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Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) on social media media

85% of KOLs Are Discussing Science Online (If You Know Where to Look)

Jan 5, 2020

Social media offers Medical Affairs the opportunity to discover Digital Opinion Leaders (DOL), healthcare practitioners with a following made up of their peers. We’ve written about DOLs before as well as how to engage and monitor them. Since then, several clients asked us about monitoring Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) on social media. Should Medical Affairs teams simply look up the KOLs they’re engaging on social media by name to see what they’re up to?

Well, no, actually. In our experience, most KOLs are not active on social media, at least they are not posting scientifically relevant content. Tweeting about politics every day or sharing favorite sports team news doesn’t count. Certainly some KOLs also qualify as Digital Opinion Leaders because they often post scientifically relevant information. According to our internal estimates, less than 10 percent of KOLs are personally active on social media, tweeting links to their publications or uploading a talk they gave at a conference, for example.

However, that doesn’t mean that KOLs are not being influential online. While most KOLs do not personally post scientific content, they are often quoted or referenced in the digital contributions of others. This is where the majority of KOL contributions are found. We refer to that as earned content rather than owned content, which would be anything the KOL themselves writes.

In fact, all social monitoring of KOLs must start with differentiating between earned and owned content.

  1. Earned content: what is published or written about a KOL
  2. Owned content: what the KOL writes and publishes

Clearly, monitoring Key Opinion Leaders on social media involves two activities: noting what is being said about the individual KOL, and keeping tabs on what the KOL is themselves saying. Together, these two “data sets” (if we can call them that) enable you or your organization to engage with the KOL on topics they consider both relevant and timely.

It’s already a best practice for Medical Science Liaisons (MSL) to review a KOL’s recent publications and look up the events they attended over the last three to six months. Why not leverage the reach of social media to find out what was said about them last Friday or what was written about them or new opportunities where they were in the news? 

Within one of our KOL monitoring dashboards, we are monitoring over 600 KOLs in Oncology. While about 20 percent were active on social media as expected, over 80 percent, have scientifically relevant mentions on social media. These include news updates on Facebook, blog articles shared to Twitter, and more.

One example is Dr. Neal Shore, a urologist, and Key Opinion Leader. It’s noteworthy that Dr. Shore doesn’t have a Twitter account because our dashboard quickly found several recent mentions of his work on Twitter. An oncology Twitter account posted a previously published video interview with him. The video was retweeted (shared) widely, reaching over 13,000 people, demonstrating great interest in his work from other specialists.

Like the Dr. Shore example, the vast majority of KOLs’ content was earned, not owned—updates and articles about the KOL. Monitoring these mentions can give your MSLs a head start on their next KOL engagement. That way, they have all the information available to understand what the KOLs are working on—and might be interested in working on in the near term. A Medical Science Liaison could use Dr. Shore’s interview as a natural conversation-starter with him. Perhaps the MSL could invite him to share his opinions on castrate-resistant prostate cancer. Social media monitoring also provides insight into a KOL’s thoughts about certain treatments or specific products. 

So far we’ve covered the why of social media KOL monitoring (to prepare for interactions) but not the how. That’s next. While we do recommend leveraging a dashboard to learn more about the KOLs you’re targeting for engagement, there is a step-by-step process you can follow to set up your own monitoring system.

5 Steps to Efficiently Monitor Key Opinion Leaders on Social Media

  1. Develop individual search strategies: First, identify KOLs by username and platform. Where are they active, if at all? Twitter? LinkedIn? What are their handles? That way, you can search for each KOL and any owned content of theirs. You can also look at their followers, fans, likes, connections, and fans to ensure their audience includes relevant healthcare practitioners.
  2. Search relevant long-tail keywords: On social media and search engines, search both the KOL’s name and practice area-related keywords. This combination of words, called a long tail, keeps irrelevant information from showing up in search results, such as weekend vacation plans with the family pet.
  3. Look for earned and owned content: Where has the KOL been mentioned by someone else? What have they written themselves that is relevant to your organization? Record these for your field teams for future reference.
  4. Configure a monitoring platform and dashboard: A software-driven monitoring process allows for a quality check to data accuracy, while manual labor (i.e., an MSL googles a KOL’s name and logs all earned and owned content) does not.
  5. Launch and communicate with the team: Ensure proper oversight is in place to manage the KOL social monitoring over the long term. Acceleration Point is available to consult with you on a new or existing KOL social media monitoring dashboard and can even build one for you from the ground-up.

Social media monitoring sounds like a lot of work, and it can be. Acceleration Point offers a proprietary tool that brings all five steps together into one dashboard so you can monitor your KOL list on social media on a daily basis so you can see all new, relevant mentions. It’s simple and easy. We review your KOL target list and within thirty days set up a uniquely workable monitoring dashboard.

Whether you work with a partner like Acceleration Point or do-it-yourself, the key to social monitoring is narrowing all KOL content down to relevance. If there is no scientific value, don’t monitor it.

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