Why You Need to Engage with Digital Opinion Leaders Now

By Jennifer Webb


If you’re a healthcare company looking to promote your brand and products in the digital age, you can’t afford to ignore the power and influence of Digital Opinion Leaders (DOLs).

DOLs are healthcare professionals, patients, or other experts with a strong online presence and a loyal following. They share insights, opinions, and experiences on various platforms like blogs, podcasts, videos, or social media. Better still, they provide trusted information for their HCP peers, patient audiences, potential partners, and collaborators for healthcare companies.

In this blog post, we’ll explain what DOLs are, why they matter for your marketing strategy, and how you can engage with them effectively.

What are DOLs, and why are they important?

DOLs are not just traditional key opinion leaders (KOLs) who publish papers, speak at conferences, or sit on advisory boards. They’re also savvy digital technology users who know how to communicate clearly and concisely while maintaining their professional credibility and authenticity. DOLs are also not motivated by self-promotion, but by a genuine desire to educate, engage, and challenge their followers.

DOLs can be found on all platforms, but Twitter is currently the most popular for many, especially for conference coverage and public peer discussions. Podcasts and videos are also gaining popularity, and some DOLs are using newer platforms like TikTok to reach a younger audience.

What makes a DOL a DOL?

DOLs can be identified by three main metrics: influence, resonance, and relevance. Influence is the number of followers they have; resonance is the frequency with which their content is shared; and relevance is the alignment of their content with your current objectives.

Just because someone has a significant following or viral content does not necessarily mean they are relevant to your goals. Likewise, someone who shares highly relevant content may have little influence if their following is small.

Why are DOLs critical for your marketing mix?

DOLs are essential for your marketing strategy because they can help you with various aspects of your business, such as:

  • Spreading the word about clinical trial recruitment or new data
  • Providing feedback on marketing materials and messaging
  • Co-creating marketing, medical, educational, or patient support resources
  • Sharing disease awareness initiatives
  • Advocating for your brand and products
  • Building trust and loyalty among your target audiences

So why should healthcare companies care about DOLs, and how can they leverage them for their marketing strategy?

  • DOLs can help spread the word about clinical trial recruitment or new data, provide marketing materials and messaging feedback, co-create marketing, medical, educational, or patient support resources, share disease awareness initiatives, and more.
  • DOLs can reach tens of thousands of potential customers at the click of a button, with a high level of trust and engagement. According to a survey by WEGO Health, 87% of patients said they trust health information shared by other patients on social media more than information from other sources.
  • DOLs can help shape the public perception of your brand and products, as well as influence the opinions of their peers and policymakers. A study by BMJ Open found that e-patients (empowered patients who use technology to manage their health) have a cooperative relationship with their physicians based on efficient communication, proactivity, the desire to ask questions and the use of technologies.
  • DOLs can help you stay ahead of the curve and anticipate future trends and needs in healthcare. They constantly learn and share new information and insights on social media, podcasts, videos, or blogs.

How to Engage with DOLs Effectively

Engaging with DOLs is not a one-time event but a long-term relationship that requires authenticity, transparency, and mutual respect. Here are some tips on how to engage with DOLs effectively:

  • Identify the right DOLs for your objectives. Our proprietary TrunkBBI tool, iDOL, helps healthcare companies find DOLs relevant to their therapeutic area, product, or campaign. Look beyond the number of followers and focus on the quality of their content and engagement.
  • Listen to what DOLs are saying online. TrunkBBI’s mix of social listening tools allows us to follow DOLs on social media platforms, analyse their podcasts or blogs, and read their comments and replies. This is how we learn more about their interests, opinions, challenges, needs, and preferences.
  • Reach out to them personally and respectfully. Don’t spam them with generic messages or pitches. Instead, personalise your outreach and explain why you want to connect with them and what value you can offer them. Be clear about your goals and expectations and respect their time and privacy.
  • Involve DOLs in your strategy development and execution. Ask for their feedback, insights, or suggestions on your marketing materials, messaging, or programs. Co-create content or resources relevant to their audience and aligned with your objectives. Invite them to participate in your advisory boards, webinars, podcasts, or events.
  • Recognise and reward them for their contributions. Show your appreciation for their time and expertise by thanking them publicly or privately, sending them tokens of gratitude such as gift cards or vouchers, or offering them professional development or networking opportunities.

Find out how our proven DOL roadmap and can propel your healthcare brand’s marketing and sales goals in 2023. Get in touch by filling in the form below or giving us a call.

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