Digital Influencers: The Emergence of a New Class of Experts

Over the last few years the dialogue about the role and importance of digital influencers for the life science industry has shifted from whether to listen and engage at all to how to best do it and how to develop strategies and processes around social media engagement.

In our recent webinar “Who are digital influencers and what is their importance to MSLs/medical affairs and an effective medical strategy?” a panel of experts tackled these important topics.

This blog provides a summary of some of the information and insights shared during that webinar.

  • First things first: who are digital influencers?
    While different individuals and companies will likely have different definitions of what digital influencers are, the definition, provided by Barbara Salami, captures not just who this new type of influencers are but also how they are different and distinct from traditional experts.

    “[Digital influencers are] individuals who have found ways to cascade and share their messages and build a following online with patients, other clinicians and anyone who has a connection to their message.”

    You can listen to Barbara’s entire answer in this short audio clip.

    Barbara Salami, Head of Digital and Customer Experience Optimization, US Pharma at GSK
  • How does the sphere of influence of traditional external experts and digital influencers compare?
    While experts, who built their reputation on more traditional activities such as speaking engagements, print publications, or advisory board memberships are generally categorized as national, regional or local experts, digital influencers break the barriers of geography and tend to have a global sphere of influence.
    So far, our experts see little overlap between traditional experts and digital influencers. Digital influencers can therefore be viewed as a new and distinct class of opinion leaders who use social media as their primary vehicle to get out information quickly and often without peer-review.
  • How does social media help scientific insight generation?
    Social media listening is a novel way for medical affairs to generate valuable insights that can be brought back into the organization. Social media allows identification of experts with new and different views that can shape decisions such as label extensions or selection of additional subpopulations. Here is Robert Groebel speaking on the topic of insight generation.

    “We have to recognize that we can turn information (from social media) into insights that we bring back into the organization.”

    Robert Groebel, VP of Global Medical Strategy, Monocl
  • Which social media platforms are companies following?
    To gather information about the channels medical affairs professionals follow we asked the webinar registrants to list all channels they consider when identifying digital influencers. The answers are summarized in this graph.
  • Who can be a digital influencer?
    Not all digital influencers have to be physicians or scientists. Our panelists stress that different voices within the ecosystem of care can drive the conversation and shape the message about a therapeutic area or a product. Digital influencers can include, among others, patients, patient advocates, administrators, caregivers and RNs.
  • The value of a social media strategy
    The experts agree that it is crucially important to have a social media strategy. This strategy needs to go beyond understanding who the key influencers are and address questions like how social media can be used to add value to the HCP community and ultimately better serve patients.

    “Having a clear objective for social media that aligns with and meets your medical strategy is critically important. Everything else becomes just white noise.”

    Samuel Dyer, CEO Medical Science Liaison Society
  • Implementing social media listening and engagement
    Successful capture of social media data and information requires a data-driven process and a platform solution that makes it possibly to easily identify individuals who shape the online discourse and to answer questions such as “What kind of content are they sharing?”, “Whom are they retweeting?”, “What does their sphere of influence look like?”, and “What is their motivation?”

Our panel also discussed regulatory questions and provided concrete examples from their own experience that illustrate how engagement of digital influencers resulted in value for the company.

You can listen to the entire webinar by clicking on the recording.

5 Reasons Why Medical Affairs Need to Engage Digital Influencers

How to identify and prioritize digital influencers using Monocl Professional