Less than 10% of drug-related word-of-mouth takes place online, compared with 74% happening in person, according to a Keller Fay Group report. 

The statistic should be an eye-opener for marketers obsessing over emerging digital media and blogs, explained Ed Keller, CEO, Keller Fay Group. “For some brands, it’s important to facilitate talk online,” said Keller, but reaching influencers at events or by providing information they can share offline is crucial, he said.

Marketers should “recognize the power of word-of-mouth and realize that it will happen whether or not a brand is involved,” said Keller. Once marketers realize the importance of word-of-mouth, they will start working with compliance experts and the FDA to make sure communications are legitimate and ethical, explained Keller, noting a similar nervousness during the early stages of DTC advertising.

Pharma companies shouldn’t necessarily be worried about ceding control of the conversation to patients, since word-of-mouth among consumers tends to be far more positive than negative, according to Keller. “Sixty-nine percent of consumers–on the receiving end–find information from peers to be credible and believable, even if they aren’t experts,” he said. “The [word-of-mouth] majority isn’t coming from healthcare professionals.”

Keller Fay Group is a marketing research firm with a specialty in word-of-mouth research, located in New Brunswick, NJ.