Engaging Digital Influencers: Challenges, Goals and Opportunities

Engaging Digital Influencers: Challenges, Goals and Opportunities

Our second webinar about the role and importance of digital influencers in the life science industry focused on a series of important questions about engagement strategies, such as the challenges and goals of digital influencer engagement as well as the value this new class of experts can bring to an organization.

This blog highlights some of the key findings and main points our panel made in during their discussion. In addition to this summary, the recording of the entire webinar entitled “Working with Digital Influencers: How to Develop and Optimize and Engagement Plan” is available on demand.

Challenges of creating a social media strategy

Developing and implementing a social media strategy remains a challenge for many companies. Reluctance to engage – or to open the “Pandora’s Box” that is social media engagement – is still fairly common among companies. Another important factor that has kept companies from engaging in the pasty is the availability of data: meaningful engagement requires first and foremost easy access to social media data and ways to quickly answer questions like “Which digital influencer is shaping the discussion on a topic relevant to my company?” or “How do they use a platform to communicate with healthcare providers?”. “Who is their audience?”. Knowing the answers to questions like these allows a company to start building an engagement strategy and concrete engagement plans for specific digital influencers that can facilitate direct scientific discourse.

“It is difficult to develop a strategy around social media engagement until companies have access to social media data. As companies start to engage with digital influencers it is critical that they understand how digital influencers use the medium to communicate.”

Robert Groebel III, VP of Global Medical Strategy, Monocl

Goals of social media engagement

The panelists differentiated between passive and active social media engagement. Passive, “listen only” engagement can yield new insights, generate hypotheses and help identify emerging digital influencers who are advocates of a specific scientific point of view. Active engagement takes the next step by providing an avenue for scientific exchange with a that individual, e.g. by sharing relevant data. Especially during times of limited personal interaction due to COVID-19, engaging digital influencers is a way to for medical affairs professionals to build relationships with people they don’t know and to expand their network.

“These are clinicians who make themselves available online on their own accord. Our hypothesis was, that if they put themselves out there, they might be more willing to be engaged. We have seen that to be the case.”

Jason Howard, Medical Science Liaison, Sanofi Genzyme

The issue of peer-review

A frequently voiced cautionary note relating to scientific exchange via social media is that information shared through these channels is not peer-reviewed and therefore not as reliable as traditional sources, especially publications. While it is certainly correct that social media facilitates the exchange of not peer-reviewed data, our panel suggested that information sharing via social media can be considered the ultimate form of peer-review: nobody wants to be wrong in this very public forum and therefore what a digital influencer chooses to put on social media is generally carefully selected and vetted and also provides a lot of information about the person and their interests.

Understanding global patterns of influence

One of the consequences of the global nature of social media is that the sphere of influence an HCP has can go beyond traditional geographic boundaries. Influencers everywhere can change how HCPs, e.g. in the US think. Before social media it would have been impossible to understand who influences US treatment patterns from abroad, but monitoring social media allows companies to uncover these international networks of influence.

Compliant engagement

MSLs and experts can and should have open discussions in personal meetings but having them in an open public forum is a different story. Our panelists advise strongly against engaging digital influencers directly on the social media platform however tempting and convenient it may seem. Since the FDA has not provided comprehensive guidance around engaging HCPs on social media, any engagement of a digital influencer should happen via traditional channels.

The panelists also discuss the use of social media for real-world data generation, the way social media is reshaping how medical affairs professionals are interacting with external experts, talk about the most challenging aspects of developing a digital influencer engagement strategy, share tips about how to identify digital influencers other than by number of followers and provided real life case studies of digital influencer engagement adding value to a company.

During the webinar our experts also discuss how important it is to base a digital engagement strategy on data. This is where Monocl can help: our database of experts contains direct links to an expert’s Twitter account making it easy to stay up-to-date on the information they share on social media, their followers and sphere of influence in addition to the their traditional activities such as publication, clinical trials or speaking engagements.

Our team members are happy to show you how you can use Monocl Professional to identify digital influencers. To schedule a time, please contact us here.

The entire webinar is available here and well worth a listen.

Related content

The summary and recording of our first webinar on the topic of digital influencers “Who are digital influencers and what is their importance to MSLs/Medical Affairs and an effective medical strategy?” is available on demand.

More reasons why you should listen to and engage digital influencers are discussed in our blog “5 Reasons Why Medical Affairs Need to Engage Digital Influencers”

A position paper written by our panelist Robert Groebel is available here “Gauging Social Media Influence - A Framework for Medical Affairs”

If you would like to know how Monocl can help you identify digital influencers, there is a blog for that “How to identify and prioritize digital influencers using Monocl Professional“

The Physician Payments Sunshine Act: Lessons Learned
Leveraging Twitter Inside-Out