Digital influencers play an increasingly important roll in the life sciences and healthcare industries. They are also referred to as digital opinion leaders or DOLs. Digital influencers in life sciences are often healthcare providers, medical, scientific or public health experts who engage in digital and social dialogue about scientific, medical and healthcare related topics. However, non-HCPs such as industry analysts, journalists patient advocates, current or former patients and caregivers can become digital influencers in the healthcare space as well.
Digital influencers are a fairly new phenomenon in the life science industry. While various use cases have been established, e.g. listening to digital influencers to understand their scientific point of view and sphere of influence, many questions about when, why and how to best identify, prioritize and engage digital influencers are still being explored by life science companies.
Audiences and platforms
A digital influencer’s audience can either be the general public, e.g. people interested in science and health, journalists, patients, caregivers and patient advocate groups and/or other healthcare providers looking for information, insights and professional opinions.
HCPs use a variety of platforms to reach out to their audiences. The healthcare provider community has dedicated platforms like Doximity, Sermo, Figure1 and DailyRounds which are exclusive to medical professionals and allow for professional exchange and discussions. In addition, HCPs also use social platforms used by the general public, such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube and Facebook to address a mixed audience including other HCPs as well as the general public. Platforms like Instagram and TikTok are currently only sparingly used by HCPs mainly to communicate with younger members of the general public, e.g. to relay important health related information.
Reasons for HCPs to participate in digital/social media
HCPs participate in social media discourse for a number of reasons. Social media exchanges with colleagues can be used to share knowledge and expertise, demonstrate thought leadership and/or getting input and learning from trusted colleagues. Also social media enables professionals to quickly and easily get updates from conferences and stay abreast of the trends and developments that colleagues share.
Social media interaction with patients and the general public enables a HCP to share information about health, new treatments and medical breakthroughs as well as dispel medical misinformation. For practicing physicians social media can be a way to reach out to more people than the patients they treat in their practice.
Why are digital influencers important for medical affairs?
Digital influencers represent a new group of external experts that are informing the online discourse about therapeutic areas and other topics of interest to the life science industry. Digital influencers are able to communicate quickly and widely without peer-review or approval processes and reach audiences that might be difficult to reach through traditional methods like scientific publications, e.g. practicing physicians who treat patients and have limited time to read papers or attend meetings.
Following a digital influencer is opt-in and easy to undo and therefore an expression of trust in the followed expert. Engaging digital influencers is therefore a way for medical affairs professionals to reach out to additional and different groups of healthcare providers through a trusted source.
Our Blog 5 Reasons Why Medical Affairs Need to Engage Digital Influencers provides a detailed discussion on why medical affairs groups should engage digital influencers can be found here.
This blog How to identify and prioritize digital influencers using Monocl Professional walks you through several examples of how Monocl Professional can help you identify and prioritize digital influencers.
This webinar features industry experts discussing digital influencers Who are digital influencers and what is their importance to MSLs/Medical Affairs and an effective medical strategy?