the bag): The client uncovered a YouTube video from a user who was making derogatory statements about their product. The "Cat Lady," labeled for her collection of cats that often made cameo appearances in her daily rants, was no ordinary user. She was passionate and angry, and drove our clients to a state of panic—so much so, in fact, that the situation became the focus of the marketing department. Neutralizing the Cat Lady's impact was of paramount importance.

This situation raised a whole range of questions and issues that the client was unprepared to answer: How do we assess the impact of this user's statements? Who and what else is out there eroding our brand and sales? How can we assess global online sentiment toward our brand? What steps can we take to counteract negative brand sentiment that exists online? What steps can we take to leverage positive sentiments?

With the emergence of user-generated content produced by any Joe or Josephine who happens to blog, Twitter, or participate in online forums, these questions are on the minds of companies in and outside of pharma. The universe of competing brands was crowded before, now it's populated with individuals who fight with companies for mindshare. But there's something you can do.

Assessing Online Buzz

The first step toward influencing Web consumers is keeping your finger on the pulse of online attitudes. In other words, find out the buzz around your brand and category so that you can answer questions like: How does a particular group consume media? Are there unmet needs? How do consumer attitudes about your product compare with your competitors?

While controlled studies can provide answers to these questions, an online buzz assessment will be cheaper, faster, and more accurate. Here's a two-pronged approach to help get you started.

D-I-Y Buzz Assessment

Online conversations and user-generated content have made it easier than ever for marketers to tap into consumer attitudes. To dip into this rich pool of insights, here are some do-it-yourself techniques for assessing the buzz from your desktop.
» Monitor community discussions Take a few minutes to sign up for popular health Web sites and join discussion groups specific to your brand and therapeutic category. Keep in mind that blogs create conversations in the form of comments. Search for relevant posts and notice the discussions that sometimes emerge.
» Watch YouTube Remain vigilant of video activity related to your brand.
» Join Facebook More than 100 million Facebook users log onto the site at least once per day. Join groups and pages related to your brand and monitor their activities.
» Search Twitter One of the most interesting monitoring tools out there, Twitter captures thoughts from a consumer's day-to-day activities (sometimes even while they are engaged with your product!).
» Track the blogosphere, a popular blog search engine, captured 133 million blog records through the end of 2008. Use Technorati to tap into a universe of opinions related to your brand/category.
» Consolidate with RSS RSS offers an easy way to aggregate all the search results described above into one, scan-able feed. Subscribe to RSS by looking for the word "RSS," or a small orange icon, after performing your searches. Activate those feeds, and within minutes you will have a custom subscription to consumer feedback on your desktop or mobile device.
» Get help If the prospect of doing any of this is outside of your comfort zone, ask a net-savvy administrator, intern, or co-worker for assistance.

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