3/06/2021 | Point of view

How Deeply Is Medical Affairs Diving Into Social Media?

Michele Gallo | Associate Scientific Strategist, Healthware International


How Social Is Medical Affairs Now vs. Pre-COVID?

Nowadays, healthcare lives at the intersection of science and customer experience: as communication experts, we are required to not only shape a solid scientific narrative, but to focus equally on engaging our target audience with the story we want to disseminate.

It’s a fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has sharply boosted social media use by healthcare professionals to share opinions, improve medical understanding, and debunk fake news, as confirmed by data presented at the recent Medical Affairs & Social Media: A brave new world webinar organized by Reuters Events Pharma.


This trend is an excellent opportunity for Medical Affairs teams to increase their involvement in the scientific exchange taking place across social media platforms.

What does that mean? A different way of thinking for Medical Affairs professionals to adopt:

  • Specifically analyzing target audience needs;
  • Seeing what is working in real time to benchmark a project’s success;
  • Finding, creating, and exploring new ways to connect with HCPs beyond the classic congresses due to being pushed toward increased digital and social engagement by the pandemic.

So, how is it possible to achieve an unprecedented level of HCP engagement through social media?


Medical Affairs communications can evolve socially through a journey comprised of 5 key steps:

  1. Social Listening

It is fundamental to understand HCP perceptions on a given topic and on a specific platform: their engagement, reactions, and needs. There are specific tools, such as Sprinklr and BrandWatch, for social listening’s sophisticated analysis, e.g., tracking thought leaders over time or monitoring congresses and events (e.g., live tweeting during an ASCO Meeting).

  1. Social Media Amplification Around Events

Utilizing the opportunity to use social media as an amplifier for specific events, such as China’s use of WeChat to maximize engagement during and after an event.

  1. Live & Archived; Events & Content

First, creating content and events specifically designed for social media it is paramount, yet this is not enough, so being authentic and personalizing content for the chosen platform is the second rule. “Omnichannel” is a social media buzzword that entails using all appropriate platforms to ensure that tap key opinion leaders (KOLs), patients, and stakeholders in their preferred social space. Adapting the content to the channel is still essential, but omnichannel also requires the topics to be consistent and connected to each other.

The omnichannel path can be gradual, but when getting started with social engagement, it’s important to focus on a single platform initially, such as Twitter, after monitoring KOLs and listening to therapeutic area trends. The more proficient you become with a platform, the more sophisticated the possibilities for engagement will be, including overlapping content with other social channels. On Twitter, it’s also possible to create content with different engagement levels, such as reconstructing a typical symposium congress or creating a live streaming event for a product launch. Finally, it’s essential to consider the most prominent social platform in each region; Instagram is widely used by HCPs in Latin America, while Twitter and LinkedIn are used in Europe.

  1. Digital Opinion Leaders (DOLs)

With their engagement skyrocketing during the pandemic, DOLs are becoming the new KOLs, so how is it possible to activate them?

  • Identify appropriate DOLs through social listening and suite tools. Analysis must be driven not only by the quantity, but even more so by DOL quality, taking into consideration their community, engagement, preferred topics, and tone of voice.
  • Engage with DOLs to learn their needs and those of their digital audience…DOLs usually know their audience well and how to best engage with it.
  • Co-create exciting education content with the appropriate hashtags, tone of voice, keywords, tagged colleagues and experts, and polls. During this step it is essential not to overlook legal, compliance, and regulatory policy. DOLs not only appreciate being involved in ideation and content creation but are proud to share the results with their community.
  • Disseminating cross-sectionally to target HCPs through DOL channels, networks, and communities by word of mouth. During this step, when appropriate, it’s critical to ensure continuous pharmacovigilance monitoring in accordance with client guidelines.
  1. Field Medical Social Engagement

Field Medical teams can consolidate real world customer relationships and network with them via social media. It’s an add-on to, not a replacement for, typical engagements that promote value conversations based on content exchange. In this way, Field Medical teams can become trusted sources for HCPs seeking patient advocacy, specific therapeutic, and in-depth analysis information.

In conclusion, emerging DOLs and their use of social media are a new opportunity for Medical Affairs teams to shape an authentic path of engagement into the future. Medical Affairs teams can optimize the reach and credibility of their content to develop stronger online connections with HCPs and DOLs, amplifying their voice on digital platforms.

  • Communication
  • Digital Opinion Leader
  • Events
  • HCP
  • Medical Affairs
  • Social Media
Michele Gallo

Healthcare and innovation enthusiast, Michele has almost 4 years of experience in healthcare communication, acquired in a growth path, which has led him to weave together soft and hard skills. In his Medical Writing agency career, Michele has integrated promotional and educational activities with the creation and management of social media content.