Defining A Health Influencer

Malcolm Gladwell is often credited with the birth of influencer marketing as his 2000 book “The Tipping Point” highlighted the unique impact certain individuals can have over the preferences—and buying habits—of the people they interact with.

Over the past 16-plus years, influencer marketing has become a broad and varied discipline. As the value of mass media and now digital media are continuing to be questioned, consumer packaged goods brands are turning more and more to influencer marketing to help their brands reach that proverbial tipping point.

These brands have scrambled to identify those key individuals that can persuade others to buy their product, and they have sought them out in communities, on websites, via social media, on TV and in print. If you look around, you can see attempts at influencer marketing everywhere you look. The definition of an influencer, for many, has become very broad and somewhat diffuse.

Our exclusive focus on health & wellness, however, leads us to a very specific and focused definition of an influencer—a definition based on the trust and credibility that consumers demand from those that advise them on their health and wellness.

So, what constitutes a health & wellness influencer at Pulse? For us, it’s someone who:


1.  Counsels, trains or advises people in a professional setting. People trust the health & wellness professionals that they have hand-selected to support them. This includes practicing dietitians, nurses and nurse practitioners, physical trainers, health coaches, pediatric professionals, midwives and many other everyday health & wellness professionals. As the International Food Information Council found, that trust does not necessarily extend to bloggers, TV personalities, the news media, and other sources of indirect influence.

2.  Counsels, trains or advises people on behavior change. When people seek out health & wellness solutions they are looking for products that support positive changes in their behavior—small steps to better health. Whether that’s “free from” food products that support their aspirational wellness goals or functional products that address a specific health need, consumers look for advice on products that help them change their behavior. Our definition of an influencer, therefore, focuses on the professionals who spend time with consumers talking about how to make those positive changes. These “allied” professionals often spend significantly more time with consumers than doctors and make a much more effective vehicle for delivering your brand message directly to the consumer.

3.  Sees patients or clients on a regular basis. Far too often, “influencers” can only deliver that influence indirectly through blog posts, tweets, Facebook posts, or 90-second local news segments. We seek out professionals who see dozens of patients and clients on a weekly basis in order to provide clients with reach to their target consumer. We want the influence delivered directly to the consumer through a face-to-face interaction, not indirectly through media.

4.  Has the training and expertise to understand the needs of their patients & clients. What could be more targeted than relying on the education and experience of a trained health & wellness professional to determine for which patients & clients your product is most relevant. With our influencers, there’s no need to look to demographics or markers to identify which consumers to reach. If you find the right influencers, they do the targeting for you.

5.  Is willing to use branded educational materials, product samples and coupons in their counseling interactions. Not every health & wellness influencer is willing, but our research shows that more than 90% of influencers do recommend specific brands by name to patients and clients. But even when they are generally willing to incorporate materials, we want to be sure that your brand materials are highly relevant to the conversations they are having with people and that they meet a specific need for the consumers they are counseling, training and advising on a daily basis.

Influencer marketing can be a highly effective way to build awareness and engagement for your brand. But those efforts are wasted if the influencers you reach are themselves ineffective at delivering that influence to consumers.

By investing in identifying and engaging the right influencers—those that meet the definition of a true health & wellness influencer—you can build a scalable and sustainable influencer marketing platform that delivers your brand messages with impact, driving the path to purchase.