In continuing to roll out its Facebook-like social media-based offerings, internet search giant Google has launched a beta version of a new service called Google+, which strives to improve individual searches and allow users to connect on similar topics. Google+ currently offers four key tools to users: Circles, for connecting socially with friends; Sparks, which offers a search engine-link tool for sharing content based on interest; Hangouts, for group video chat; and Huddle, for group messaging.

Healthcare marketing services company CMI Media has investigated the benefit of Google’s newest tool one step further by analyzing Google+ and generating recommendations on the service for healthcare industry use. CMI’s overall analysis indicates that this product has the potential to “significantly change the online health information landscape,” in that it has the opportunity to “affect unbranded searches, such as for a disease state rather than for a medication,” according to a statement released by the company.

CMI’s recommendations for healthcare marketers focus on an increased investment in targeted search marketing – what the company is calling an “adopt and monitor” approach – and encouragement for pharma websites to integrate “+1” buttons on all important pages, which could include a call to action for patients, caregivers and HCPs to select “+1” for pages they found to be beneficial. The firm also advises marketers to track their volume of “+1s” by including this metric in search reporting, which it says could provide leverage in developing future search strategies. 

Weighing in on CMI’s analysis, Ignite Health’s chief innovation officer, Fabio Gratton, asks, “Will patients ever want to “+1” a branded pharmaceutical site? And, even if they did, how comfortable might they feel when their search behaviors are made public and their website preferences are shared indiscriminately? Similarly, how might a physician feel about their name being associated with particular branded drugs, or conversely with search terms having nothing to do with their role as healthcare professionals?”

Ignite’s senior digital strategist, Michael Spitz, acquiesces, adding, “With news just today that Google+ profiles will be made public – and as the extent to which the integration of social features with search remain unknown – pharma marketers need to remember that their audiences are qualitatively different than those of other types of brands, and require a level of caution commensurate to the sensitivity of the subject matter.”