Third-parties may be key to social media cred, says survey

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Americans are skeptical of pharma participation in social media, but endorsements by government and non-profit organizations could add credibility, according to an Epsilon survey.

“The important question is how can pharmaceutical companies get involved in the dialogue without disrupting the conversations taking place,” said Epsilon SVP Mark Miller. “One way is by joining with nonprofit organizations, regulators and other third parties. We are finding that consumers are open to this type of participation as long as it is clearly disclosed and provides impartial validation of information posted by other users.”

The survey of 1,350 US consumers found that four in ten Americans uses social media for health information, whether reading or posting content, but frequency of engagement varies widely. The vast majority of those users – 80% -- are “highly engaged patients who take an active role in health management,” said Epsilon. Reaching that remaining 20%, who lack the confidence to play a role in managing their own health, requires different strategies than those for the self-starters.

The survey found that respondents engaged social media primary to fulfil emotional needs for reassurance, support and a sense of intimacy from others going through similar experiences, but that rational needs for basic information and current news about their condition are also important drivers.

Reasons for not participating in health-centric social media include lack of time and trust, which Epsilon called “a perfectly reasonable response to the investment of effort required by users to identify the relatively few credible voices in today's healthcare social space.”
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