World Aids Day: Social Media Offers a Digital Solution to a Real Problem, says GlobalData

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On December 1st each year, World AIDS Day gives people the opportunity to unite in the fight against HIV. GlobalData’s new insight examines Big Pharma’s latest tool in an ongoing battle.

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Social media will build HIV/AIDS awareness, provide thoughtful support, and showcase research innovation at a global level

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), HIV is one of the world's leading infectious pathogens, claiming more than 25 million lives over the past three decades. Despite this level of impact, awareness of HIV/AIDS is still lacking – social media could be a digital solution to this real problem, says GlobalData’s Infectious Diseases Analyst, Arjun Thakker.

“Social media is a powerful educational tool. Organizations, health advocates, researchers, patients and healthcare providers have utilized this community-building tool to facilitate access to information, generate discussions, and build relationships.

“In practice, social media can help a panel of multilingual advocates educate the public on how to share their stories around the world, stay current with treatment options, and provide guidelines on how to protect themselves.

“Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and YouTube are examples of social media tools that are being used to spread HIV/AIDS awareness. Organizations such as the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) and (RED) are using social media in innovative ways to educate the public. (RED) and AHF both utilize Facebook to share status updates and build customized tabs to inform online followers about new relevant updates and raise disease awareness.”

The new analysis states that, over the past few years, the use of social media has increased significantly in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. In 2012, reports indicate that people share 30 billion comments on Facebook monthly, two billion tweets and several billion comments on blogs and forums. Of these massive numbers, 20% of content mentions a specific drug or disease, according to Synthesio, a social media monitoring and research company.

Using supply and demand theory, companies can use social media to build brand recognition and equity through grassroots marketing. Social media could also serve as a surrogate for HIV/AIDS awareness or an estimation of disease incidence in a manner similar to the recently announced Google Flu Trends, which uses flu-related queries to estimate flu outbreaks.

According to an article by Ron Callari, "Top Ten Drug Companies in Social Media," Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, and Merck have the largest social media presence among HIV market players.

“While these companies do not rely solely on this method to advertise and spread awareness, this type of activity highlights a slant on the direct-to-consumer marketing trends usually reserved for lifestyle drugs, such as Cialis,” explains the GlobalData analyst.

Thakker believes that, as Big Pharma begins to accept and embrace social media, consumer stratification will increase, which is likely to result in a trickle-down effect into the infrastructure of reimbursement and physician preference.

He concludes: “Social media will encourage healthcare access across vast distances, promote a cost-effective way to deliver a message, and could level the playing field between existing Big Pharma players and emerging Biotech competitors. However, most importantly, social media will also build HIV/AIDS awareness, provide thoughtful support, and showcase research innovation at a global level.”

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Kevin McHugh
GlobalData
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