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Why pharma should put social media influencers on their roadmap

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The internet has brought about many changes in the way we exchange, share and seek information. The internet has also created social media influencers. Who are these influencers?  Should pharmaceutical companies and healthcare start to have an influencer marketing plan and ditch the celebrity testimonial?

1)Who is the social media influencer?

Altimeter Group defines an influencer as follows:

“An influencer is defined as someone of notable status and focus within a community who possesses the ability to cause effect or change behavior among those to whom they’re connected”

In other words the social media influencer leverages his/her social capitol.

The Altimeter Group then goes on to describe the three pillars of influence: reach, resonance and relevance. Reach is built on popularity, proximity (geo location) and goodwill. When we speak of relevance, we are referring to subject matter expertise such as authority, trust and affinity. Resonance on the other hand refers to how many people see a post and for how long that conversation continues in time: frequency, period and amplitude.

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2) Is there a way of measuring the social media influencer?

As a society we love numbers and numbers guide us in our decision processes. If we go back a just few years ago it seemed like everyone was looking at their Klout number. Klout, an online platform measuring social media influence software, could calculate how “influential” one was online. Today we have moved beyond Klout and just relying on a number is not enough.

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The social media influencer has become more of a polished and refined profession. The social media influencer today picks and chooses the platforms or a platform that seems to works best for them and their business. In other words you can still be influential and only be on one platform.

The number of followers is still important, but it is not the only indicator of influencer since it can be misleading. In order to have an effect on others we must look at the engagement level of our social media influencer.

3) So how do you find influencers?

You can find influencers on any social media platform. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn. Each platform is different and engagement levels and audiences are very different.

4)Should pharma have an influencer roadmap?

Yes. First, start identifying where your social media influencers are and which social media platforms they are using.  Start by just listening, what they taking about? Who is their audience (that is their outreach)? How do they engage with their audience?

Everything in pharma is more complicated because of it being a highly regulated industry.  As a case study I think what comes to everyone’s mind is the Kim Kardarsian post on Instagram regarding a drug for the treatment of morning sickness. The post was immediately pulled after FDA sent a warning letter to the drug manufacturer.

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As people in pharma know very well, guidance in the US is given by the FDA. However, it would be of interest to also take a look at the FTC guidelines. The guidelines updated in June 2015 and focuses primarily on how brands should work with testimonials and endorsements. The aim of the FTC is to make sure that the consumers can clearly distinguish between a paid-endorsement and an independent third party review. The bottom line is always be transparent.

5)Why should pharma consider social media influencers in their thinking process?

As mentioned in the opening lines, the internet has brought many changes and todays’ consumer has fundamentally changed. To be in line with these changes pharmaceutical marketers need to start incorporating digital influencers in their thinking process.  In my opinion, it feels like DTC is so “yesterday”. I truly believe, the future could see a switch from celebrity testimonials to online influencers. Many factors point in this direction. Social media is becoming the more widely used source of information for patient information, you can reach a wider audience and it is way cheaper.

Resources:

Influencer marketing is the next big thing – just don’t make the same mistakes as some pharma companies by David Zaritsky, January 5, 2016

https://www.pm360online.com/influencer-marketing-is-the-next-big-thing-just-dont-make-the-same-mistakes-as-some-pharma-companies/

The rise of influencer marketing and the opportunity for marketers in 2016. By Nicolas Chabot December 10, 2015.

http://digitalmarketingmagazine.co.uk/digital-marketing-features/the-rise-of-influencer-marketing-and-the-opportunity-for-marketers-in-2016/2974

Getting a sharper picture of social media’s influence. By Jacques Bughin. McKinsey Quarterly. July 2015.

http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/marketing-and-sales/our-insights/getting-a-sharper-picture-of-social-medias-influence

The rise of digital influence. A “how -to” guide for businesses to spark desirable effects and outcomes through social media influence. By Brian Solis. March 21, 2012. Altimeter Group.

http://www.slideshare.net/Altimeter/the-rise-of-digital-influence

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