3 ways to activate HCP digital opinion leaders

By Katie Kennedy

With the growth in the number of HCPs collaborating via social media channels pharma are realising the importance of engaging with the most influencial of these online HCP Digital Opinion Leaders.

I will be discussing the insights emerging around HCP digital behaviour and the new opportunities, engagement strategies and tactics this has created.

1. Identify existing HCP digital opinion leaders in your therapy area

Over the last few years we have seen a growing number of HCPs using social media to share their experiences, learn from their peers and discuss individual patient cases, treatment options and drugs.

Several doctors’ Twitter ‘chats’ have developed, providing a place for doctors to discuss professional ideas with other HCPs from around the world.

Online HCP digital opinion leader discussion

Online HCP digital opinion leader discussion

During 2012, #meded, a weekly twitter chats for doctors, included chat from over 4,600 HCPs and other stakeholders in 90 countries. So far in 2013, this has grown to more than 11,300 participants.

HCP Digital Opinion Leaders (DOLs) are those HCPs whose opinions are valued by and often influence their peers. A DOL can be compared to an online version of a Key Opinion Leader (KOL) however, unlike the KOL, a DOL’s online influence is not necessarily based on professional seniority. DOLs are those who are well connected and respected online among peers who also use social tools so HCPs of any rank or role can be influencers.

Previous attempts by researchers to distil the HCP voice and discover the key DOLs related to a therapy area were restricted to looking for the use of clinical terms in social media or search analysis tools. Since patients are also using clinical terms online, this approach was limited.

With new technology like Creation Pinpoint it is now possible to identify named HCP digital opinion leaders discussing a particular therapy area or treatment and piece together a definitive picture of your brand’s DOLs.

2. Engage HCP digital opinion leaders online using channels they are familiar with

Once you have identified who your online healthcare professional digital opinion leaders (DOLs) are the next step is working out how to best engage with them. A key part of this is identifying which channels to engage them on.

There are many public social media environments where doctors are actively discussing topics that pharma companies could contribute to in a positive way, building relationships and trust.

Increase in HCP digital opinion leaders using public social media to collaborate

Increase in HCP digital opinion leaders using public social media to collaborate

A first step would be listening in and finding out where the conversation is taking place. An example may be discovering HCPs discussing your therapy area on a twitter chat like #meded. You can use this as an opportunity to see what the doctors are saying, what their concerns and opinions are and consider where you can help them by adding value.

The next step is to start engaging in the conversation. As long as you remain transparent and collaborative this is a great chance to start building trusted relationships with your HCP Digital Opinion Leaders.

Twitter is just one channel that is being used by doctors. We are seeing an increasing number of healthcare professionals also active on LinkedIn (with over 1.5 million HCPs registered), Facebook and Google+. Also consider the role of doctors’ blogs as channels where you can learn about the views of HCPs or actively engage by adding your own comments.

3. Engaging digital opinion leaders using traditional methods

Happy new year to everyone and wishing you all a great start to 2014. I’m starting my new year looking at number 3 of the 10 ways to activate HCP digital opinion leaders; engaging digital opinion leaders using traditional methods.

Once you identify your key DOLs and begin working on your engagement strategy it is important to remember that reaching them online is not the only option. Sometimes it may be more appropriate to engage offline.

Some of the pharma companies I spoke to are not ready to start an open conversation online with their customers for various reasons. It might be because it is not currently company policy, or working within the industry’s regulatory environment seem a bit daunting or it just doesn’t feel the most appropriate way to discuss certain conversations.

Once your key DOLs are identified it is entirely acceptable to engage with them in a more traditional way i.e. through a sales rep or medical science liaison.

Engaging with new digital opinion leaders

Engaging with new digital opinion leaders

The great advantages or knowing what these key digital opinion leaders are saying online before you engage with the offline are:

1.      You can provide your team in the field with some really good background knowledge about their customers

2.      You can approach HCPs that are spreading incorrect information about your product in a sensitive way

3.      You can address HCPs who have concerns about the efficacy of a product directly

Knowing what your DOLs are saying online has the potential of supporting offline relationships with these key individuals.

If you are interested in identifying your key DOLs please contact us.

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Meet the Author

Katie Kennedy

Katie has a background working within health organisations and continues to champion the work we do at CREATION.co amongst our current and future clients.

When not at work Katie enjoys being a mother to her two little girls, a dog, a cat, and a tortoise.