Think Canadian Club and Mad Men. Or George Clooney and Nespresso. Celebrity endorsements and product placements on TV shows are alive and kicking.

The difference today is that the bulk of marketing is happening online. It’s the minor celebrities (or ‘micro-influencers’) who hold sway within particular groups.

It’s happening through social media using people who have already built audiences and established trust with their followers.

Some even say that social media influencers are the marketing force of the future.

What is influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing is online and social and uses people who are highly influential around a topic or have an area of relevance.

Brands allot money to tap into these audiences where they see a good strategic fit.

The influencers can act to humanise a health product or service, create awareness, share video or case study information, and showcase a brand in real life.

Major social media influencers may have an audience base of over 500,000 people.

Micro-influencers, on the other hand, could have as few as 1,000 followers.

Why does influencer marketing work?

Traditional advertising is a one-way form of communication. Social media is a two-way conversation within a forum akin to a community.

People don’t trust brands, they trust people.

Research has shown that Twitter users trust influencers nearly as much as their friends.

Influencer marketing platform, The Shelf, says 92% of consumers trust recommendations from other people, even if they don’t know them.

As a result of the effectiveness of this new channel, big brands are spending large amounts of money on influencer marketing, including healthcare brands. These line items are often labelled as ‘sponsored social’.

Australian influencer marketing expert, Taryn Williams, told SmartCompany that she thinks the trend is here to stay.

How are healthcare brands using influencer marketing?

Some uses for influencer marketing could be:

  • build awareness
  • education (videos, case studies)
  • search engine optimisation (seo)
  • to produce user-generated content
  • increase your bookings / appointments / sales
  • damage control and public relations

Health Promotion: Good and Bad Examples

Girls Make Your Move

Bad one first:  It looked so good at the start. Girls Make Your Move was intended to promote fitness and active-living for Australian women. The controversy arose when it became clear that the influencers who had been selected were misaligned with the message and had not been sufficiently vetted.

According to BandT (which cites a Daily Telegraph report), some “also plugged alcohol brands” and one had made a racist comment.

Gun shy, the Federal Health Minister halted any further payments to the influencers. While the Girls Make Your Move campaign itself was tarnished by the mishap, it continues on with many other promotional elements including fitness club discounts.

Colon Cancer Awareness Month

Well-known and admired CBS host, Katie Couric, aired her colonoscopy in support of colon cancer awareness month after losing her husband to colorectal cancer.

An avid supporter of the cause, the American television TODAY Show host broadcast her preparation for the procedure and aftermath in March 2000 and again in March 2018.

IZEA reports that there was a “slight uptick” in the number of people who requested the procedure as a result of the marketing.

Top Healthcare Influencers

A list of healthcare influencers

How to start an influencer campaign

As we can see from the not-so-good example, it is really important that we carefully research our influencers and their audiences for the right fit.

Firstly, who are your current supporters? Have a look at your existing audience. Who is interested in telling your story? If you can identify one or more, start engaging them online. Follow them back and show appreciation for their content.

Next, we need to have a clear brief. Think creatively about how they could build support for your organisation.

Check that they don’t run competitor promotions or promote contradictory messages.

Connect with them through the social media channel. Appreciate (‘like’ or share) good things they have posted. After a while, make direct contact.

Be sure to be realistic about what they can do. Have a conversation with some of your ideas and get some of their ideas.

Health and healthcare influencers in Australia

There are quite a few firms that offer influencer marketing expertise.

If you’re keen to do it yourself, here are some lists of top healthcare influencers in Australia.

Mandatory things to include

Transparency is extremely important.

It’s a good idea to make sure both parties understand there needs to be full disclosure that any social media posts (including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, interest, YourTube or on a blog) are clearly distinguishable as “paid”.

Some relevant hashtags to do this could be #ambassador  #sponsored  #ad

Legal considerations

In Australia, all advertising and social influencer marketing needs to comply with Australian Consumer Law  and the ACCC.

The influencer campaign must comply with Australian Consumer Law, the ACCC, it may also need to comply with The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) requirements.

The campaign should also adhere to the Australian Association of National Advertisers Code of Ethics (AANA) There are helpful and relevant guidelines offered by the AANA.

Medical Board of Australia’s Advertising Guidelines

There may also be other relevant guidelines that apply. For example, many health practitioners will be operating under the guidelines of the Medical Board of Australia

As stated on the Medical Board website, the three principles of the guidelines are:

  • advertising can be a useful way to communicate the services health practitioners offer to the public so that consumers can make informed choices
  • advertising that contains false and misleading information may compromise health care choices and is not in the public interest
  • the unnecessary and indiscriminate use of regulated health services is not in the public interest and may lead to the public purchasing or undergoing a regulated health service that they do not need or require.

Although not exhaustive, examples of prohibited advertising include advertising that:

  • is false, misleading or deceptive or is likely to be so
  • offers a gift, discount or other inducements to attract a user of the health service without stating the terms and conditions of the offer
  • uses testimonials or purported testimonials
  • creates an unreasonable expectation of beneficial treatment, and/or
  • encourages the indiscriminate or unnecessary use of health services.

Unless you have an idea that will meet these criteria, medical practitioners in Australia may be best NOT to engage in influencer marketing.

In summary

In the past, I used to call this social advocacy marketing and I would target individuals who were fans of the organisation as well as influential in certain communities (either geographical, business, professional, or scientific).

The philosophy of Social Influencer Marketing is essentially the same.

It is an effective and authentic way to reach the relevant audiences who are likely to be interested in what you do and offer.

Basically, we are getting the brand out of the way. We’re letting someone else, with genuine experience and positive outcomes, do the talking.

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