With the growth of social media, savvy marketers began seeing the value of leveraging celebrities and prominent bloggers to reach new audiences because of their influence and reach. Over the past year, worldwide spending on influencer campaigns has grown to be a $6.3 billion business. While influencer marketing began with celebrity and top-tier influencers touting follower counts in the millions, as social algorithms changed, engagement rates declined and follower count was no longer a primary indicator of success. Enter the “microinfluencer.”
|This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Oct. '19 Healthcare & Medical PR Magazine.|
Who are microinfluencers?
Microinfluencers are everyday people with a focused, yet highly engaged social following of less than 100,000. They tend to be more relatable and reflective of their peer group, so their followers trust and seek out their advice and opinions. Because they have a tighter audience, we often see microinfluencers in the health space treating their followers as a community. They spend time responding to comments and offering general support to their network.
Microinfluencers’ role in healthcare
The average consumer engages with healthcare brands or campaign channels, but not as much as with their own patient community. In a 2019 WEGO Health survey of more than 400 patients, 93 percent said they would ask their physicians about health information shared by a trusted influencer. More than 87 percent said they’re likely to speak to their doctor about treatment after hearing about it from a trusted patient influencer.
In healthcare, microinfluencers are often patients living with a specific condition whose followers consist of other patients, support network and healthcare providers. These patients serve as advocates not only for themselves but for those who follow them and seek their advice on many different topics related to their particular experience.
Working with patient influencers allows healthcare companies to connect directly with their target audiences with more authenticity than they are able to on owned channels because their message is informed and delivered by the patients themselves. With greater authority in certain subjects, microinfluencers are intrinsically more genuine and their recommendations tend to be more trusted and valued by their audiences.
Collaborating with patient influencers
There are many opportunities to collaborate with microinfluencers in healthcare in both an organic and paid capacity. While some relationship building and information sharing is typically unpaid, it’s important to remember they should be compensated for their work just like any other spokesperson or influencer when providing companies with valuable insights and content. And when working on paid collaborations, don’t forget to follow the Federal Trade Commission’s Endorsement Guidance regarding proper disclosures and transparency.
A few examples of how health and wellness companies can collaborate with patient influencers include:
- Sharing news or events they might be interested in, similar to how we approach earned media outreach. This is often a nice first touch to introduce ourselves and the types of content we provide.
- Inviting patients to meet and greets and get-to-know-you events to introduce clients and stakeholders to potential patient influencers. We often include a mix of company and third-party speakers, but the primary focus is on the patients themselves versus a one-way presentation from the company.
- Advisory boards are great opportunities to test draft concepts, messaging and materials to ensure they hit the mark and inspire action. These closed sessions include confidentiality agreements and compensation for the insights patients provide.
- Once an ainitial relationship is established, these influencers may be contracted to serve as ongoing consultants on an annual basis across a variety of initiatives, providing many opportunities to test your work and ensure it’s effective in its message.
- Given their prominence in patient communities, we often work with influencers to host digital events like Twitter chats and Facebook Lives on their pages or brand or campaign channels.
- Sponsored content is traditionally thought of as a consumer influencer tactic, but we’ve also seen great success working with patient influencers to develop blog and social posts for their pages that can also be reposted on company channels. When collaborating on sponsored content, we develop a brief to outline objectives, key messages and guardrails, but the content itself is developed by the influencer to ensure authenticity and relevance for their audiences.
Making the decision to engage with patient influencers
The notion that people trust other people more than they do companies or brands isn’t going to change. While taking the time to identify the right influencer partner is crucial, the process doesn’t end there.
A high-level view of influencer engagement process includes four key steps:
Discovery: Identification (reach and relevance), social listening and discussion assessment to vet.
Engagement: Tailored outreach based on program objective (earned/paid, etc.). Program brief review.
Collaboration: Content delivery and client review process; go live with content or events.
Measurement: Based on campaign objectives, key performance indicators.
What’s most important to remember about engaging with patient influencers is to approach the relationship with empathy as they are often sharing very personal aspects of their lives. At Evoke KYNE, we view these engagements as true collaborations, ensuring we’re aligned on mutual objectives and success factors, and that the influencer, our client and our target audience see value in what we’re developing and sharing. In an age where word of mouth is more powerful than anything a company or brand can say, the question all of us working in healthcare communications must begin to ask ourselves is not if we should partner with microinfluencers to achieve our goals, but rather how we should begin to collaborate.
Kate Callan is Senior Vice President of Social Strategy at Evoke KYNE.