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Social Media Influencers in Marketing and Medical Affairs

Due to regulatory constraints, the healthcare industry (and especially pharma) has always lagged behind in adopting social media as part of their multichannel and omnichannel brand strategies.
As the influence of social media grows, it is no longer wise for healthcare companies to ignore this challenge. According to Backlinko, more than half of the world population currently uses social media. The average user is on 6.6 social media platforms, spending an average of 2.5 hours per day on them. Meta (formerly Facebook) commissioned two studies regarding product advertisement on Instagram – a whopping 87% of people surveyed took action after seeing a product or service on Instagram. More results from their studies below:
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Working with social media influencers provides a great opportunity for healthcare companies to gain deep insights into the needs of their target markets, and build long-lasting relationships with HCPs. Social media influencers can take onerous sets of regulatory guidelines and craft a message that details the specific needs that your product will solve for their followers. In addition, working with social media influencers gives marketing and medical affairs teams a great opportunity for cross-functional collaboration, as various aspects of the relationship can be handled by each team. Two types of healthcare influencers are prominent in today’s social media landscape: consumer influencers and Digital Opinion Leaders (DOLs).


Unlike the celebrity endorsements of the past on TV commercials and in magazines, consumer and patient influencers are not just putting their face on an advertisement that broadcasts to general audiences. These influencers, by posting on their own social media accounts, are delivering a specific message about why they believe in your brand, to an audience who has spent months or years following and trusting them. They have a deep knowledge of their audience’s values and pain points, and they are able to communicate how your products will help in a way that their audience understands. Therefore, the endorsement of a consumer or patient influencer has the potential to be significantly more impactful than a general advertisement. Skincare influencer Hyram Yarbro put it very well in a recent interview with Vogue:

“Many gen Zers can be critical and they want to know how a product works. Marketing strategies of the past don’t work on them. People want to know about ingredients and functionality. They look past the aesthetics and the fun, cute packaging. They want to learn what’s healthiest and what’s best…for the best price possible.”

Hyram’s recent endorsement of P&G’s First Aid Beauty brand went viral with over 391,000 views on TikTok.

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You can use the knowledge that you gain from your relationships with consumer and patient influencers to inform next year’s marketing strategy as well: as you learn what works and what does not, and pull more deep insights about your target markets, begin to add these as details in your patient personas and journeys as well as part of your larger marketing plans.

Pharmaceutical marketers in particular face a variety of challenges when it comes to crafting the perfect messaging – if you work in pharma, you may be hesitant to build relationships with consumer and patient influencers. Asking social media influencers to promote educational campaigns is one way to get your message out there without violating any guidelines. This post by Instagram influencer Emily Harrington encourages women to discuss birth control options with their doctors.



When you are looking for HCP insights and partnership opportunities, look no further than digital opinion leaders (DOLs). According to, “Digital opinion leaders are HCPs with a significant audience and influence on social media. Audience includes HCP followers and non-HCP followers such as analysts, journalists, and patients…influence includes replies, retweets, likes, and impressions for an HCP’s posts.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the influence of digital opinion leaders has skyrocketed. According to PharmaLive, one digital opinion leader’s website doubled their page views in two months as the pandemic began. PR Week speculates that this is because, in response to COVID-19, consumers have been searching for more expert-led advice. PharmaLive suggests that digital opinion leaders also help other HCPs “cut through the noise” when seeking information about developments in their field that they would normally discover through daily rounds and conferences. Forming relationships with this special group of opinion leaders gives marketing and medical affairs teams a great opportunity to reach a wide network of HCPs, consumers, journalists, and patients.

In 3 Ways to Find Digital Opinion outlines some great tips for building your network of digital opinion leaders. Once you have built your DOL network, the collaboration opportunities are endless. Head to their website to learn more.