Twitter considers India is the fastest growing market in Asia. Over the time we have seen Twitter working with brands so they can connect with their customers seamlessly. The recent partnership that got media attention was the one by Practo Technologies, India’s largest doctor discovery portal, tying up with Twitter to enable users get their healthcare queries answered by doctors in real time
According to the company, a Twitter handle @AskPracto was launched to enable users get responses to their queries by doctors on the Practo Consult platform. “The basic aim of the partnership is to bring 2 disruptive platforms (Practo and Twitter) together to transform healthcare access and provide effortless and instant information to millions of consumers through one of our products called Practo Consult.
Practo Consult enables consumers to connect with verified, high quality doctors and get quick, free and authentic answers to their health questions. Practo Consult receives questions from over 100 cities and solves one of the most fundamental healthcare problems that India faces – access to qualified medical professionals,” informed Varun Dubey, AVP Marketing at Practo.
— Practo (@Practo) April 7, 2016
It has a massive database of questions already answered by the doctors so it helps solve consumer queries quickly. If a consumer still wants more specific responses she can always ask directly to the doctors as well. “This service is already available on the Web, m-web, Android and iOS platform and now it is available via Twitter as well,” he added.
Unveiled on World Health Day, the initiative was welcomed and critiqued as well. When Lighthouse Insights spoke to Dinesh Chindarkar, Co-Founder at MediaMedic, a company that drives integrated health brand communications and digital, he said he appreciated the new move:
“It’s breaking the prototype that’s been existing for years and probably is the need of the hour. We have been tracking various health trends on Twitter and in the last 4 years we have seen increasing health expressions on social platforms. So a tie-up like this was on the anvil and is welcome.”
Here are some of the tweets that show you how this works:
— AskPracto (@AskPracto) April 18, 2016
— AskPracto (@AskPracto) April 18, 2016
Here’s the response to my query. What I like about the integration is the quick response and enough credible knowledge to act on the problem at initial level. Besides you don’t need to log into Practo to check the answers.
— AskPracto (@AskPracto) April 19, 2016
However there were some who thought the move was only lip service and nothing more. The Next Big What termed it as #PRSHIT – “Welcome to the PRSHIT driven Indian startup ecosystem – where it’s not about the PRoduct, but about PR.” The news also got people talking on social media as seen in the below tweet:
How is this a 'Twitter partnership' for Practo? And not simply Practo *using* Twitter, like anyone can? pic.twitter.com/XmP2FaTVBF
— Karthik Srinivasan (@beastoftraal) April 7, 2016
Seemingly, Practo had also partnered with influencers to keep the buzz going around
#AskAboutDiabetes and help amplify the campaign on Twitter.
So my obvious question to Practo was: “Why is the startup partnering with Twitter for launching a Twitter handle which is already free to use?
In response, Varun shared three major aspects that highlight the essence of the partnership. Firstly it is ease and second is awareness. “By bringing access to Practo Consult via Twitter, we are significantly reducing this friction and enabling near instant access to healthcare information. Besides we announced this partnership on World Health Day because both of us want to lend our voices to driving much more awareness about health and tell people that there is really no excuse to ignore healthcare issues because so much of the friction has now gone out of it.”
The final aspect and a crucial one is the tech enablement.
“Both Practo and Twitter are large platforms that attract millions of users. You cannot respond to large volumes of queries by simply implementing publicly available Twitter APIs. Twitter has enabled us with enterprise level custom access to their APIs that allows Practo to respond at real-time to a large volume of queries simultaneous – something that regular API integration doesn’t allow (Twitter reserves it for custom use-cases only).”
Last year, Twitter had announced a similar partnership with chat app Lookup, which allowed its users to make purchases and find information using 140 characters. According to TC, Twitter acts as a communications pipe, just like the Lookup app itself. Orders and payment are fulfilled separately and offline for now, Lookup handles the important step of connecting merchant and customer — thanks to Twitter APIs and its monitoring options for partners.
The move may be a genuine one with a business model attached to it but we are very well aware that Twitter is yet to become a mass platform in the country. In fact last year it had struggled to gain traction in the US, so the next obvious question is: why Twitter and why not messaging apps?
Dinesh is of the opinion that messaging apps are definitely better as they tend to keep conversations private. But it all depends on the health condition one is dealing with, he added while elaborating with an example.
“In contraception category we have seen discussions happening in groups and forums and there is an evolved set of audiences responding to it and helping others. For parenting and baby care too, there are at least 10 responses in a day when one poses a question. So the advantage is people are ready to crowd source health solution & get responses, but one needs to vet the quality of it. Certain very personal health categories would still remain ‘closed’ but others would still adhere to the social discussions.”
Additionally, Twitter also has a serious problem of spam that can be dominant in such initiatives and in all likelihood kill it. Practo understands the problem and has built in-house solutions that use some natural language processing and machine learning algorithms to identify spam.
As of now the partnership has gone live in three markets – PAN India, Philippines and Singapore and is available in English. The early responses have been phenomenal says Varun. “Practo Consult provided answers to over 5000 questions on the day of the launch. We have questions pouring in from different countries and we receive hundreds and thousands of questions everyday on the platform.”
The numbers are not surprising as the mindsets are transitioning rapidly, added Dinesh.
“A decade back when we made an educational video on diabetes, it didn’t work as much, as people tend to shy away from it. But in recent times the society has undergone a mammoth change. Additionally the onslaught of digital and social media has fueled them to seek online health solutions.”
Practo now plans to take this to cover more countries and more languages as the startup continues their global expansion at a rapid pace. However, as of now consumers from anywhere can ask a question and get a response – as long as the question is in English as that is the first language the system supports.
This alliance isn’t only about Practo but Twitter too. As a social network, Twitter is yet to become the common man’s go to platform and in this case even if you don’t have a Practo account, you need to have a Twitter account to ask your query. Tie-ups like these are definitely going to add to Twitter’s business value and user growth in the country. People ignoring healthcare issues every day because of the sheer effort involved in finding the time to go meet a doctor isn’t new. In this digital age, these partnerships enable people to make better healthcare choices. On the business side, this is a far more refreshing tie-up from Twitter than the missed call engagements with Bollywood celebrities.