Why Healthcare Companies Need to Engage with DOLs and Embrace Social Marketing

By Jennifer Webb


Social media has become a powerful healthcare communication, education, and advocacy tool. A growing number of healthcare professionals, patients, researchers, journalists, and other stakeholders use social media platforms to share their opinions, insights, and experiences on various health-related topics. These online influencers are known as Digital Opinion Leaders or DOLs, and they have the potential to shape the perceptions and behaviours of their followers and peers.

DOLs are more than just traditional Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) with a large online presence. They can be any HCP (healthcare professional) with expertise, credibility, and influence in the digital space. So, what makes DOLs so unique?

For one, they aren’t driven by self-promotion. Instead, a DOL aims to educate, engage, and challenge its audience. They use clear and concise scientific communication, adding personal touch and perspective, and can be found on various platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, podcasts, blogs, and even TikTok.

The value and impact of DOLs

  1. Healthcare companies need to recognise the value and impact of DOLs in their marketing strategy. DOLs can help healthcare companies with the following:
  2. Spreading the word about clinical trials, new data, product launches, disease awareness campaigns, and other initiatives and why they matter to HCPs.
  3. Providing feedback to gain fresh views on a healthcare company’s marketing materials, messaging, branding, and positioning.
  4. Co-creating content and resources that are relevant, engaging, and trustworthy for the healthcare brand’s target audiences.
  5. Educating DOLs are particularly effective at influencing their peers and followers on the benefits and value of the products or services offered by healthcare companies.
  6. Building trust by helping healthcare brands develop sustained loyalty with the healthcare community and the public.

Building long-lasting DOL partnerships

It’s important to understand that engaging with DOLs is not a one-time or transactional activity. It requires a long-term and authentic relationship-building approach that respects their autonomy, expertise, and preferences.

Healthcare companies need to:

  • Identify the DOLs relevant to their objectives based on their influence, resonance, and relevance metrics.
  • Listen to what prospective DOLs are saying online, what topics they are interested in, what challenges they face, what questions they have, and what opinions they hold.
  • Engage with DOLs in meaningful conversations that add value to their audiences without being intrusive or sales-y.
  • Involve DOLs in collaborative projects that leverage their skills and insights while providing them with recognition and support.
  • Empower DOLs to share their experiences and perspectives with their online communities while respecting editorial independence and transparency.

DOLs are the future of healthcare marketing

Social media is not a passing trend, and neither are DOLs. They’re already a marketing reality that healthcare companies must embrace and adapt to. DOL marketing is growing and will play a critical part in the future of healthcare marketing. By engaging with DOLs effectively, healthcare companies can gain a competitive edge beyond their traditional marking activity.

DOL activity in the real-life social space drives brand awareness and reputation for healthcare companies. But what makes DOL marketing even more powerful is its ability to improve HCPs’ everyday clinical lives and wider patient and health outcomes.

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