Pharma Influencer Marketing: Why Building Trust and Reaching New Audiences Matters More than Ever

June 21, 2024
Posted by: Rishi Kadiwar, VP Strategy- DTC

Navigating the world of healthcare marketing can be tough, especially when it comes to rare diseases. Pharma marketers working on rare disease brands face unique challenges, from reaching small patient populations to raising awareness about uncommon conditions. But here’s the good news: influencer marketing can be a game-changer.

In fact, your organization is likely already using a tactic like influencer marketing – but that reach can be maximized for even more potential, making a real difference for rare disease communities.

It starts with trust – trusting the influencer, trusting your audience, and trusting the process.

Rare Disease Influencer Marketing is Not One Size Fits All
Rare diseases may affect a small fraction of the population, but that doesn’t make the impact any less real for the people whose lives are touched by them. There are the patients who live with rare diseases every day, the caregivers who want to better understand the disease their loved one faces, and the healthcare providers who seek patient-centered insights and new treatments and therapies.

For marketers, this means there is a need for nuance across all media-based messaging, particularly in rare disease social media, to appeal to the specific mindsets of these segments. Influencer marketing, especially rare disease influencer marketing, opens new avenues to reach these niche audiences in a meaningful and nuanced way.

Pharma Already Uses Influencer Marketing (Yes, Really)
Whether you’re talking about the in-demand nature of a DOL (Digital Opinion Leader) or the verified insights of a Key Opinion Leader (KOL),  influencer programs are all inherently the same. They each use a third party to promote products or condition activities on non-owned properties.

Pharma advertising has been navigating the challenges and opportunities of regulations and compliance for years while still leveraging influencer marketing campaigns and tactics. Your brand already has the in-house mechanisms to manage Adverse Events (AEs) and any inherent risks involved with using DOLs or KOLs.

And the benefits for each of your audiences certainly outweigh any possible risks that strategic planning can mitigate. What are those benefits?

For Patients: Influencers Create More Than Content (But They Do That, Too)
A rare disease patient influencer is likely a patient themselves, making them an invaluable resource for brand building. When they share personal stories, other patients feel seen and understood. Because of social platforms’ peer-to-peer contact, influencers also provide emotional support that feels more authentic and accessible than a brand can.

Additionally, instead of a patient feeling overwhelmed or confused by clinical language, pharma influencer marketing is effective because influencers can break down complex medical information into clear, understandable content in a style that their audience (and yours) can turn into consumer-based action.

For Caregivers: Influencers Build Community and Amplify Unheard Voices
In the rare disease community, caregivers play a vital role in supporting patients. They seek out information, like lifestyle tips and available resources, in addition to joining support networks to help them manage their responsibilities. Therefore, creating a sense of community is one of the greatest strengths of influencer marketing, especially for the caregiver community.

For this group, influencers can share advocacy opportunities and encourage proactive steps to seek the best care or information about clinical trials or recent policy changes. By fostering online spaces where patients and caregivers connect, share experiences, and support one another emotionally and practically, influencers can help empower caregivers with information and inspiration.

For HCPs: Influencers Keep the Patient at the Center
Influencers bridge the gap between patients and healthcare professionals by sharing valuable insights into patient experiences. This helps HCPs understand their patients better and improve patient-centered care.

By hearing directly from influencers, HCPs can foster more digestible conversations with their patients, address any treatment concerns that may be raised, and correct any misinformation. This allows the HCP to keep the patient’s journey at the cornerstone of their treatment plan.

The Key Takeaways for Healthcare Influencer Programs

Raising Awareness: Influencers can significantly boost awareness of rare diseases by tapping into their established audiences. This can lead to increased funding, research, and general awareness that might be hard to achieve through traditional marketing alone. Use analytics to track the success of your influencer campaigns. Pay attention to metrics like engagement rates, reach, and conversions to understand what works and refine your strategy.
Trust Building: One of the best things about influencer marketing is the trust influencers have with their followers. This trust can extend to the pharma brands they endorse, making the information shared more credible and impactful. Look for influencers who are not just popular but also credible and genuinely involved with the rare disease community. This might include patients, caregivers, healthcare professionals, or advocates.
Amplifying Reach: By leveraging influencers’ followers and networks, pharma companies can expand their reach and connect with more patients, caregivers, and HCPs. Establish genuine partnerships with influencers based on mutual respect and shared goals. Authentic relationships result in meaningful content that resonates with the audience. This increased engagement can lead to better patient outcomes, stronger community support, and more brand awareness.

Why Influencer Marketing Works
Influencer marketing is a powerful way for pharma marketers to connect with rare disease audiences. By sharing their journeys, influencers make others feel and more connected – to each other and, as an extension, to your brand or organization.

Working with influencers is one of the best ways to get your message in front of the right people. Your brand or organization can have a voice with an engaged and passionate audience through the influencer, ensuring that your message reaches the right people at the right time. It also leverages the influencer’s established knowledge of social media, as influencers typically know how to effectively communicate a message to their audience using advanced social media tactics. Now that message they publish will be yours. And that will help lead to improved patient outcomes and stronger brand loyalty – which is the ultimate goal.



Reach out to the author, Rishi Kadiwar, VP Strategy, LiveWorld at