Health Professionals: They’re not Your Typical Influencers (But They’re More Effective)

You may have read about the disaster that was the Fyre Festival last month. No? How about the controversial cover of Vogue India? Or that Pepsi commercial? All three were considered a form of influencer marketing, and all three featured Kendall Jenner. 

The trifecta prompted this article in The New York Times suggesting that influencer marketing is on its way out if for no other reason than the trouble it can get you in—“you” being the influencer and the brand. It was one of several recent articles questioning the effectiveness and addressing the challenges of influencer marketing.

But we’re not worried. We work with the most effective “influencers” in the health & wellness industry, and not one article questioned their trustworthiness, value, or credibility. In fact, the opposite was reported. 

The influence that health professionals have over consumers’ purchasing decisions remains outside of most marketing conversations, especially conversations about digital and social media marketing. Why? Maybe because most marketers don’t consider them influencers.

But they are.

Why aren’t health professionals typically considered influencers?

When marketers hear the word “influencer,” they automatically think of people like Kendall Jenner and the use of strictly online communications. That’s because the term “influencer” assumes a robust social media presence and an impressive number of followers.

Influencer marketing also assumes that the person driving a brand’s message using the power of their own personal brand is admired by potential customers but not necessarily respected as an expert in the industry. 

Neither of these is true when it comes to health professionals, whose primary form of communication with consumers is face-to-face, who may not have a single social media account, and who may be the most knowledgeable expert your target consumer knows. 

What’s so special about health professionals?

People trust other people more than they trust brands. Brands have learned to leverage this trust by paying people to say great things about their products (sponsored content). This has happened most often on social media, where one person can reach thousands or even millions with just one post. Some health professionals use social media, but that’s not where they are most influential. 

Three qualities make physicians, nutritionists, dietitians, and other allied health professionals the ideal marketing influencers:

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  1. They’re seen as trusted experts. The media does a good job bombarding consumers with advice about nutrition, diets, exercise, and other health information. So much so that consumers are confused. But study after study shows they trust their hand-picked health professional to know what’s best for them.
  2. They communicate with consumers one-on-one, face-to-face. Millions of social media impressions can’t begin to compete with the strength of this interaction.
  3. They have a two-way relationship with consumers. Consumers share things with their dietitians, nurses, and personal trainers that they may not share with anyone else, even their closest friends, family members, or spouse. A blogger will never, no matter how well they write, have this kind of relationship with a reader. 

How can brands/marketers take advantage of this unique influence?

The only way to use the unparalleled influence of health professionals is to make sure that your brand is a part of these face-to-face conversations by being in the office with the professional and their patient. That’s tricky. These conversations are physically happening in what is often called the “real world,” and they are happening behind closed doors. All the likes and retweets in the world can’t help you there. 

You must educate health professionals about your brand and the health & wellness benefits of your products. That’s the only way to ensure they are recommended, much less mentioned. If brochures, pamphlets, coupons, or samples are made available, even better. 

Let’s appropriate some military-speak to drive this home: Health professionals are the ground troops of influencer marketing for health & wellness brands. Just imagine what they can do with air support from your social media and digital strategies. Your target audience? They’ll get your message.