Marketers answer the question: How can marketers take advantage of online health community forums to further drive patient engagement and trust?

James Smith
Associate creative director, Carling Communications

Online discussions often reveal emotional, logistical, and treatment hurdles that go beyond the obvious.  Demonstrating awareness and perhaps offering solutions to these issues may help win trust and loyalty.

Programs designed to provide category-specific approaches to compliance can also improve outcomes, deliver value to HCPs, and encourage consistency in prescriptions. These sites often inspire patients to initiate conversations with doctors that may be difficult to have.

james smith carling communications

Creating in-office materials that encourage patients to seek peer support can make their visits more productive.

We may also be getting to a point where patient opinion leaders are just as valuable to marketers as KOLs in shaping opinion and creating informed, relevant content.

The biggest opportunity, though, may be in acquiring an empathy that enables marketers to develop authentic and effective messaging.

Monica St Claire
Lead, Insights products, Inspire

Firstly, the key is recognizing these online spaces as potential sources of valuable real-world patient data.

What patients and caregivers do on these sites is what’s most important to them at that moment. Their language and activity provides a pure view into their experiences and perceptions, free from primary research or institutional bias. As a result, insights gleaned from observational research, when legally permitted, can be a valuable supplement to more traditional research.

Monica St Claire
Lead, Insights products, Inspire

Findings from these online communities can serve as a patient-driven “gut check” to test and refine working knowledge from primary research and inform crucial online and offline decisions.

Many such sites also offer direct engagement opportunities for brands and stakeholders. These include primary research offerings, ad space, and resource distribution opportunities, allowing you to reach target audiences.

Alexander Lindroth
Audience development and experience, Guidemark Health

Unfortunately, most marketers still treat online health communities as an ad channel. Brands should look to be genuine and helpful to community participants and refrain from pushing unsolicited information. Successful programs are based on three pillars of participation.

Be respectful and mindful of the community’s purpose. Learn what it needs before jumping into engagement.

Be proactive. Contact community organizers and influencers. Ask “What do you need? How can we (the brand) help?”

Alexander Lindroth

Be consistent. Once you get buy-in from a community, over-deliver. Then, keep up a two-way conversation. This exchange builds trust and expands brand awareness.

By supporting community goals with helpful participation, brands will uncover opportunities and create valuable relationships.

Olivier Chateau
Cofounder and CEO, Health Union

Marketers can leverage online health communities to drive engagement and build trust if they understand three truths.

Understand how your brand fits within the context of patients’ experiences. Recognizing your brand is only one solution for condition management is important.

Health Union’s communities curate content about life with chronic conditions, sparking interactions that provide insight and context for brands.

Olivier Chateau

Patients engage with communities because they seek info, validation, and connection. When these needs are fulfilled, they feel empowered to make better decisions.

Be transparent. Whether participating via sponsored posts or ads around content that aids in decision-making, marketing behaviors must be clear to build trust.