Daniel Ghinn has already discussed the importance of Digital Opinion Leaders (DOLs) in his popular e-book. Here we will take a further look at this important group, in the context of new data available via the Healthcare Professional (HCP) social media monitoring tool, Creation Pinpoint.
Traditional social media monitoring approaches are now familiar to many pharmaceutical marketers and communicators. A set of keywords related to a particular topic is chosen, and used to program proprietary software to search for conversations including these keywords over a given time period. Results tend to include a large amount of noise or irrelevant mentions, as well as those by patients, HCPs and other groups of interest. For example, when searching around diabetes keywords, results such as the tweet below are often found in greater numbers than those referring to real clinical situations; the software is not capable of distinguishing between members of the public making a joke and the discussions of doctors or patients. Human analysis is then required to filter out the useful results, but the process can be imperfect, meaning that insights can be clouded or that key points and individuals can be missed.
Creation Pinpoint is a new social media monitoring tool that cuts out the noise and allows those interested in the activity of HCPs to focus on the most important conversations taking place between doctors, pharmacists and nurses. Not only does this provide a more reliable picture of how a particular brand or therapy area is being discussed by those who are active in the area, but it also allows the identification of HCPs who are particularly influential online – the DOLs. These individuals are crucial when considering how a brand or therapy area is discussed online, as their posts and other activities influence others in the online – and offline – spaces.
The following graphic shows the top 10 HCPs tweeting on a subset of topics related to prostate cancer. Through Creation Pinpoint, it is possible to identify specific conversations and to discover more about an individual, such as their location, Twitter profile and online influence scores. In this way, DOLs can be quickly and easily identified, and steps can be taken towards engaging with them in an appropriate and effective manner.
Three groups of HCPs you need to be aware of
Studies using Creation Pinpoint have so far identified three broad groups of HCPs active online, whose activities may be of interest to pharmaceutical companies.
- Social media big hitters – these are HCPs who have embraced online media, and may have several social media accounts. They are more likely to be generalists, or involved in medical education or leadership. Any posts they make online have impact within their large sphere of influence, with potential to spread further. These individuals may not have a specialist network, however, and are therefore less likely to post online extensively on a single topic
- Specialists – this group may not have such sophisticated online profiles, and may only be active on a narrow range of topics. However, their activities in that area are credible, since this is where their professional focus lies. They are more likely to have a highly relevant discussion on a particular topic area
- One-hit wonders – these individuals fall into neither group, but they are shown to have had at least one, seemingly isolated, relevant conversation. Further monitoring may show that these users go on to have further conversations on the relevant topics
Approaching the three groups
A tailored approach is required for each group of stakeholders, that also takes into account your specific goals and online capabilities. The end result, however, should be the same – the creation of DOLs who post regularly on relevant topics and are confident and influential online in a number of ways – for example, tweeting regularly, posting on Facebook or Google+ and being actively involved in online conversations with other HCPs, as opposed to merely broadcasting information.
Daniel Ghinn’s e-book includes a number of useful strategies for defining and activating DOLs. In light of our early findings from Creation Pinpoint, the following should also be taken into consideration:
- Social media big hitters and specialists may differ in the types of materials they would like to share, in terms of both content and presentation. It is important to learn about the online habits of any potential DOLs in advance to understand needs and preferences and how these may develop over time
- There may be a need to train specialists to use social media more effectively. This could be a key point in creating effective DOLs, since specialists already have the requisite knowledge and networks
- Before one-hit wonders can be transformed into DOLs, they must be reliably identified and engaged
The types of insights required to identify, engage and activate any of these groups requires in-depth and focused conversation analysis – automated monitoring is unlikely to pick up on the relevant nuances.