Do They 'Like' Us? FDA Wants Tool to Better Assess its Impact on Social Media

Posted 16 July 2013 | By Alexander Gaffney, RAC 

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn't always seem like it's listening to its stakeholders. But if a recent sources-sought notice posted to the Federal Business Opportunities (FBO) website is any indication, it's listening a lot more closely than most people would realize.

A hallmark of many businesses in the last few years has been the use of analytics tools to gauge the impact of various "campaigns," including on social media. For example, by using special proprietary links to articles, companies can detect how many people clicked through to a website from a particular social media channel like Twitter, how often something was shared or emailed and how engaged the audience that clicked through to a webpage was.

This information is used to varying degrees depending on the company or institution. For example, the US State Department was recently found to have spent nearly $630,000 on buying "likes" - a social measure of approval - on the social media website Facebook. Suffice it to say it was probably not the best use of taxpayer funding.

But in a 15 July 2013 notice on the FBO website, FDA said it is looking to purchase new software to help it gain a greater understanding of the impact of its social media campaigns.

"The goal of this acquisition is to utilize a social media monitoring and measurement software tool to better understand the FDA's and the Office of External Affairs' (OEA) social media outreach campaigns," it wrote. Continuing, it said the tool was needed to assist OEA in three areas:

  • helping it to refine its future social media strategies by gauging the success and impact of current ones
  • monitoring "overall conversations to see what the public is discussing about our work," as well as answering questions and developing content to serve consumer needs
  • formulating an "at-a-glance" presentation of what FDA is working on for public audiences

The software FDA is calling for would be capable of monitoring a wide range of sources, including social media, blogs, mainstream media websites and even aggregator websites like Reddit and Digg. Critically, the tool would have to deliver these sorts of posts to FDA in real time to allow it to respond to incorrect information or questions as soon as possible, it said.

In addition, the tool would have to be able to segment information by language, sentiment (positive, neutral or negative), and specific keywords.

The notice comes just days after FDA issued a report to Congress detailing its desire to more fully leverage social media to reach under-served subpopulations.


FDA's FBO Notice


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