Reaching Hard-to-Reach Patients

Pharmaceutical marketers who develop treatments for rare diseases are often challenged to find and reach patients because of the small number of sufferers. Mass-market media vehicles aren’t targeted enough to reach a smaller audience without excessive waste, and they may miss the target audience entirely.

However, patient opinion leaders can help marketers educate these difficult-to-reach populations.  Developing a successful campaign starts with listening and asking questions. A social listening study provides invaluable insight into the lifestyle, interests, challenges and concerns of patients and offers a patient-centric view of their specific needs. Beyond understanding patient needs, social listening uncovers who on social media is leading the discussion about these rare diseases and available therapies.

A complete social media listening study will explain:

  • Who the most active bloggers and influencers are, based on the number of posts and followers
  • Where conversations are happening, such as in open or closed social media sites
  • What influencers are saying about their disease, and their opinions on available treatments
  • The sentiment behind their comments

Even if these conversations take place in a closed site, like a closed Facebook group, there are alternatives to using social media to reach patient communities. Think beyond social to identify your possible influencers. Patient organizations and support group leaders are excellent sources of insight on what interests their members and can help reach patients in their networks.

Armed with the knowledge of who the audience is and what interests them, you have the necessary information to build a campaign. But remember, opinion leaders are not brand ambassadors, so any campaign message needs to align with their interests. Social media influencers are dependent on word of mouth to grow their audiences. Consider what compelling information you can offer these influencers that will help them care for their community of followers. For example, Luckie grew the patient CRM database for a new specialized dermatology product by offering a downloadable voucher coupon to influencers, encouraging them to try the product and share information with their followers across social sites. The initial group of approximately 1,000 influencers shared the voucher with their followers and, ultimately, our client reached over 15,000 new patients.

With the growth of social media, options to reach patient influencers and their networks have significantly expanded. Marketers can now reach hard-to-reach patient populations with education, resources and support by developing a robust understanding of patient communities and their social networks.