Does influencer marketing have a place in the healthcare industry?

Influencer marketing is fast becoming a key component of major campaigns across multiple industries, including the healthcare sector.

A new global study from Rakuten Marketing reveals the proportion of marketing budget being set aside for influencer-led campaigns has nearly doubled over the past two years to reach 40% in 2019. Rakuten Marketing also ran a consumer survey among 3,500 respondents globally, unveiling four in five consumers across the globe have now purchased something recommended by an influencer they follow by clicking on a link or image they shared.

Influencer marketing in healthcare

In the healthcare industry, patients are increasingly at the centre of campaigns and pharmaceutical companies are beginning to realise the untapped potential influencer marketing holds in extending a product’s reach among a desired audience.

Collaborating with healthcare influencers clearly holds huge potential for pharmaceutical companies to adapt and share highly detailed insights about a product among the public, in a way that taps into a consumer’s needs.

Particular challenges

There is understandably a nervousness among pharmaceutical companies when it comes to marketing a new product due to the highly regulated and risk adverse environment. Healthcare companies have strict guidelines to follow set out by FDA and FTC, who have federal rulemaking authority, to ensure they act compliantly when collaborating with influencers.

Diclegis were issued a warning by the FDA in 2015, when Kim Kardashian endorsed medication for a morning sickness pill on Instagram but left out details of the potential side effects. This post was quickly deleted and followed by a correction post, highlighting the importance of being mindful when using influencer marketing in the healthcare world.

The trust factor

93% of influencer marketing campaigns use Instagram and nearly 90% of people aged 18-24 trust health information found on social media. Working with influencers who publish content that users engage with and using the right platform will help the pharma company to build trust and the post to be discoverable amongst their target audience.

Some pharma companies have opted to work with high-profile medical professionals, such as Amcal Pharmacy who teamed up with race car driver Jack Perkins, who has diabetes. Perkins regularly discussed his journey with the disease and how Amcal helped him get the medication he needed to manage his condition.

Another way influencer marketing can help to build trust is by changing conversations. HealtheVoices for example, enlisted an influencer and has since grown from an online community for patient advocates to an annual conference. The advocates were crucial to the patients experiencing serious health conditions and also to doctors wanting to better understand and appreciate things from the patient’s perspective. The campaign changed conversation as it put the patient in a position of power and influence, creating a patient centred narrative, which tends to appeal to audiences more than a doctor centred narrative.

What effect is influencer marketing having on the pharmaceutical industry?

Influencer marketing is a new area for pharma so it’s necessary to involve key stakeholders from the start of a campaign to ensure that the strict regulations are adhered to.

PMLiVE recommend pharma companies starting small and collaborating with one trusted social media influencer whilst working closely with stakeholders, allowing them to test success, learn from mistakes and refine the process before scaling up the campaign.

A large study conducted by Wego Health found that only 9% of consumers believe that pharma companies put patients over profits. Social networks are fast becoming one of the most effective channels for businesses to build trust and credibility among their community so influencer marketing may have the potential to help pharma companies rebuild trust and be seen on a platform where their audience are most active.

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