Alex Walsh is in digital strategy heaven at Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness, where she uses a discovery process called Customer Insights Analysis to gain previously unimaginable access to data about healthcare audiences. She kindly took time away from her computer screen for this Q&A in which she shares some insights on how she uses online behaviour analysis and social listening to help clients obtain a deeper understanding of patient, carer and healthcare professional behaviours, attitudes and pain-points.
Q: What is search behaviour analysis?
Alex: It looks at the way people live online. How they use search to find information. How they move between different websites before they find the information they are looking for. What questions they ask. How they ask them.
Q: What are the mechanics?
A: We use a number of analytical tools, such as Connexity’s ‘Hitwise’, to observe how Australians interact online. These tools draw on multiple data sources from a collection of reputable data partners to provide an extensive sample of Australian Internet users. We select specific target audiences based on their online search behaviour. They are placed into a completely de-identified online focus group and their online behaviour is observed over a given period.
This analysis allows us to know where they spend time online and understand what motivates them to act (whether it be to buy, research, or connect with a brand, for example). We can then understand and engage with these audiences on a much more meaningful level.
Q: What is social listening?
A: Social listening, or social media monitoring, is an approach is used to discover relevant conversations happening around brands and products in real time. Thousands of conversations can be happening all at once, so platforms such as Crimson Hexagon allow us to pull out any relevant conversations and/or trends for further analysis. We use social listening to determine online sentiment (the emotional tone of conversations), demographics, opinions and attitudes.
We also use tools such as Buzzsumo to identify trending content and influencers.
Q: Is it ethical? Can you identify individuals? Are there risks for your client?
A: Social listening tools allow us to identify conversations that are publicly available, so yes, we can identify individuals. That said, these are not private conversations and we do not engage in any conversation with these authors, so there is no risk involved for our clients. We typically report on collective social behaviour versus individual behaviour to ensure insights are reflective of the wider target audience, rather than on an individual level. We abide by the Australian Privacy Act at all times. We simply observe publicly available conversations and report findings based on what we have access to legally.
Search analysis does not allow us to identify individuals. The data we receive from our main data partner is all anonymous. This data is displayed as collective user trends which is of significant value to us, rather than individual user habits or consumption.
We work closely with our clients to ensure our research is not only ethical with regards to privacy law, but also aligns with our joint responsibility to report adverse events should they be raised.
Q: How do your findings differ from traditional market research?
A: The biggest difference we have identified is our ability to observe behaviour without confirmation bias or cognitive dissonance. Actions speak louder than words, so to say.
We have a special focus on digital behaviour, so we can see how people are searching, what websites people are going to, how they are moving between these websites and what other interests they have outside of healthcare and specific therapeutic areas we are investigating. We can see how an audience engage with brands and their competitors. We can see how they communicate with their peers. It’s truly like being a fly on the wall!
Q: What are some of the commercial applications and what outcomes are your clients seeking?
A: To name a few…
- Audience insights
- Competitor analysis / competitive advantage
- Patient journey validation
- Media recommendations (both online and offline)
- Channel recommendations (both online and offline)
- Content planning
- Identifying knowledge gaps, consumer pain points
- Optimising existing online presence
Q: Do you typically make surprising findings with each project?
A: Findings are not predictable – every single project is different and we are always surprised.
Q: What are some of your interesting findings about how doctors behave online?
A: We often identify emerging KOLs expressing their opinions on Twitter and their own personal blogs. These KOLs may not be on the regular circuit, but have thousands of followers who they engage with regularly.
Doctors are well connected and generously share information and knowledge with their peers. They also engage between specialties and thrive in peer-to-peer education. There are websites, podcasts and apps dedicated to case sharing, opinion pieces and peer-to-peer education.
Q: What motivates doctors to raise their social media profile?
A: Doctors use social as a platform to grow their influence and credibility. They engage with other doctors, and keep up to date with current practice. Peer-to-peer education is a big part of this. Those who do interact with patients tend to be ‘celebrity’ doctors who appear in media frequently.
Q: What is the most surprising trend you’ve come across?
A: The push for peer-to-peer education vs education sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry. There is a whole movement pushing for peers to support free access to online medical education.
We’ve also identified interesting patient groups who we did not know existed. This has been amazing progress for our clients as they can start to communicate with patients with language or tonality that better resonates with them.
Q: How do your clients show ROI with this kind of offering?
A: For us, the insights we obtain from digital research are important ingredients for any brand, social, content and/or media strategy we develop. Our learnings filter through all the work we create, leading to more meaningful connections.
The research and subsequent insights should not be measured alone, similar to traditional market research. Utilising these insights can lead to business ROI in many forms:
- Increased brand awareness
- Increased market share
- Stakeholder alignment (data-driven decision making)
- Agency efficiencies
- Optimised communications
- Optimised spending – on a few occasions, we have suggested against investment in particular activities our clients had previously considered, and steered them in a different direction.