Assessing the ROI of DOLs

June 26, 2023
Posted by: Danny Flamberg, VP Strategy- HCP

Digital Opinion Leaders (DOLs) are in vogue and in demand. Brands are racing to find and harness emerging independent HCP (Healthcare Providers) voices to bolster awareness, prompt behavior change, and address the fear of missing out (FOMO).  But measuring the impact and ROI of HCP influencers can be challenging.

Classically ROI is a calculation that compares costs versus sales. Standard measurements are cost per thousand (CPM) cost per click (CPC) and cost per lead (CPL). The applicability of these calculations turns on the objective for deploying DOLs who can impact brand awareness, prompt comments and opinions leading to behavior change and/or drive lead generation. Clarity about DOL objectives will shape the measurement strategy.

Targeting in two dimensions is the critical variable. Defining the specialty, assessing the POV and voice and finding a credible expert is job one. DOLs must have instantly discernable expertise, relevant experience, impressive credentials, and relevant information. Immediate peer-to-peer recognition and credibility is the goal. Check for reviews, endorsements, events attended, prior collaborations and positions taken publicly. Competition for credible DOLs with established followings is heating up as are DOL expectations for editorial control and compensation.

Similarly, DOLs must be exposed to select populations that share the same informational needs and medical specialties. Synchronizing DOL content with a target constituency likely to view, click, download or comment is the formula for success. Using public social media platforms will, due to privacy concerns, require a compliant custom designed list matched with the population using each particular social platform. In terms of reach, it’s a fair bet that only 15-20% of a DOL’s followers will be exposed to your content. Finding the right audience and significant reach in HCP-only “Walled Gardens” will be considerably easier.

There is no consensus or industry standard for measuring influence. Traditionally pharma has counted script lift in the wake of detail calls, dinner meetings and congresses and calculated ROI on that basis. But the likelihood of immediate behavior change after exposure to DOL content is uncertain. The message, the DOL personality, the frequency or the specific claims can dramatically affect the tactical impact of a DOL program.

At this stage, evaluating influence in dollar terms is rudimentary based on the stated objectives of the program.  Views, clicks, comments, retweets, downloads, website traffic, NRx, form fills, leads, DOL-specific URLs, rep feedback, or significant changes in brand awareness, preference or advocacy are useful, but not definitive, data points for determining the success of a DOL program. Smart brands will collect and weight this data against a baseline and against the plan and make a judgment call about success or failure.

Learn how to vet and analyze Digital Opinion Leaders – a new class of influencers driving clinical, scientific & practical content & conversations. Download the HCP influencer eBook.


Reach out the author, Danny Flamberg, VP Strategy – HCP, LiveWortld at