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The Anatomy of an Engaging Social Post—Backed by Data

They say sharing is caring, and that extends to creating med comms social content that engages busy clinicians' hearts, minds, likes, and shares. Just what makes one med comms post more engaging than another? At Avant Healthcare, we leverage the science of social listening to answer that question.

Using social listening and natural language processing (NLP) analysis, we can learn about what is happening in a particular social media conversation and decipher the reasons behind social media trends. Our tools enable us to analyze massive amounts of social text data and understand why certain content engages specific audiences. 

While every conversation and audience are distinct, we've identified critical characteristics in social posts that lead to high engagement and attract viewership from the right audiences.

We call it the anatomy of highly engaging social posts. When we dissect these posts, we see they share four key characteristics:

  • An authority in the field writes it
  • Features positive and timely content
  • Uses hashtags and links
  • Includes imagery

A highly engaging ASCO post

A highly engaging ASCO post

The most liked and engaging post about breast cancer at ASCO 2022 had 120 reposts and 231 likes. Let's examine these characteristics and see how they fit together to increase engagement.

A Voice of Authority

A post from a source of authority—be it an individual or an institution—consistently drives engagement. It's not simply a matter of reach because numerous pages with greater reach don't gain the kind of engagement that a well-known authority can.

The post above was written by the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), a well-trusted and authoritative voice in the medical community. While it might seem obvious that such a well-respected institution would drive engagement, posting from a voice of authority is wider than the traditional gatekeepers of information.

We routinely see strong engagement when established digital opinion leaders (DOLs) and well-regarded clinicians post on social. In other words, building relationships with DOLs can help brands build a robust digital engagement strategy.

Positive and timely content

Good news is good for engagement, and our text analytics prove it. By quantifying semantic differences in massive amounts of text, we can demonstrate that positive tonality significantly impacts engagement.

For example, at ASCO 2022, superlatives like "biggest" and "best" were 3.6 times more prevalent among the most engaging posts than lower-performing posts. But good news is not enough. It's also critical to meet your clinical audiences "where they are."

Posts must be timely and relevant to therapeutic advances and current market trends. Your digital strategy must still be grounded in a solid understanding of what's essential to your audience and positioned to deliver content when and where it matters most.

Use of Hashtags or @ Mentions

Highly engaging posts consistently demonstrate high rates of hashtag usage and mentions. In terms of engagement, these posts consistently outperform posts that don't use hashtags or mentions.

To fully leverage these social engagement tools, a robust social listening platform must be in place to ensure that the correct hashtags and audiences are being reached. For example, through social listening at medical congresses, we have uncovered that "#sm" hashtags such as "#bcsm" (breast cancer social media) are prominent among HCPs.


When designing engaging social media content, links are critical. Ultimately, this is where the power of engaging social media content shines.

Social media's ability to drive engagement and awareness around data and messaging and facilitate click-throughs to more robust content is paramount to its value. Our data suggest that these links not only facilitate this awareness but also get more eyes and engagement on social content.

Use of Imagery

Out of all the factors that make up an engaging post, the use of imagery is the one that consistently demonstrates higher rates of engagement. Across the analyses we have performed, we've seen that using imagery generates highly engaging posts more than any other factor.

The short-form nature of social media content necessitates that text content is at a premium. Utilizing visuals such as poster data, visual abstracts, or even stock graphics will maximize the real estate of your messaging in text-based channels such as X or LinkedIn. The need to provide visually engaging content will only increase with the increased prominence of video- and graphic-based social platforms such as TikTok and Instagram.

Putting It All Together: Building Stronger Social Engagement

These characteristics enable us to understand what drives high levels of social engagement. Users are drawn to eye-catching social content posted by authoritative authors who present timely content in an inviting tone.

The right audience is primed for this content through hashtags and mentions. Ultimately, the social content links to more robust educational and promotional materials to further facilitate brand awareness and, ideally, action. Together, these factors provide a roadmap for successfully maximizing social spend by getting the right clinicians engaged with your content, ultimately leading to an ROI on your broader omnichannel strategy.

#EngageMore with Avant

Contact us today to see how our social listening tools and analysis can help your brand build its social presence and increase audience engagement.

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