The rise of the healthcare social media influencer

Daniel Brackins, Director of Social Media Engagement | May 18, 2021

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The consumer industry has long been leveraging the power of social media influencers with enormous success. But can the highly regulated healthcare industry achieve the same results? Daniel Brackins explores the influencer marketing opportunities for life science companies and answers your questions.

Over the past few months, consumer trust has waned across all institutions, from the government to the media. Trust in traditional sources is now at an all‑time low. However, despite this decline, consumers still trust business. Moreover, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, the only institutions considered both competent and ethical are businesses.

At the same time, we’re seeing a revolution in the role of the voice of the consumer, with 68% of people believing consumers have the power to force businesses to change.1 Today, the most trusted spokespeople in society are academic experts and the every‑day person — more than the government, CEOs, and journalists.

Healthcare and pharmaceutical companies now have an opportunity to not only make their own voices heard but to partner with patient influencers, who have built large followings based on their authenticity and relatability.

Consumer businesses often view social media influencers as a way to speak to their audiences using a trusted persona. While healthcare has been slow to adopt the influencer voice, influencers can help healthcare companies to build trust, especially in an era dominated by fake news with these individuals can also enable life science companies to elevate the patient voice in their communications, leading to a more patient‑centric brand.

Social media platforms have democratized the creation and dissemination of information—anyone can express an opinion and share it with their followers. Their content extends to in‑depth customer reviews and highly personal stories that drive disease awareness.

Consider that when an influencer shares content, 93% of followers are likely to ask their physicians or healthcare professionals for more information about a specific medication, when an influencer shares information about a specific medication, 87% of followers are likely to ask their physician or healthcare professional about the treatment.2

In contrast, studies show that celebrities have very little influence on decision‑making within healthcare. Researchers found that including a celebrity voice in a campaign did not inspire the patient to act and search for more information, discuss the disease with their doctor, or ask for a prescription—the same holds true for expert endorses.3,4

While expert endorsers, or key opinion leaders, remain important for building trust, they are less effective in the diffusion of prescription drug information among consumers.5 Experts make a product or brand credible, but patients see consumer influencers as their trusted peers. Their content is more relatable, especially for patients who are less health literate. As a result, the most powerful campaigns combine the voices of experts and consumer influencers.

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