According to data from Ogilvy Research & Intelligence, a whopping 93% of people who engage with health-related social media accounts report taking some action as a result, such as scheduling an appointment (54%). Healthcare professionals (HCPs) are influenced by social media, too, with eMarketer finding that 57% of physicians have altered their perception of a drug or treatment based on information from social platforms.

Last month, Ogilvy launched a new health influence offering, which it describes as “a health-first suite of global influencer marketing services designed to bridge the gap between medical expertise and public awareness for pharmaceutical, healthcare, and wellness brands.”

We caught up with Rebecca Carter, Head of Social Media at Ogilvy Health UK and Health Influence Lead, to find out more about this evolving area.

Econsultancy: Ogilvy published a report on HealthTok back in 2022 – how has the landscape for health influence changed in the last two years?

Rebecca Carter: The way people seek health information is evolving and more and more of us are using social and digital channels to support self-care and wellness decisions.

In addition, both people living with health conditions and doctors are turning online to their peers for medical information. This space is becoming increasingly important for healthcare companies, particularly as there has been a shift in HCP and patient communities away from X (Twitter).

There is also a need to help people navigate the large amount of health misinformation online, with one study finding that 51% of vaccine social media posts were misleading.

rebecca carter, ogilvy health
Ogilvy Health’s Rebecca Carter

E: What does your typical brief look like in health influence? What types of partnerships? How varied are the objectives and strategies?

RC: Influence briefs will vary depending on the client needs and the type of healthcare client. For example, a pharmaceutical client may want to partner with expert patients to share disease awareness content to support a key milestone such as World Cancer Day. Or a self-care client might want to work with health experts to promote the benefits of healthy aging and raise awareness of their brand.

No matter what the brief, partnering with these types of people and organisations can help inform and build trust with existing communities, drive deeper awareness and interaction and ultimately help to stimulate positive behaviour change.

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E: Do you have a favourite influence campaign?

RC: One that comes to mind is a campaign run by a global pharma company that used AI to reach and engage with teens in Vietnam.

The insight that informed the campaign was that mums with teens find it hard to discuss health concerns with their children, including sexually transmitted infections like HPV. The pharma company wanted to support these communities by teaching teenagers that vaccination and safe sexual practices can prevent sexually transmitted infections.

The approach was to develop a virtual influencer who the teens could connect with to drive meaningful conversations about the sensitive topic and empower them to make meaningful decisions about their health.

E: Influencer is a broad term (anyone with a following?) – where is the focus for healthcare and pharma – is there a narrow set of influencers that fit?

RC: We tend to talk about ‘influence’ more than “influencer’, a small distinction but especially crucial within the health space. Across our spectrum of influence, we may be talking to large social media personalities who hold a lot of reach. But just as, if not more importantly, we may be working with research professionals who can impact credible voices within congress. These people may have no social reach, but their influence in the right rooms is significant.

This view on influence, analysing the role an individual can play vs the size of their social presence, is baked into our entire Ogilvy influence offering. But it’s within heavily regulated spaces such as health, where the ability to understand the influence of a patient network, vs carers, vs HCPs or medical journalists drives serious impact.

E: What does platform strategy look like? Is TikTok the be all and end all?

RC: In many cases, it very well may be. TikTokers have viewed videos involving doctors over 61.5 billion times, and over 80% of us are using social media to research health concerns. But influence strategy goes way beyond social channels.

Depending on the brief, we may be forming the right panel of experts to host round table conversations for one of our Pharma clients or working with healthcare professionals to provide honest feedback on new services in product development.  Our team covers the full breadth of corporate, consumer and Health, allowing us to provide unique solutions to client challenges.

Econsultancy runs learning academies for global healthcare and pharma companies.