Doctors: Become a key opinion leader using social media

Key opinion leaders (KOL) are still one of the most important corner stones for the marketing machines of pharmaceutical companies. Their network, expertise, reach and authority is what pharma is interested in. We’ve written about KOL stardom in the past and how to attain it. In this post I’d like to take a closer look at the implications social media has on KOL’ism.

First off, let me tell you one thing – I am sick of the term “social media,” it’s being used so ubiquitously and so often that it doesn’t mean anything anymore. I mean think about it – the whole internet is social. Show me a site where you can’t “like” or comment stuff. That’s the essence of social media and web 2.0. But that’s another story.

Let’s put these linguistic talks aside and get real: social media is here to stay and the day will come when even doctors will embrace it as professionals.  The future KOL must understand that. She must be able to interact with social media and interact with strategic peers on a far superior level. Usually, authority has always been a regional phenomenon, only a few enter the “stage of the world,” as the famous Austrian novelist Thomas Bernhard once put it.

There are a lot of actors out there, but only a very small percentage is known globally. But again, social media changes things.

A future KOL, might not be a local hero, but rather known around the globe. Through Twitter and Facebook, the geographic borders vanish. So it has become quite easy to turn into a leading voice in your specific medical field with the help of novel (at least for physicians) social media outlets.

The implications of this vary. For sure though, pharma will need to work with these global KOLs in the digital sphere. A tweet from guys like Bryan Vartabedian (@doctor_v)  can help and harm your brand in an instant. Think about how pharma will need to embrace social media in order to keep up and cope with such physicians. They must understand that it’s bidirectional, it’s not sales anymore, it’s pure and absolutely transparent communication.

Until now, only very few physicians are seeing the value and possibilites of social media and the internet in general. If you’re one of the physicians who understand and master Twitter & Co, you’re well on your way to establishing your personal brand. But be aware that this advantage will become smaller and smaller as more and more physicians catch the social media train.

Lukas Zinnagl is a physician and co-founder of MedCrunch.

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  • Emily Gibson

    As a physician who has not hesitated to write opinion pieces for and other medical sites, I do have to caution to be careful what you wish for in the realm of Key Opinion Leadership. I had a recent blog piece go viral (on the potential hazards of pubic hair removal) and the reaction was a torrent of thousands of comments on hundreds of news blogs, dozens of request for interviews all of which I turned down, and widespread dismissal of my right to a professional opinion on that topic. The last two weeks gave me a taste of what it is like to be pursued by media. Be prepared to withstand the onslaught if you want to be an opinion leader and say what others won’t.

  • Roy M Poses

    Since you have openly admitted that as a KOL you serve a pharmaceutical company salesperson, why should I think of you as more trustworthy than any other salesperson, e.g., a used car salesperson?

    • Brandon

      A KOL does not service a pharma sales rep. The MSLs that have relationships with KOLs are normally PharmD,MD, PhD scientists that stay involved with Investigator initiated trials IISs and are involved on the research side of things.

  • Gregg Masters

    Can I say a BIG ditto!

    ‘I am sick of the term “social media,” it’s being used so ubiquitously and so often that it doesn’t mean anything anymore.’

    This non homogeneous lumping of a range of interactive digital media tools and platforms into a ‘social media’ characterization is a tad bit lazy and naive. These collective media are morphing daily and not well understood by their progenitors, let alone user base.

    We are only beginning at the level of physician engagement in these tools, platforms and their potential to advance the triple aim or starve marginal business models out of existence.

    One to watch? Your fellow KevinMD contributor and seasoned medical oncologist turned new tech aficianado Richard Just, MD aka @chemosabe1 on Twitter, who publishes and co-hosts ‘this week in oncology’ on the BlogTalk Radio network.

    Physicians as search engine ‘nodes’ and ‘trust agents’, ah now therein lies the most certain future…..

  • Simon Sikorski MD

    For independent doctors it’s about their reputations too. Advocating for a cause, an endorsement, or a brand next to their name will have profound impact on their public view. Healthcare Marketing Center of Excellence recently tried to do damage control for a doctor who loved to blog on pharma-sponsored articles. Let’s just say that it’s already taken us weeks just to remove one posting that has been syndicated to more than a hundred different networks. It was probably the worst case of a doctor’s online reputation we’ve seen so far. And it took him less than a minute to write it. Ouch!

    So just remember, before you hit “Enter” … do you really know where your comment will be syndicated?

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