In a prior blog, we identified the role digital opinion leaders (DOLs) can play in advancing strategy in healthcare marketing and medical education. Social media savvy, DOLs are healthcare providers (HCPs) at all levels providing physicians with relevant insight into trends and new studies and therapies. Now let’s see how we identify and engage these emerging opinion leaders.
Focus on the Community
Unlike traditional key opinion leaders (KOLs), many of whom serve in research and more academic roles with fewer patient interactions, DOLs with robust online presence can give insight into how a patient community is responding to a given therapy or even current challenges or misconceptions with a health condition. Many DOLs are active in therapeutic areas/disease carrying a social stigma. It’s important to begin DOL identification by evaluating and understanding the disease community in which you’re interested.
Take oncology, for example. How many oncologists engage in various social media platforms specifically focused on oncology? How many post actively vs viewing passively? How many followers do the active posters have? What are the hot topics? The preferred channels? Answering these questions will help us create topical segments before digging deeper in our quest to identify DOLs.
Taking the oncology example one step further, let’s say we want to identify a solid metastatic breast cancer DOL. We might find him or her by generating profiles with channels, topics of interest, follower count, geographic location, and other criteria. From these robust profiles, we can create network maps that identify connections between DOLs and their followers. The network maps also provide a foundation to examine the strength of relationship between a DOL and their colleagues. In other words, we can quantify a DOL’s sphere of influence and determine connections in an otherwise diffuse network.
How to Engage
When developing engagement plans for DOLs, ensure they deliver mutual value. Unlike traditional promotional marketing, plans that focus exclusively on brand goals will fail. We need to develop plans based on business needs that benefit the community and disease state in which they’re an active member. Start with some of the following:
Have DOLs contribute content to social media channels on a timeline aligned with things like medical congresses, disease awareness days/weeks/months, or other key events
Enlist DOLs to help recruit patients for clinical trials or other patient engagement programs
Invite DOLs to join advisory boards where they can guide content development for specific initiatives
Patient Support Programs (PSPs)
Invite DOLs to help curate and share these critical PSPs based on what they are hearing and sharing in the digital world
Create webinar content on a DOL-tailored subject so they can integrate the content and engage their networks via social media feeds.
Keep in mind these are just a few ways we can engage DOLs, but the possibilities are limitless. We must always keep in mind that DOL engagement, much like KOL engagement, is built upon creating mutual goals and operating transparently. DOL efforts serve as a strong supplement to our KOL marketing and medical efforts, allowing us to reach deeper into communities that sometimes go untouched by KOLs.
Trina Stonner, RN, MSN
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