Social Media & Doctors: Derms Favor Instagram, Ob/Gyns, Facebook


More than half (57%) of health care professionals (HCPs) have changed their perception of a medication or treatment based on social media content, with 41% changing their prescribing habits as a result. No wonder 94% of pharma marketers cite social media as an important channel to reach physicians.

Those stats and many more come from a joint survey conducted by two firms with stakes in the outcome: Sermo, which runs a private social network serving 1.3 million HCPs, and LiveWorld, a digital ad agency with healthcare as a primary focus. The research, done late last year, involved 206 physicians and 50 pharma marketers.

Both Sermo and its main competitor in the private HCP social media space, Doximity, earn revenues from ad sales, although couched in other terms.

Doximity’s website explains that it “doesn’t bombard clinicians with ads,” but creates “content experiences they value.”



Sermo tells Marketing Daily that its platform “provides physician engagement and education opportunities for pharma and med device companies.” Its website further explains that healthcare brands can “natively engage their target physician audience and drive results.”

In the just-released research Sermo actually comes in second, behind Doximity, among platforms doctors use for clinical or professional purposes, at 58% and 59% respectively. But 41% of physicians report changing their thinking about medications as a result of seeing content on Sermo, compared with 33% for Doximity.

The third most used social platform by physicians for professional purposes is Facebook (47%), followed by LinkedIn (40%), Instagram (25%), Twitter (24%), YouTube (20%), What’s App (7%) and TikTok (6%). Over a quarter (26%) say they use no social media at all

Specifically, 62% of doctors say Twitter is their choice for following hospitals and professional organizations, 52% belong to private medical groups on Facebook, and 35% see LinkedIn as the most helpful social platform for accessing presentations by key opinion leaders and others.

Doximity also leads all social networks when it comes to peer-to-peer interaction, with 25% of physicians favoring it, followed by Sermo (23%), Facebook (13%), LinkedIn (11%), Instagram (7%), Twitter (6%) and YouTube (5%). Interestingly, though, such “highly specialized HCPs” as neurologists and cardiologists like What's App.

“The importance of peer-to-peer interactions suggests that pharma marketers will need to mobilize and enroll MSLs [medical science liaisons] and KOLs [key online influencers] to transparently participate in the ongoing conversations on platforms favored by physicians,” the report states.

Cardiologists, meanwhile, use LinkedIn as their primary social media resource, ob/gyns Facebook, dermatologists Instagram, pediatricians Twitter, primary care physicians (PCPs) YouTube and endocrinologists, TikTok.

Female physicians and all HCPs aged 25-34, prefer Instagram. The latter are also “most likely to test-drive TikTok.” Male physicians “prefer Sermo, in addition to following hospitals and professional associations.” Doctors aged 45-54 prefer YouTube, and those aged 55-74, Sermo.

“Produce segmented content based on specialty or demographic criteria and place the message on a platform preferred by your target population,” the report advises pharma marketers.

The most active physicians on social media, the report says, are those who deal with a wide range of conditions: PCPs, internal medicine, pediatrics, dermatology. Specialists like hematologists, neurologists and gastroenterologists, “make the lightest use of social media for professional purposes.”

The survey found that 90% of pharma marketers have social media in their marketing plans for 2023, with 50% expecting to increase budgets this year for social media aimed at HCPs.

Digital influencers are included in 56% of pharma marketers’ 2023 plans, with 46% of HCPs saying they follow fellow physicians or other healthcare influencers on social platforms.

Noting that more than 40% of pharma marketers have no social influencer strategies, the report acknowledges the challenges of launching one in the heavily regulated industry: “The initial use of DOLs [digital opinion leaders] will pose a challenge to most med/reg teams. Carefully select and vet a DOL. Precisely define the role and the degree of endorsement or co-creation. Then test drive a limited campaign on a relevant social platform to get a read on the DOL’s true measure of influence and credibility.”

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