Gauging Social Media Influence - A Framework for Medical Affairs

Gauging Social Media Influence - A Framework for Medical Affairs

By Robert Groebel, VP Global Medical Strategy

The use of social media channels as a vehicle for presenting a scientific point of view is growing in prominence. We are seeing increasing numbers of scientific and medical experts connecting and engaging with colleagues and peers on social platforms, especially Twitter. Scientific experts are selecting platforms like Twitter to connect and engage with similarly interested clinicians, driving access to and awareness of innovation in real time. These Digital Influencers can provide a credible perspective which may differ from other experts once deemed “opinion leaders” who are measured on volume of clinical trials or authorship position in peer reviewed publications.

Sharing emerging information or challenging one’s community of followers creates another vehicle to improve both patient outcomes and future innovation. Understanding this growing dynamic will allow Medical Affairs to strategically consider how to evolve scientific engagement and their definition of experts, broadening the reach of emerging science. Understanding the perspectives held by this subset of experts can strongly complement existing knowledge developed through more traditional methods and further inform strategic direction.

Using Social Media Means Opting-IN

As Medical Affairs continues to grow in prominence, developing a strategy to apply social media insights will be critical. The Life Science industry has long distanced itself from the term “influence” and its perceived negative connotation on treatment choice. Understanding the scope of a scientific expert’s Twitter reach allows one to consider the expert’s “influence” positively as it reflects a universe of interactions formed through self-selection.

Many medical professionals use Twitter for its potential to share opinions, advance research, and dispel inaccurate information. Since tweets generally focus on emerging data, new evidence and clinical practice they can help validate the needs assessment processes ranging from publication planning to granting strategies, these insights can serve as a vehicle for validating a needs assessment process, as tweets often focus on emerging data, evidence, and clinical practice. Tweeting may now represent the new “editorial” or “counterpoint” to a scientific position presented via more traditional venues such as journals and websites. The treating community can now use new information they discover from a researcher’s tweets to guide decision-making about patient care in a rapidly evolving field such as oncology.

  • The scientific value that Twitter provides is two-fold at the very least, creating a bi-directional communication between expert and follower, thus giving a voice to stakeholders who would not normally have one in traditional healthcare interactions. A life science organization must endeavor to identify and engage in this dynamic, providing access to evidence and data to further inform communication in the future.
  • The Medical Science Liaison and other field deployed medical teams are on the frontline of scientific exchange and knowledge transfer. Expanding coverage of exchanges to include the “scientific influencer” has the opportunity to further strengthen the use of social platforms and demonstrating the value and impact of medical affairs.

Twitter is revolutionizing healthcare, becoming a viable and trusted channel for scientific communication. Medical Affairs must establish an effective approach to further support and inform this valuable form of collaboration. Understanding how experts use Twitter to advance a medical knowledge in a particular field of care will be critical in the evolution of pipelines and associated communication strategies. This connected universe will grow and benefit from access to late breaking research and an ability to identify and solve problems while improving quality of care at a patient level. Medical Affairs now has another powerful way to drive scientific engagement with the power of this expanding universe.

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