Promotional experimentation and consumer outreach will be available via the Truvio network

September 30, 2013

New service launched by WEGO Health offers rapid feedback from key opinion influencers in consumer healthcare

WEGO Health (Boston), started in the mid-2000s to develop a platform that brings consumer health activists together, is now branching off into mobile and social-media versions of that service. Both Wego Health and the new business unit, Truvio, generate revenue by interacting on market research projects with life science companies and their agencies.

To make sense of the potential of Truvio, it helps to have a background in where WEGO is today, says Jack Barrette, CEO. The company has some 65,000 health activists, who are “vetted” (in a non-legal sense) on the basis of their frequency of commentary on blogs and other online media, the networks of like-minded people they are connected with, and the level of expertise they bring into discussions on healthcare. Barrette says that the WEGO network is growing at a rate of 1,000 per month. This network, besides making the participants aware of each other (and the convesations that ensue from that), is made available to pharma and other healthcare marketers for focus groups or panels. Barrette says that the entire process is open and aboveboard—members understand why they are invited into panels, and reimbursement is on the scale of honoraria that other focus groups might receive.

“In effect, participation in the WEGO network defines the key opinion leaders in consumer healthcare,” Barrette tells Pharmaceutical Commerce, “and for the pharma industry, WEGO provides a ‘social media sandbox’ where it can experiment with consumer outreach, but in a safe and compliant manner.”

Truvio, then, takes this network and puts it on smartphones, so that responses and comments can propagate rapidly through the network, and feedback can be obtained in a matter of hours, where the Wego response would be measured in days to weeks (and a conventional, offline focus group in weeks to months). Responses can be collected, via software that Wego has developed, as yes/no responses to survey questions in a text message; a voice-response system also enables an audio response to be transmitted and recorded. To demonstrate the capability, WEGO sponsored a “Socialpalooza” event in Boston last week, in which dozens of live attendees (and hundreds more who were online) gave meaningful responses, and nearly two hours’ worth of audio commentary, to a group of five ideas for new startup services for healthcare. Results can be seen at Truvio.com.

Between the growth of the activist network, and the level of participation from pharma and other healthcare companies, there is a line where WEGO and Truvio will be more of a consumer media platform than a walled-off community. But Barrette says that the company has been working closely with FDA’s regulators of online promotion—and in fact FDA itself is benefiting from the processes and experiences of the network participants.